Our VoiceImmigration

Tanton Memo of the Month – Center for Immigration Studies


Sarah Viets • Jan 29, 2010

Every month, the Center for New Community releases one of John Tanton’s personal letters and/or memos, illustrating John Tanton’s close relationships with white nationalists and the formation of today’s anti-immigrant movement. The letters and memos are a public collection at the Bentley Historical Library.

As discussions on immigration reform fill airwaves and blogs in the coming months, anti-immigrant and immigrant rights organizations will debate if immigration financially benefits American society. Currently, the John Tanton Network, a web of over two dozen organizations, is attempting to represent the interests of American workers, particularly organizations like Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), NumbersUSA and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Almost every month, the Center for Immigration Studies claims that immigrants drain the economy, are responsible for high unemployment and decrease wages for American workers. At the same time, John Tanton’s controversial history sings a different tune. His history suggests that the Tanton Network is more concerned with dividing American workers rather than increasing monthly wages.

John Tanton’s controversial relationships with white nationalists have yet to be fully uncovered. His friendship with Peter Brimelow, the founder of VDARE, a white nationalist website, continues to this day. Last October, Brimelow gave a presentation on Hate Crime Legislation at Tanton’s Writers Workshop, an annual gathering of anti-immigrant and white nationalist thinkers sponsored by the Social Contract Press, a project founded and financially supported by John Tanton. Mike Hethmon, the head counsel for FAIR’s legal arm, Immigration Reform Law Institute also gave a brief “legal” presentation.

Several board members and a staff member of the Center for Immigration Studies are also listed as contributors of The Social Contract, a quarterly journal published by the Social Contract Press. In fact, CIS’ Research Director, Steven Camarota, developed the article, Effects of Immigration on the Labor Market for The Social Contract’s fall 1999 issue. This isn’t surprising considering John Tanton founded the Center for Immigration Studies in the mid 1980s.

In the early fall of 1985, John Tanton began laying the financial groundwork to build his anti-immigrant think-tank. In a fundraising appeal Tanton states that, “the funding could come through U.S., Inc. instead of FAIR, if that helped keep the amounts going to any one organization to more acceptable levels. We’re in the process of setting up as independent projects both the Center for Immigration Studies and the Litigation Program.”

In a document dated September of 1985, John Tanton describes the intent behind the founding of the Center for Immigration Studies. In the document, Tanton highlights that it’s essential to develop an “independent” think-tank to win the “Battle of Ideas”.

“After careful and prolonged study, the FAIR Board has concluded that a Think-Tank on the scale of Worldwatch Institute is needed. For credibility, this will need to be independent of FAIR, though the Center for Immigration Studies, as we’re calling it, is starting off as a project of FAIR.”

In every contentious debate there are often two distinct motivations: one is a desire to solve the issue at hand, the other uses the issue to further a hidden agenda. As the Center for Immigration Studies pours out fact after fact arguing against immigration, an agenda pertaining to national identity is present yet hidden from the discussion. The only thing that is irrefutably clear is the Center for Immigration Studies’ alarming and controversial history of ties to white nationalism.

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