In October 2016, as campaign rhetoric grew ever hotter, stories appeared reporting that members of two right-wing, anti-immigration groups — NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies — stated that they had been consulted by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign:
NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies, which for years have denied accusations they harbor radical views on immigration, told Reuters they had met or had telephone calls with either Trump or senior members of his campaign over the past year.
Trump’s campaign declined to confirm the meetings.
According to the stories, NumbersUSA executive director Roy Beck said that he has both met with Trump himself and spoken to people “at the top” of his campaign since last year, primarily by phone or e-mail. Similarly, CIS head Mark Krikorian told reporters that the Republican nominee’s campaign has requested “research and studies” from his organization for months.
Each group also says that portions of Trump’s immigration policies —specifically his call for “extreme vetting,” mandatory use of the “E-verify” online system for job applicants, and the “immediate” deportation of undocumented immigrants who have criminal records — are reflections of their own views.
Both organizations, as well as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, were created by the same person: former ophthalmologist John Tanton, who has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the “puppeteer” behind the nativist movement in the United States:
Tanton has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene. He has met with leading white supremacists, promoted anti-Semitic ideas, and associated closely with the leaders of a eugenicist foundation once described by a leading newspaper as a “neo-Nazi organization.” He has made a series of racist statements about Latinos and worried that they were outbreeding whites. At one point, he wrote candidly that to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required.
Tanton also created a fourth group, U.S. English, which focuses on requiring English-only teachings in school systems. But his groups lost broad political support in 1988, when a memo outlining his views concerning Latino immigration into the U.S. was leaked to the press:
“Will Latin-American migrants bring with them the tradition of the mordida (bribe)?” he asked. “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?”
Latino fertility rates caused him special alarm: “those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!”
Soon followed the news that FAIR had received grants from the Pioneer Fund, whose most famous grantee was William B. Shockley, the Nobel-winning physicist who argued that for genetic reasons, blacks are intellectually inferior to whites.
Ms. [Linda] Chavez resigned, Mr. [Warren] Buffett stopped supporting FAIR, and any hope of significant liberal support vanished.
Since then, Tanton’s influence seems to have been minimized. Neither CIS nor NumbersUSA list Tanton as their founder on their respective websites, but he does appear in searches of their publication histories. Tanton appears more frequently on the CIS web site, either as part of “immigration reading lists” or as the subject of rebuttals to stories about his political activism by the Southern Poverty Law Center (which has designated FAIR as a hate group):
The SPLC’s move was not an act of conscience. Nor was it the bark of a public-interest watchdog. It was a publicity stunt in the service of the National Council of La Raza, which was about to launch a campaign intended to drive FAIR from the arena of public debate on national immigration policy.
The law center, while claiming to be non-partisan, served as a propaganda arm of La Raza’s effort to shape immigration policy. The NCLR has been grateful for the assistance. The website of its “Stop the Hate” campaign lists the SPLC as one of its six allied organizations.
In the report about his group’s possible consultations with the Trump campaign, the CIS’s Krikorian states that his group is pursuing “an ethnically neutral policy” concerning immigration, while Beck says that NumbersUSA is “absolutely opposed to nativism.”
Our requests for comment from both CIS and NumbersUSA have not yet produced a response. An email address from Trump’s campaign for media requests does not appear to function.