John Tanton

John Tanton

The modern anti-immigrant movement was set in motion by a network of groups founded by John Tanton and funded by a handful of wealthy donors including Cordelia Scaife May. Scaife May and her Colcom Foundation have funneled millions of dollars into Tanton-founded groups. Colcom continues to bankroll these groups, bolstering their ability to influence immigration policy at the highest levels of government. Additionally, according to the Wall Street Journal, Tanton’s first group, FAIR “has received more than $1.5 million from the Pioneer Fund, a white-supremacist outfit devoted to racial purity through eugenics."

White nationalist John Tanton was the architect of the organized anti-immigrant movement we see today. Tanton, who is the author of The Case for Passive Eugenics, helped to found and fund a number of key anti-immigrant groups, in order to maintain a “clear European-American majority,” as Tanton once wrote.

The modern day anti-immigrant movement began in 1979, when white nationalist and eugenics proponent John Tanton founded his flagship Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). According to Tanton’s funding proposal to get FAIR started, he said “we plan to make the restriction of immigration a legitimate position for thinking people.” The movement took shape in subsequent years as Tanton either founded or helped found other organizations, most notably the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) in 1985 and NumbersUSA in 1996.

Today, these three Washington, D.C.-based organizations are the country’s most influential advocates of anti-immigrant policies, frequently and disingenuously manipulating data in order to present immigration in a negative light. Their efforts are aided by other organizations Tanton had a hand in founding including FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and U.S. Inc., Tanton’s philanthropic foundation–which have sought to implement nativist policies at the state and local level through litigation and support for other anti-immigrant groups.

Tanton once wrote, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” His influence on the groups he established is significant and remains today even after his death in July 2019.

In fact, following Tanton’s passing, FAIR President Dan Stein described FAIR’s founder as “a person with extraordinary persistence in promoting ideas,” and a “gift to the nation” who “will be sorely missed.” Stein also noted Tanton’s influence over immigration policy in the U.S., saying, “Of course for John, the big reward was to see a number of the organizations he helped conceive grow into tall oaks – guiding and shaping the public discourse in history-changing ways.” Stein repeatedly defended Tanton throughout the years, once telling Rachel Maddow that he would, “go to bat” for Tanton anytime.

Cultivated over decades, FAIR, CIS, NumbersUSA, and IRLI, maintain strong working relationships with members of Congress, state and local electeds, and law enforcement officials. Tanton’s PAC, run by his wife, Mary Lou, has donated thousands of dollars to elected officials, including Jeff Sessions, Steve King, Mo Brooks and Lou Barletta.

The modern anti-immigrant movement which Tanton helped to build now has unprecedented power and influence in the Trump Administration, where they work with White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller to implement policies to restrict immigration as much as possible.

Years ago, Tanton donated a number of boxes of his papers to the University of Michigan’s Bentley Library. Some of these boxes were made available to the public, while boxes 15 – 25 are closed to the public until 2035, per the gift agreement. After a lawsuit brought by immigration attorney and advocate Hassan Ahmad, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the “sealed records are public records and should be made available.” Instead of releasing the records, UM has instead continued to fight against the release of these documents.

  • In a memo addressed to attendees of Tanton’s nativist retreat, he warned of a “latin onslaught,” asked if Latino immigrants would bring with them the “tradition of the mordida (bribe),” fretted about the “educability” of Latinos, and posed the question, “as whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?”
  • Tanton promoted and helped fund sterilization efforts throughout the developing world for decades, and had a history of attacking religious institutions, such as the Catholic Church.
  • In 1997, Tanton told the Detroit Free Press that if borders are not secured, America will be overrun by people “defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs.”
  • The eugenics proponent corresponded regularly with prominent white supremacists including Jared Taylor, Peter Brimelow and Sam Francis.
  • In a letter to benefactor Cordelia Scaife May, Tanton assured his friend that his population control policies would not disrupt their goal of maintaining a white ethnic majority in the U.S.: “The idea behind the population movement was not those of us who thought population was a problem would adopt permanent sub-replacement fertility, and eventually disappear from the scene, handing our territory over to the more fertile, and thereby lose the battle.”