The modern day anti-immigrant movement began in 1979, when white nationalist and eugenics proponent John Tanton founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). The movement took shape in subsequent years as Tanton either founded or help to found multiple other organizations, most notably the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) in 1985 and NumbersUSA in 1996, to advance his goal of maintaining the United States’s white majority via immigration reductions. Today, these three Washington, D.C.-based organizations are the country’s most influential advocates of anti-immigrant policies, frequently and disingenuously manipulating data in order to present immigration in a negative light. Their efforts are aided by other organizations Tanton assisted in founding, including FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, and U.S. Inc., Tanton’s philanthropic foundation–which have sought to implement nativist policies at the state and local level through litigation and support for other anti-immigrant groups. Many consider these organizations hate groups for their virulent advocacy of destructive anti-immigrant policies and their connections to white nationalism and other extremist political ideologies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR, CIS, and IRLI as hate groups.
Tanton once wrote, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that” and authored a paper titled “The Case for Passive Eugenics.” His influence on the groups he established is significant and remains today. Tellingly, the current leadership of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA is reluctant to disavow Tanton and his extremism. In July 2017, FAIR Executive Director Bob Dane plainly accepted Tanton’s stated goal of preserving a white majority. “For many, the question of whether a country loses its majority status is a fair question,” Dane told the Standard-Times. “It’s a legitimate policy question for a lot of folks.”
Other principals at these Tanton-founded organizations, including FAIR President Dan Stein, CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian, NumbersUSA President Roy Beck and counsel to IRLI Kris Kobach have similarly minimized Tanton’s extremism and its influence on the policy goals of draconian enforcement and immigration limits that they maintain today. These extremist organizations maintain strong working relationships with members of Congress and law enforcement officials that have been cultivated over decades. They have also gained a position of influence within the White House and continue to pressure for, among other things, the repeal of DACA.