Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

What is So “Progressive” About Progressives for Immigration Reform? Um, Nothing.


Jill Garvey • Jun 23, 2009

FAIR front group Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) is continuing to inject itself into mainstream political discourse.

The John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant groups has a long history of trying to hoodwink the public, so it comes as no surprise that they’ve started an organization of fake progressives. This lame-duck group just released a “study” on self-identified liberals and their feelings on immigration.

Leah Durant, PFIR Executive Director and former Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) legal analyst, actually quoted herself in PFIR’s press release:

“The results of this poll demonstrate what many on the political left have known for some time. Immigration is not a partisan issue. There are many progressives and liberals that are concerned about the unintended consequences that large scale immigration has on the environment, economy, and other issues that many liberals are concerned about.”

I couldn’t agree more, Leah! This certainly is not a partisan issue.

But if Durant’s assessment is correct, why is the House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), which was built by PFIR’s parent group, FAIR, so overwhelming stocked with Republicans?

Furthermore, why does HIRC support immigration policies that in no way align with liberal or progressive politics?

Well, congratulations on finding out that progressives are concerned about immigration, Leah! You could have saved yourself a bit of money by just calling me up. You see, over here at Imagine 2050, we are actually progressive, and therefore are not associated with white nationalism.

You are, though. Do you think progressives will still want “believe” you once they discover your not-so-progressive past?

Let’s find out. Here is the real deal on Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR):

  • John Tanton’s colleague Roy Beck, who is a former consultant and editor of Tanton’s quarterly journal, The Social Contract Press, helped staff PFIR by circulating an employment letter in June 2008 for PFIR’s Executive Director position.
  • In addition to acting as a legal analyst for John Tanton’s anti-immigrant group FAIR, as has been mentioned, Leah Durant, PFIR’s Executive Director, also helped revamp Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), which serves as FAIR’s legal arm.
  • Frank Morris, PFIR’s VP, is also a board member of John Tanton’s white nationalist think-tank, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and is a member of the National Board of Advisers for Tanton’s FAIR.
  • Vernon Briggs is the author of PFIR’s first policy paper and has been a close colleague of John Tanton since 1984. According to a John Tanton letter, in 1995 Tanton solicited $25,000 from eugenicist Garrett Hardin “to enable Vernon Briggs to update his book….” Briggs is currently a board member of Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and was a board member of Tanton’s quarterly journal, The Social Contract Press.
  • John Tanton, who founded FAIR, his colleagues, advisory board members, and staff members have a long history of supporting and working closely with well-known white nationalist leaders and organizations across the nation.
  • In 1997 John Tanton solicited and received 1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund to financially support FAIR. The Pioneer Fund was founded to promote the study of eugenics, a practice of false bio-science that focuses on proving that whites are genetically superior to all other races and ethnicities.
  • One of PFIR’s numerous sibling organizations, the House Immigration Reform Caucus (HIRC), has an alarming voting record on environmental and labor issues, a record that closely mirrors the far right.
  • According to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, 86 HIRC members scored a zero in support of labor during the 109th Congress.
  • According to Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights campaign, over half of HIRC members scored a zero in the 109th Congress.
  • In a 1995 letter to eugenicist Garret Hardin, Tanton wrote of his communication with Dr. Robert K. Graham, who founded the “Repository for Germinal Choice,” a sperm bank that only received donations from Nobel Prize laureates, that “I have been meeting with Dr. Robert Klerk Graham [...] we have been having discussions about trying to revitalize the eugenics theme, though perhaps not under that name.”

What about any of the above seems “progressive” to anyone but those within the John Tanton Network?

Perhaps a better question is this, why does FAIR need a front group that speaks directly to progressives? What is it about them that stops them from simply doing so themselves?

Imagine 2050 Newsletter