A Flotilla of Sinking Paranoia: the John Tanton Network’s Fevered Reactions to New DHS Guidelines

Like most public enunciations under the Obama administration, the August 18 announcement to freeze and reevaluate some 300,000 deportation cases was, unsurprisingly, born into trouble.

Despite the reasonable promise to not deport people for speeding tickets and the like – i.e. how deportation policy was always supposed to have worked – opposition from the anti-immigrant movement has been sustained, and sometimes to a shocking degree. And amid the clamorous and indignant rattling of sabers from the congealing populist right, some voices have made strides to stand out from the din.

For example, renowned bigot William Gheen seems to have fulfilled his slide into outright paranoia when he suggested that “some type of extra-political activities that I can’t really talk about because they’re all illegal and violent” would be a reasonable response to the announcement.

He also will henceforth refer to Obama as “Dictator,” he claims.

After the rightfully horrified responses to his comments, Gheen then clarified (or redacted) his seeming acceptance of politically motivated violence. He did not, however, feel the need to dilute his otherwise panic-stricken analysis of a mere 12,000 undocumented students being made eligible (not “amnestied”) to stay in the country:

“It’s a type of pretty evil propaganda, well you say okay, we’ll give amnesty to just the students, it’s no fault of their own, boom, boom, 12,000 plus illegal immigrants will be having amnesty before you know it. ”

And his comments are just resting atop an expanding continent of less frantic, but equally delusional, protest from the anti-immigrant movement. Its largest component, the network of organizations founded by white nationalist John Tanton, has had plenty to say in the last week:

  • The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which Tanton founded and with which he is still an advisory board member, made the heavy claim that the executive decision “so egregiously usurped Congress’s and the people’s role to decide immigration issues.” Ira Mehlman, FAIR’s communications director, echoed this sentiment in saying, “Congress cannot and must not allow the administration to usurp the constitutional authority that Congress has to make our immigration policies.”
  • NumbersUSA, founded under the guidance of Tanton’s U.S., Inc., has made similar assertions. Its president, Roy Beck, stated “He couldn’t get it through the lame-duck Congress [.…] And so he’s just going to do what the people’s representatives refuse to do.” The group also used the announcement to urge its members’ support of Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) HALT (Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation) Act.
  • The Tanton Network’s think-tank, Center for Immigration Studies, already has a prolific backlog of articles on the decision. Among the paranoiac gems, the group’s executive director, Mark Krikorian, stated that “this administration is using this necessary, but limited tool [prosecutorial discretion; not deporting for parking tickets] as an instrument of policymaking, which can only be described as a lawless act.” Jessica Vaughan, the Center’s director of policy studies, claimed that the mandate is something “Congress won’t do and the American people don’t want, and that really requires a lot of audacity.”
  • Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), the beleaguered come-lately of Tanton’s network, had perhaps the most composed analysis, making no mention of a conspiratorial executive ‘usurpation’ over the legislative branch. Instead, its executive director, Leah Durant, ineffectually called the announcement a “backdoor amnesty,” claiming it was an effort to “placate its [the administration’s] Hispanic constituency.”

Clearly, the anti-immigrant movement can’t find a reasonable response to a reasonable measure; therefore, it yet again resorts to fear, making the irresponsible claim that a normal function of our government undermines the foundation of American democracy.

Altogether, their reactions serve to indicate the increasingly fragmented image of political reality for the far-right, and its symptomatically and perpetually deceitful claims.