We've known for some time -- ever since the Southern Poverty Law Center first reported it back in 2002 -- that there was a web of interests and backgrounds that connected some of the most prominent conservative anti-immigration "think tanks" to white-supremacist organizations, all revolving the activities of an environmentalist-turned-nativist named John Tanton.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, though, that this was the case, these groups -- particularly the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA -- have continued to enjoy mainstream respectability, in large part because they have continued to deny the connections to Tanton and to each other.
Now, the SPLC has definitively established the connections, thanks in large part to reporter Heidi Beirich's intrepid investigative work digging through Tanton's own papers and examining the groups' leaders records. One can only hope the report will finally persuade genuine conservatives and thoughtful Republicans that they would want nothing to do with either these organizations or their largely fabricated disinformation, which disguises a hateful, white-supremacist agenda.
Together with the immigration-reform group America's Voice, the SPLC held a press conference this morning in Washington to discuss the report and its ramifications -- particularly for Americans interested in advancing a rational debate about immigration, free of racist scapegoating.
The result of the activities of groups like these has been profound -- a grotesque distortion of the immigration debate in America. As AV's Frank Sharry said at the conference, most people on the side of immigration reform in the past decade went in believing they were going to be engaged in a rational policy discussion, but instead found that for these groups on the right, the only interest was in finding more bodies to throw on the culture-war bonfires.
Here's the PDF file of the report, titled "The Nativist Lobby."
Some of the reporting will already be familiar, but the sections on the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA are full of new information. Of special note was what it uncovered about the CIS and
Mark Krikorian, who some of you may recognize from his work at NRO's The Corner:
Last October, as America was being roiled by the subprime mortgage meltdown that led to the current financial crisis, the executive director of one of the most influential immigration think tanks in the nation was in a joking mood.
Shortly after the failure of Washington Mutual Bank, Mark Krikorian found a press release issued months earlier by the bank that celebrated its inclusion on a list of “Business Diversity Elites” compiled by Hispanic Business magazine. Krikorian posted the release at the conservative National Review Online, where he writes from time to time, along with his own sneering headline: “Cause and Effect?” Krikorian no doubt thought of his posting as a simple joke.
But to many, the attempt by the leader of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to suggest a link between Washington Mutual’s commitment to opening its ranks to Latinos and its demise spoke volumes about the nature of CIS and its prolific research. Although the think tank bills itself as an “independent” organization with a “pro-immigrant” if “low-immigration” vision, the reality is that CIS has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked.
Be sure to check out America's Voice's page devoted to the report, especially the sidebar that lets you vote on who the worst "immigration wolf" identified in the report is.
Image 2050 has more.