Just over a year ago, anti-immigrant group ProEnglish launched a slick new website, and then two months later, in Oklahoma, an official English-only ballot measure passed with 76% of the vote. All was looking very good for ProEnglish as they entered 2011, but with the New Year came new problems and strife within the organization, which was founded by white nationalist John Tanton.
ProEnglish started the year with Jayne Cannava holding the executive director role. One of the few times Cavanna spoke publically was in February 2011 at the CPAC conference in Washington, DC. After a panel that she was on was opened up to the audience for a Q&A session, a student asked Cavanna her opinion regarding the fact that her employer was founded by a white nationalist. Before Cannava could answer, though, she was shielded by the moderator, Mark Krikorian, who dismissed the question and moved on.
A few months later it was Cannava who was moving on, replaced as executive director by Dave Lounden (according to a ProEnglish press release from May 2 of 2011). Louden didn’t last long, however. An October press release from ProEnglish featured a quote from KC McAlpin, listing him as executive director. McAlpin is the president of ProEnglish’s parent company, U.S., Inc.; therefore, we assume that he was acting as ProEnglish’s interim executive director in the absence of Louden, who has disappeared from the organization very quietly.
Earlier this week, ProEnglish announced the hiring of Robert Vandervoort as its new executive director, the 4th person to hold that title in the past eight months alone.
Vandervoort has strong ties to the anti-immigrant movement, previously working for Maryland Delegate Neil Parrott, the man behind the recent petition seeking to end in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants in that state. Vandervoort also worked with US Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, a longtime member of the Tanton Network’s anti-immigrant caucus, the House Immigration Reform Caucus.
Given his predecessors’ micro-tenures, it remains to be seen how long Mr. Vandervoort will last in his position. If ProEnglish continues this hiring/firing of ED’s at the same rate, he’ll be gone before February.
Four leadership changes in eight months is only part of the story, though.
A front page Sunday New York Times exposé on ProEnglish’s founder, white nationalist John Tanton, resulted in Tanton and the groups that he’s involved with coming under some intense pressure. Tanton remains on the board of ProEnglish, however. ProEnglish board member Phil Kent was also put under heavy scrutiny after being appointed to an immigration board in Georgia. Immigrant and civil rights organizations protested en masse at Kent’s appointment, exposing his racist statements and ties.
Recently, and yet again signaling the group’s true nature, ProEnglish hired Phil Tignino, a recent college graduate and a chapter leader of the far-right Youth for Western Civilization (YWC), an organization with strong and numerous ties to white nationalists. A year ago, things looked very promising for ProEnglish, but all that seems to have changed. But, as they say, what a difference a year makes.