FAIR-y tales: The immigration saga continues
On June 5, hundreds rallied at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix in support of SB 1070, the harshest state immigration law in the nation, which had been signed by Governor Jan Brewer six weeks earlier.
The crowd of mostly middle-aged, working-class Anglos waved handmade signs blaring such things as:
"14 Million Jobless Americans; 13 Million Illegals, DO THE MATH, MR. PRESIDENT."
Federation for American Immigration Reform
Editors note: Former New Times staff writer
Terry Greene Sterling is the author of the new book
Illegal: Life and Death in Arizonas Immigration
War Zone and is writer-in-residence at the Walter
Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Jennifer Gaie Hellum assisted with research on white-nationalist groups. Sterling's personal Web site is www.terrygreenesterling.com.
"SB 1070 is not racist!"
It was a hot day. People were sunburned. Some wore American-flag shirts, American-flag baseball caps, or American-flag necklaces. Some carried American flags. They stood in the sun to hear a lineup of speakers deliver the same victory-themed message: Americans are under siege by hordes of illegal invaders who steal their jobs and suck up public benefits . . . and, in this economy, how much more can Americans be expected to endure?
The call-to-arms message: Enough is enough, rise up, get active, donate, vote, stop illegal immigration now — before it's too late.
The orators included black activist Ted Hayes ("Amnesty is racist. This country doesn't belong to anyone else but us"), Colonel Al Rodriguez ("Mexicans, you don't speak for me"), Terry Anderson, the now-deceased California radio talk-show host ("Jackpot babies"), NumbersUSA lobbyist Rosemary Jenks ("Amnesty destroys America"), immigration hardliner and soon-to-lose Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo ("Barack Obama . . . will open our borders"), and the self-professed author and sponsor of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, state Senator Russell Pearce.
Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans, Pearce beamed as the crowd chanted gratitude for SB 1070: "Thank you, Russell. Thank you, Russell."
Pearce joked about how maybe Barack Obama himself didn't have papers.
Then he justified SB 1070 by reciting the "hard costs" of illegal immigration to Arizona taxpayers — $2.7 billion in a time of "high unemployment and record foreclosures."
Later, J.D. Hayworth, an immigration hardliner, former talk-show host, and U.S. Senate candidate who would soon be clobbered in the Republican primary by John McCain, began his $25-a-plate fundraising barbecue in the plaza.
Pearce and Tancredo, who are friends and political allies, were among the featured speakers at the Hayworth fundraiser. They enthused about what was to be Pearce's next legislative effort, in 2011, to challenge the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying American citizenship to Arizona babies born to undocumented parents.
Like many successful illegal-immigration populists, Russell Pearce gets his "hard costs of illegal immigration," and his talking points, from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based, self-described public interest nonprofit founded in 1979.
For years, FAIR has issued reports detailing how illegal immigrants damage the economy, steal American jobs, sponge public benefits, and commit heinous crimes.
The nonprofit allies itself with other groups and activists who share FAIR's point of view, and although FAIR takes a backseat at anti-illegal-immigration rallies, its presence is pervasive. At the June 5 rally in Phoenix, for instance, almost every speaker had ties to FAIR.
Thanks to grassroots organizing, Washington politicking, and faithful donors, FAIR has changed the immigration debate in the United States. It has successfully blocked progressive immigration reform, including what it calls "amnesty" — legalization of non-criminal undocumented immigrants (including magna cum laude college graduates) who have lived in the United States for decades.
After it helped insert SB 1070 into the Arizona Revised Statutes, FAIR turned its attention to its favorite cause: "birthright citizenship" legislation that would challenge the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment gives citizenship to most babies born in the United States, and FAIR wants to change that so babies born to undocumented immigrant parents will be denied citizenship. Such children are derided as "jackpot babies" or "anchor babies."
FAIR and its sister nonprofits — NumbersUSA, which also lobbied successfully to squash immigration reform in 2007, and the Center for Immigration Studies, which refers to itself as a non-partisan pro-immigrant think tank — cite each other's reports and studies and post each other's findings on their Web sites.
Reporters often quote experts from the three groups as credible mainstream voices of dissent to progressive immigration reform, even though several human rights organizations have flagged FAIR, NumbersUSA, and CIS as white-nationalist hate groups.
Though these three groups maintain that the hate designations are arbitrary and untrue, the vitriolic rhetoric at the root of these organizations' sensibilities scalds the ear.
"As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?" asked retired ophthalmologist Dr. John Tanton, founder of all three of these oft-cited groups.
The legal arm of FAIR, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, lists Yale Law School grad Kris Kobach as its national constitutional law expert. Kobach was key in drafting SB 1070 and served as a legal adviser for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office until Andrew Thomas stepped down to run (unsuccesfully) for higher office and his replacement, Rick Romley, fired Kobach 's firm.
Now, Kobach is the newly elected Kansas secretary of state, where he faced criticism, during the race, for scaremongering by exaggerating voter fraud and linking it to immigrants.
Arizona long has been an experimental legal laboratory for FAIR, a place to test increasingly harsh laws — 2004's Prop 200, the human-smuggling law, the employer-sanctions law, SB 1070, and the promised birthright-citizenship law.
As each law hits the news, FAIR (and/or one or both of its sister organizations) issues neutrally worded reports portraying the undocumented as social and economic burdens. The studies point to the urgent need for passage of the immigration law in question.
In the wake of the passage of SB 1070, for instance, FAIR advanced to Fox News a copy of its new report on the alarming cost of illegal immigration in Arizona.
On May 17, Fox reported that "Arizona's illegal-immigrant population is costing the state's taxpayers even more than once thought — a whopping $2.7 billion, according to researchers at the public interest group that helped write the state's new immigration law."
The FAIR report helped galvanize support for SB 1070, and for its boosters, such as Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer, who told the Arizona Republic that she signed SB 1070 in part because she was "cognizant of what the impact of illegal immigration was doing to the state of Arizona in relation to cost."
But the FAIR report that Brewer, Pearce, and practically every other Arizona illegal-immigration politico relied on to get elected flies in the face of reality.
In the first place, FAIR's estimate of the unauthorized population in Arizona is unusually robust.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates 460,000 undocumented people live in Arizona. (Recently, the Pew Hispanic Center lowered its estimate to about 375,000.)
In contrast, FAIR reports that 500,000 costly illegal aliens live in Arizona.
And FAIR has added a new demographic to the expense column: children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants.
Despite their constitutionally guaranteed citizenship, these children represent a major "cost of illegal immigration," according to FAIR.
Nearly half of FAIR's $2.7 billion estimated cost of illegal immigration in Arizona involves expenses of U.S. children born to undocumented immigrants, without factoring in the obvious economic counterbalance — lifetimes of paying taxes, working, and consuming.
Adding these children to the expense column boosts Arizona's "cost of illegal immigration" to $2.7 billion, up from $1.3 billion in FAIR's 2004 report.
That's more than a 100 percent increase in supposed illegal-immigration costs during a dramatic decline in the state's population of undocumented immigrants.
Longtime FAIR staffer Jack Martin, who is not an economist but rather "a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience," put the Arizona report together.
In July, Martin said that he included in his report U.S. children born to undocumented immigrants as a cost of illegal immigration because they "wouldn't be here" if their parents hadn't been in the country illegally.
And if Mom and Dad returned to Mexico, they'd take their American children with them, Martin declared.
Asked why these same American kids mysteriously disappear from his report once they become adults and offset the cost of their educations by paying taxes, consuming, and working, Martin offered no rational answer. He posited that once these children reach adulthood, they no longer represent a "cost of illegal immigration" because if their parents were to be deported, the adult children probably would stay in the United States.
In short, Martin could not explain away the accounting trick at the heart of the "report" that helped justify SB 1070.
In July, as politicians eyeballed SB 1070's popularity and drafted similar election-year legislation in other states, FAIR issued yet another report, "The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers."
This detailed report says illegal aliens cost American taxpayers $113 billion annually. It says each American household pays $1,117 yearly for illegal immigration. It says most illegal aliens don't pay taxes.
Such numbers can only outrage millions of penny-pinched Americans already anxious about their own futures in uncertain economic times. But once again, the numbers defy logic.
That's because the misleading techniques in the Arizona report were duplicated in the national report.
Start with the population estimate.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates that 10.8 million illegal immigrants lived in the United States in 2009, but the FAIR report estimates a much larger population: 13 million.
And, again, as in the Arizona report, the largest single "fiscal burden" of illegal immigration is tied to American children. FAIR says it costs taxpayers $52 billion to educate the children of illegal immigrants, and that includes more than 3 million American citizens born to one or more undocumented parents.
As with the Arizona report, the positive economic counterbalance to education costs (the adult lifetime of productivity, consumption, and taxpaying) is excluded from FAIR's calculations.
But contrary to FAIR's assertion, the consensus among many economists is that the U.S. government nets a profit from educating its children, because educated adults pay more taxes and contribute to the nation's productivity.
"Many government expenses related to immigrants are associated with their children," Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney write in "Ten Economic Facts About Immigration," recently published on behalf of the Brookings Institution. "Both the immigrant children and children of U.S.-born citizens are expensive when they are young because of the costs of investing in children's education and health. Those expenses, however, are paid back through taxes received over a lifetime of work. "
Giovanni Peri, an economist at the University of California-Davis and an expert on the contributions of immigrants to economies, tells New Times: "Education spending is always considered an investment, not a cost, because it adds to the productivity of the country."
And Daniel Griswold of the libertarian Cato Institute writes in a 2007 report, "The Fiscal Impact of Immigration Reform: The Real Story," that it would be misleading to "count the costs of educating the children of an immigrant without considering the future taxes paid by the educated children once they have grown and entered the workforce."
Educated voices of reason are drowned out by FAIR's populist appeal. If you want to measure the group's effectiveness at convincing Americans that illegal immigrants are an undue burden on taxpayers, consider this: U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch supporter a few months ago of legalizing the undocumented already in the United States, now seeks hearings on whether their kids should be citizens.
"People come here to have babies," he told Fox News in July. "They come here to drop a child."
His assertion that parents illegally enter the United States just to pop out "anchor babies" to obtain parental green cards makes no sense.
First, under current immigration law, undocumented parents would have to wait for their "anchor babies" to reach adulthood before they could legally apply for parental green cards.
Second, if the parents live illegally in the United States, immigration authorities generally require that they return to Mexico and stay there for 10 years before the U.S. government will consider giving them green cards.
But this doesn't stop Graham's bluster. He's even hinted that he might introduce legislation to change the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which grants citizenship to most children born on American soil, regardless of whether their parents have papers. Graham was probably grandstanding; such an amendment requires a two-thirds majority in both the U.S. House and Senate and would have to be ratified by 75 percent of the states. (Alternately, two-thirds of the states could call a constitutional convention, but so far, this has never happened.)
The more practical path would be for Arizona to pass a birthright-citizenship law and then test it all the way to the Supreme Court at taxpayer expense. (Just like all the other Arizona immigration laws that FAIR has heartily supported.) And sure enough, fresh off his SB 1070 victory, Russell Pearce vowed he'd ramp up his efforts (a longtime FAIR fan, he's pitched "anchor baby" laws) to get a birthright-citizenship law passed in Arizona.
Pearce didn't return phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment for this story, but now that he's president of the Arizona Senate, he has publicly stated he will back off sponsoring the birthright-citizenship law himself and turn over the issue to his compadre in the state House, Representative John Kavanagh. It is unknown whether Kavanagh will introduce another of Pearce's favorite measures — a law that would require parents of kids with no papers to pay tuition to attend public school.
Such a law would work in tandem with a birthright-citizenship measure. Arizona would deny birth certificates to kids born to undocumented parents, and then the state would charge tuition because the children would not have birth certificates.
If a birthright-citizenship law were passed, it would create a burgeoning, illegal, illiterate, expensive underclass.
What's more, if children of the undocumented were deprived of schooling, government revenues would plummet.
That's because cost benefits of a public high school education are significant, according to a 2007 Columbia University study, "The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for America's Children." The study found that even kids who needed expensive interventions (such as English classes) to get their high school diplomas netted the public purse an average of $127,000 per student over a lifetime.
On the other hand, high school dropouts tend to commit more crimes, be less healthy, rely more on public benefits, and pay fewer taxes, the same study reports.
The Center for Immigration Studies, FAIR's sister organization, has long pointed to a 30-plus percent dropout rate among Latino immigrants. The implication is that Mexicans drain the economy with social costs, and if they don't leave, it will only get worse. As if to underscore the Mexican menace, the CIS Web site displays hidden-camera-on-the-border videos of brown people purportedly sneaking into the country.
Scaremongering about Latino dropout rates is based on National Center for Education Statistics data on the "16- to 24-year-old status dropout rate."
Richard Fry, of the Pew Hispanic Center, determined that 38 percent of Hispanic immigrants, ages 16 to 24, were high school dropouts.
But here's the catch, according to Fry: The 38 percent dropout rate includes thousands of young immigrant laborers with minimal educations who never attended American schools.
They're still counted by the National Center for Education Statistics as high school dropouts because they haven't finished 12 years of school.
The sadder part of this story is that U.S.-born Hispanics actually do have a relatively high dropout rate — 11 percent. That's not a good statistic, and it does have social costs.
But it's impossible to tie this dropout rate to illegal immigration. Fry says there's no way to determine how many of these U.S.-born dropouts are children of the undocumented.
Seeing their peers waste educational opportunities mightily frustrates many of about 825,000 illegal immigrant children known as "DREAMers."
Brought to the United States by their families as children, about 65,000 of these kids graduate from American high schools every year. A lot have made it through college, on private scholarships, with honors.
But they can't legally work in the United States, even though they self-identify as Americans.
By now, most of us have heard of the federal legislation called the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented high school grads with no criminal records temporary legal residency so they could attend college or trade school or join the military. They'd get green cards only after living up to their end of the bargain. Then, eventually, they'd qualify for citizenship. They'd work, pay taxes, shore up the middle class, and strengthen the military if they only had a chance, their advocates say.
The law has been introduced every year since 2001, and it's getting a last-chance airing as 2010 draws to a close.
FAIR has successfully blocked DREAM Act legislation, decrying it as closeted amnesty for illegal aliens and condemning it as an incentive for further illegal immigration into the United States.
In Arizona, DREAMers face fierce opposition. In an October 12 fundraising e-mail addressed to "American Patriots Opposing the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Lame-Duck Amnesty" a group called Ban Amnesty Now sought contributions to help Russell Pearce and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio fight the "DREAM Act nightmare."
Ban Amnesty Now is a Phoenix-based "national educational and research association" run by Sean McCaffrey, a local Republican operative, and its honorary chairs are Bay Buchanan (she's Pat's sister and Tom Tancredo's co-chair in the anti-immigration Team America PAC), Arpaio, Tancredo, and Pearce.
It's easy enough to connect it to the FAIR sisterhood — Ban Amnesty Now posted a blog by Mark Krikorian, head of the CIS, on its Web site. In the blog, Krikorian discusses rural-to-urban immigration patterns and refers to unauthorized Mexican immigrants in the United States as Mexico's "excess peasantry."
Two days before November's midterm election, state Senator Russell Pearce sent an e-mail to constituents, reminding them of that $2.7 billion "cost of illegal immigration" to Arizona taxpayers and of the many rapes, murders, and child molestations purportedly committed by Mexicans who jump the fence.
"Rancher Rob Krentz was murdered by the drug cartel on his ranch," Pearce wrote.
It was a wildly irresponsible statement.
In March, after Krentz was gunned down a few miles north of the Mexican border ("Badlands," June 3, "Cowboy Down," June 10), Tancredo, who had just visited the area, blamed the murder on a drug-smuggling Mexican illegal.
Then, Pearce repeated the allegation, and it went viral on extremist Web sites. Soon, it seemed most Arizonans believed it.
Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever said trackers had followed footprints from the murder site clear to the Mexican border. Next, Dever released a mug shot of a fierce-looking Mexican "investigative lead" named Alejandro Chavez Vazquez, a.k.a. Armando Chacon Gonzales.
Vazquez reportedly had been deported once and was suspected of burglaries in Portal, Arizona, a town about 60 miles east of Krentz Ranch, authorities said. He lived across the border from Douglas in Agua Prieta, Sonora, they said.
That was news to the mayor of Agua Prieta, who told a Tucson television reporter: "Nobody knows him. He's never been here, and I'm pretty sure he's not here."
The Krentz murder remains unsolved.
The killing had a profound influence on the passage of SB 1070 because Pearce and Tancredo used it to set off a fear-of-Mexicans wave in Arizona.
Grim-faced borderlands ranchers in their cowboy hats stood by Russell Pearce's side in front of TV cameras at the Arizona Capitol on the day SB 1070 faced its biggest challenge — passing through the Arizona House, where moderate Republicans could have blocked it.
In the end, all House Republicans voted in support of the law, caving to widespread fear of the Mexican-immigrant menace.
Politicians and anti-immigrant groups seized on the Krentz killing as political gold and clamored for more border security. The Mexican drug war, which had taken more than 23,000 lives in three years in that country, was sneaking into Arizona, they suggested.
Not a single anti-SB 1070 politico bothered to report that, in Cochise County, where Krentz was gunned down, Dever's office had linked (as of June) just two murders to illegal immigrants.
In both cases, the murder victims, not the killers, had crossed the border without papers.
Governor Jan Brewer spoke of drug-related beheadings in the desert, and she famously announced that most Mexican immigrants were drug mules.
The beheadings-in-the-desert/all-illegals-are-drug-mules stories were patently false.
Contrary to Brewer's assertions, border counties and cities have experienced declining crime rates, and border cities were among the safest in the nation, according to the FBI. The Associated Press crunched FBI numbers in June and found that violent crime was down 15 percent in Arizona.
Crime studies show again and again that immigrants do not commit as many violent crimes as their native-born counterparts.
And areas with larger populations of unauthorized migrants actually experience reduced crime rates, according to the progressive Immigration Policy Center.
Despite all this, when Arizonans were polled after the passage of SB 1070, they voiced mounting fear over border security — meaning, crimes committed by Mexicans on Americans.
This fear is fueled on FAIR's Web site, which posts articles detailing horrendous crimes committed in the United States by "illegal-alien criminals."
This same fear is fanned in FAIR's alarmist "report" on the fiscal burden of undocumented immigration to taxpayers.
The think tank claims American taxpayers pay about $7.83 billion for "law enforcement costs of illegal immigration." About half is tied to federal detention, removal, and prosecution of immigrants for entering the country illegally — which FAIR has long advocated. Another $1.4 billion is tied to National Guard and Coast Guard costs.
The numbers are ambiguous, at best. The feds who warehouse criminal aliens don't tally who is legal (green card, visa) and who isn't, so it's impossible to get true "law enforcement costs of illegal immigration."
In April, state Representative Kavanagh stated that, in Arizona, "illegals make up 15 percent of our prison population . . . It is a fact."
It's not a fact.
The Arizona Department of Corrections, like the federal Bureau of Prisons, doesn't break down data by inmates who are in the country legally and inmates who aren't. It does tally "foreign national" inmates, but that category includes legal and illegal immigrants.
Two Arizona officials actually did distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants: Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas long pointed to a disproportionate number of illegal-alien felons incarcerated in Arizona. Thomas kept the criminal data, but if you look at it, you'll see a lot of the "felons" were immigrants with no prior criminal records who'd been nabbed for such felonies as working at car washes with fake IDs or paying a smuggler to guide them through the desert.
Dr. John Tanton is articulate and friendly. The 76-year-old paints a portrait of himself living an idyllic life of retirement on the shores of Lake Michigan. He reports being happily married to a smart woman, Mary Lou, and the two are active in the community, their Methodist church, and in environmental affairs.
Tanton likes to hike, despite early-stage Parkinson's disease, and on a recent morning, he and Mary Lou walked for four miles through a vast nature preserve they'd helped create near their beloved home of Petoskey, Michigan.
After a post-hike lunch of meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy, he returned to his office and his life's work: restricting immigration into the United States in any way possible.
He dismisses a growing number of critics who tag him as a closeted white nationalist and charge that the true aim of the web of nonprofits he's started (and/or is associated with) have one secret, chilling goal: restricting immigration to preserve the nation for a white, European majority.
Tanton says he's not a white nationalist, and neither are his organizations. He says it's irresponsible to even make the claim.
In the 1970s, Tanton was a leader of the group Zero Population Growth, which promoted two-child families as a way to stabilize the nation's population. (Kids replace Mom and Dad, net population growth equals zero.)
He has long worried, he tells New Times, that the U.S. population will overrun natural resources and destroy the country.
Tanton sees the human population exploding along Malthusian lines, although the work of monk Thomas Malthus has been discredited, and the U.N. reports that the world population may stabilize by 2300 because fertility rates are trending downward.
Nevertheless, Tanton's Zero Population Growth movement helped influence a reduction in the size of American families. Even so, the U.S. population soared from about 225 million in 1982 to more than 307 million in 2009, in part because immigrant babies have bolstered the birth rate Tanton has labored so hard to reduce.
Many population experts say this is a good thing, that immigrant babies will become the workers who pay taxes to provide social services for the aging American population.
The retired ophthalmologist from Petoskey has a "fundamental disagreement" with that theory.
He says he's open to new ideas. But his views haven't changed much since he started FAIR in 1979. The group remains near and dear to his heart; he still sits on FAIR's board.
His self-described population concerns caused him to start a funding nonprofit, US Inc., the Social Contract Press (a publishing house), NumbersUSA, and CIS. Taken together, these groups make up the so-called Tanton Network.
The network enjoys a solid, loyal list of donors, including the "green" Weeden Foundation and the Mellon family.
Richard Mellon Scaife's foundations funneled more than $2.1 million to FAIR, NumbersUSA, and the CIS from 2004 to 2009, according to foundation reports. Another Mellon scion, Tim Mellon, donated $1.5 million to Brewer's defense fund for SB 1070.
A private foundation, Fernwood Advisors, is overseen by the heirs of Sidney Swensrud, who ran Gulf Oil for the Mellon family. Two Swensrud descendants sit on FAIR's board.
In 2007, the individual nonprofits in the Tanton Network were labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The SPLC subsequently dispatched Heidi Beirich, its director of research, to comb through Tanton's papers at the University of Michigan.
Beirich says she was stunned at what she found in the boxes — reams of letters from Tanton to leading white nationalists and "race scientists."
Tanton, for instance, wrote to Robert Graham, who'd started a sperm bank with the semen of Nobel Prize winners.
"Do we leave it to individuals to decide that they are the intelligent ones who should have more kids? And more troublesome, what about the less intelligent, who logically should have less?" Tanton wrote.
Beirich went back to SPLC's headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama, and published reports on Tanton's white-supremacist associations. This further outraged FAIR, the CIS, and NumbersUSA, which did not take kindly to the SPLC hate label. CIS has attempted to deflect the negative image by deriding Beirich as a priss not unlike Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" character on Saturday Night Live. It calls Bierich's work a "distorted and dishonest narrative" that exaggerated the relationship between CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA.
CIS even held a seminar to discredit the SPLC, which it portrays as a bloated, self-serving nonprofit that funnels funds to overpaid directors while ignoring poor people.
Jerry Kammer, a former Arizona Republic reporter who helped bring a Pulitzer Prize to a San Diego newspaper, is now a "senior research fellow" for CIS. At the panel convened this fall to discredit the SPLC, Kammer bashed the organization but also sought to distance himself from Tanton, who, he says, "has a tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration."
Tanton is a "distraction" in the immigration movement, Kammer said, because he "sometimes speaks with a freewheeling bluntness that even those who admire him find upsetting."
What Kammer did not note is that the SPLC is not the first organization to call the motives of FAIR's founder into question. In the 1990s, several magazines and newspapers profiled Tanton and pointed out his controversial views.
"Do conservatives who embrace FAIR know all they should about the object of their affections?" conservative Tucker Carlson wondered in a 1997 piece in the Wall Street Journal.
And Carlson was appalled that Tanton told the Detroit Free Press that he wanted borders sealed to avoid overrunning the country with people "defecating and creating garbage and looking for jobs."
Three years later, the Anti-Defamation League took on FAIR. "Unfortunately, FAIR and other anti-immigrant groups have used reckless, distorted language and tactics that cloud and inhibit responsible debate," the ADL concluded in a report.
Since that report was issued, the Tanton network has been blasted for white-nationalist ties by several progressive groups, including the Center for New Community, a pro-immigrant group in Chicago, and the NAACP, which in October published a report on its Web site that linked white nationalists to anti-immigrant factions in Tea Party movements.
Even today, John Tanton sees nothing wrong with associating with white nationalists. He says he doesn't necessarily agree with them, but reaching out to them is part of his "coalition building."
And he's not ashamed of soliciting $1.5 million in unrestricted donations during FAIR's early days from the Pioneer Fund, an American foundation that has long financed research in "race science." FAIR doesn't take Pioneer money anymore, though the creepy foundation still is going strong.
The Pioneer Fund's current president, J. Philippe Rushton, is a Canadian college psychology professor who still studies race-intelligence connections.
In a July article for the online journal VDARE.com, named after Virginia Dare, the first white baby born in the New World, Rushton wrote that his recent research proved that black 17-year-olds consistently scored at the level of white 14-year-olds on math and reading tests.
Other VDARE.com contributors include white nationalists whose correspondence with Tanton is archived at the University of Michigan.
Sam Francis and Jared Taylor are associated with the white-separatist Council of Conservative Citizens, birthed from the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and '60s in the South. The CCC Web site disparages blacks, Jews, and Latinos. One of the group's goals is to "oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime."
Jared Taylor also edits American Renaissance, a white nationalist Web site.
Another VDARE.com contributor, Kevin MacDonald, is a director of American Third Position, a white-nationalist political party that reportedly donated money to Jan Brewer's SB 1070 defense fund.
MacDonald edits Occidental Quarterly, a white nationalist publication.
His good friend, retired Vanderbilt professor Virginia Deane Abernethy, an avowed "European American separatist," has also written for VDARE. Abernathy believes sending food and aid to Third World countries will "exacerbate overpopulation."
And recently, she wrote a blurb calling the violent new American white-nationalist novel White Apocalypse "an emotionally compelling account of whites as historical victims of non-whites — just the sort of thing we need to motivate a renaissance among our people."
Tom Tancredo has written for VDARE, and so has his friend Pat Buchanan.
And Tanton's funding nonprofit funneled $15,000 to VDARE in 2007 and 2008, according to the most recent federal tax reports for US Inc.
Tanton is a good writer. (He once won an essay contest sponsored by The Scientific American.) He contributes to and publishes the Social Contract Press, edited by Wayne Lutton, his co-author of a book called The Immigration Invasion.
Lutton, whom Tanton calls a "very nice guy," has addressed the Council of Conservative Citizens, and he's lent his editorial expertise to American Renaissance's Web site.
The most recent issue of Social Contract Press cheers Arizona's SB 1070 victory and includes an article by Russell Pearce.
Sometimes, when Tanton looks at how FAIR, NumbersUSA, the CIS, and other groups he's touched have succeeded in turning the immigration debate his way, the old man feels a certain satisfaction about his life's work.
"It is amazing," he says, "how well we've done."
Whose Dole Is It, Anyway?
Unauthorized immigrants make up just more than 3 percent of the U.S. population, But they're accused of sucking up public benefits and dodging taxes.
Illegal aliens are tax dodgers.
That's one of the most shocking findings of FAIR's most recent report on the "cost of illegal immigration.
"Most illegal aliens do not pay income taxes," FAIR reports. "Among those who do, much of the revenues collected are refunded to the illegal aliens when they file tax returns. Many are also claiming tax credits resulting in payments from the U.S. Treasury."
The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies in San Diego begs to differ. It found 75 percent of undocumented California immigrants paid income taxes in 2006.
In 2007, the Congressional Budget Office reported that about half of all unauthorized immigrants pay Social Security taxes.
Using fake Social Security cards, unauthorized immigrants pay into the Social Security unclaimed Earning Suspense File. That kitty had grown to more than $500 billion by 2005, the Immigration Policy Center says.
The unclaimed money generated between $6 billion and $7 billion in income for Social Security beneficiaries, along with about $1.5 billion for Medicare, the New York Times reported in 2007.
Many economists report that, far from being leeches, immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in services.
Unauthorized immigrants in Arizona, and many legal immigrants, aren't eligible for Food Stamps, Welfare, Medicare, Social Security. They do get emergency Medicaid benefits, if they're poor enough, under certain limited conditions — mortal illness, injuries, pregnancy. In addition, they use hospital emergency rooms less than native-born patients. And since unauthorized immigrants make up a little more than 3 percent of the U.S. population, it's unlikely that they're bankrupting hospitals by invading emergency rooms. (Of course, hospital emergency rooms aren't allowed to ask who is legal and who isn't, so it's a moot point.)
"The consensus of the economics literature is that the taxes paid by immigrants and their descendants exceed the benefits they receive — that on balance they are a net positive for the federal budget," the Brookings Institution reports in its recently published "Ten Economic Facts About Immigration."
Do undocumented migrants steal jobs from American workers?
In 2007, the U.S. Senate debated the doomed McCain-Kennedy "comprehensive immigration reform" bill that aimed to secure borders, enforce workplaces, modernize the visa system, and allow non-criminal undocumented immigrants already in the country to pay a fine and stand in line for legal residency. (Under the proposed law, an immigrant would be denied public benefits until five years after his green card was issued.)
At the time of the debate, the Heritage Foundation issued a policy paper with an alarming headline: "Amnesty Will Cost U.S. Taxpayers at Least $2.6 Trillion."
The Heritage Foundation, a think tank that shares funders and a hard-line immigration stance with FAIR and its sister organizations, reported that migrants already living illegally in the United States, if given amnesty, would cost the country trillions in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security costs as they aged.
A year after the Heritage report was released, then-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas paid Harvard economist George Borjas a reported $625 an hour for a study that suggested illegal immigrants drove down wages and cost Arizona $1.4 billion in lost wages in 2005.
John Tanton's groups, which include FAIR, also reported that undocumented immigrants take jobs from low-skilled American workers. Taken together, the reports sent a clear message: Illegal aliens drive down wages and burden taxpayers.
If illegal immigrants returned to Mexico, the argument goes, American workers would step right into their jobs, pay taxes, and shore up the economy.
It is an argument that resonates with American voters.
Even though it's not necessarily true.
In 2007, Edward Lazear, chairman of the George W. Bush White House Council of Economic Advisors, conducted an extensive review of reports on the effects of all immigration, legal and illegal, on the economy. Lazear concluded: "Our review of economic research finds immigrants not only help fuel the nation's economic growth, but also have an overall positive effect on the income of native-born workers."
It's harder to tell just how illegal immigration affects the economy, though.
At the very worst, the effect of undocumented immigrants on the American economy is negligible, economist Gordon Hanson, of the University of California-San Diego, reported in 2009. Using data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, Hanson, commissioned by the pro-immigrant Migration Policy Institute, wrote: "If we account for the small fiscal burden that unauthorized immigrants impose, the overall economic benefit is close enough to zero to be essentially a wash."
Not $113 billion a year, as the FAIR report contends. And certainly not trillions of dollars, as the Heritage report contends.
Hanson concluded that those hurt by illegal immigration are low-skilled workers who compete directly with the undocumented workers. He reported that individual economic losses were offset by advantages to businesses that employ the low-wage immigrants.
But here's the clincher: Many of the workers displaced by undocumented immigrants are also immigrants.
The difference is that the displaced workers arrived earlier. In February, the progressive Economic Policy Institute, in a report called "Immigration and Wages," wrote that newly arrived low-skilled immigrants with less than high school degrees displaced other immigrants of the same skill level — and fewer American-born workers.
Immigrants take a bigger financial hit than native-born workers when the economy tanks, and they are among the first to get jobs when the economy recovers, an October report by the Pew Hispanic Center says.
In many cases, Americans either don't want low-skilled jobs, can't physically perform them, or don't know they're available.
About half of farm workers are unauthorized immigrants, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated more than a decade ago.
This probably hasn't changed much. In September, the Associated Press reported that native-born workers weren't seeking advertised farm labor jobs: "Since January, California farmers have posted ads for 1,160 farm-worker positions open to U.S. citizens and legal residents. Only 233 people applied after being linked with the jobs through unemployment offices in California, Texas, Nevada, and Arizona."
Many economists say that by filling low-skilled jobs, immigrants improve business profits, which in turn create more jobs for higher-skilled American workers. University of California economist Giovanni Peri, for example, wrote in a recent Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Economic Letter that immigrants expand the economy, which in turn expands job opportunities for non-immigrants.
And he's not alone.
The Brookings Institution reports that "economists have found that immigrants raise average wages for the United States as a whole."
Also, many economists say economic growth in the United States is impossible without population expansion, and since the native-born American population is older and declining in numbers, immigrants expand the population, which in turn stimulates economic growth.
This puts the United States at a "competitive advantage" compared with other developed countries that don't have enough workers to expand the economy, says Marc Rosenblum, of the Migration Policy Institute.
White-nationalist reads in the United States and Europe reflect anti-migrant hatred in a grim economy.
To FAIR patriarch John Tanton, The Camp of the Saints, a 1973 apocalyptic book by French novelist Jean Raspail, stimulates honest discussion.
The graphic book tells the story of the downfall of Western civilization and the decline of the European white race at the hands of immigrant invaders. The setting is southern France, where "a million poor wretches, armed only with their weakness and their numbers, overwhelmed by misery, encumbered with starving brown and black children," invade and destroy the country.
The heroes are the white nationalists who vainly defend their Western culture.
The villains, even more than the brown invaders, are foolish liberal white people who welcome the immigrants and celebrate multiculturalism, only to be raped, killed, or transported to White Female Practice Experimentation Centers by the immigrants.
Tanton's Social Contract Press now publishes the book.
"We are indebted to Jean Raspail for his insights into the human condition, and for being so many years ahead of his time," Tanton wrote in an introduction.
His publishing house has sold enough books that The Camp of the Saints is currently in its fifth printing.
Its sales soon may be eclipsed by the just-released "semi-fictional" White Apocalypse, by fledgling writer Kyle Bristow, who once invited Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, to speak to his Young Americans for Freedom group at Michigan State University.
The novel claims whites were the first humans to set foot in America but were killed by a mass migration of (brown) "Amerindians." A heroic white "rogue anthropologist" fights to get the truth out. It's a bloody book. And it's not subtle. Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, says a character modeled after him is assassinated by a sniper.
There's a new white-nationalist bestseller in Germany these days, a book called Germany Does Away With Itself, by Thilo Sarrazin. In it, "foul smelling," public-benefit-using Muslim immigrants destroy Germany by over-breeding. (Sarrazin was fired from his banking job after the book was published earlier this year.)
The German tome has escaped notice of most Americans, except for those who visit the white-nationalist American Renaissance Web site run by Jared Taylor, Tanton's associate. Germany Does Away With Itself has "an unflinchingly race-realist perspective," American Renaissance says.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced Germany Does Away With Itself, but she's no fool. Sensing the anti-immigrant mood sweeping Western Europe in difficult economic times, she later announced that multiculturalism in der vaterland was a failed experiment.
She said it even as economists warned that an immigrant workforce was the key to future growth.
But Merkel isn't alone; as the euro founders, European leaders target Muslim and Roma immigrants.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to send the Roma back to Bulgaria or Romania. Sarkozy's conservative party succeeded in passing a law that banned burqas, head-to-toe cover-ups that are a fundamental expression of faith among some of the 6 million Muslims in France.
Women who wear illegal burqas must now pay a fine and take a course in values.
Switzerland prohibited the construction of minarets (tall mosque towers). Italian armed cops cleaned out migrant labor camps. Spain paid immigrants to leave the country.
Not to be outdone, a coalition of Dutch political parties vows to ban the burqa and force Muslims to pay for language classes they have to take to get residency papers.
Dutch voters, The Economist notes, "are anxious about the economic and social changes globalization can bring. Instead of helping them to face up to today's challenges, the government has chosen to play upon their fears."
Fantasy Voter Fraud
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was dissed by Russell Pearce over Prop 200's dismissal.
In late October, days before the election, state Senator Russell Pearce directed his e-mail wrath at retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom he decried as an "activist judge" with a "lack of trust and respect for 'we the people.'"
Russell Pearce contended that Sandra Day O'Connor should be charged with ethics violations.
The reason: O'Connor, who occasionally serves as a stand-in federal judge, was one of two judges in a three-judge Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Panel who, on October 26, voted to strike down a key provision in Pearce's beloved Prop 200, which required Arizona residents to produce "proof of citizenship" to register to vote. (Federal law asks only that potential voters sign a registration form and attest to their citizenship under penalty of perjury.)
O'Connor ruled that the heart of Prop 200 violated the National Voter Registration Act because parts of it were an obstacle to the user-friendly, widely available voter registration required by the act.
Voters approved Prop 200 in 2004 because Pearce and others had them believing undocumented immigrants could steal elections, even though election officials had found no evidence of stolen elections.
Pearce's proposition was a thinly disguised effort to give Arizona's white voters an electoral advantage and to keep Mexican-American citizens from voting, critics said.
"So what is the message from these judges?" Pearce huffed in his e-mail. "If an illegal alien is trying to register to vote, it is okay to ask them if they are a citizen, just don't make them prove it? You have got to be kidding!"
Prop 200 was backed by then-Secretary of State Jan Brewer, Pearce, and the right-wing nonprofit FAIR, which reportedly kicked in $400,000 to help gather signatures.
Virginia Abernethy, a self-described "European American separatist," spearheaded Arizona's Prop 200 drive as chairwoman of its national advisory board.
Although Abernethy's worldview and white-nationalist ties were no secret — her writings had been widely published — FAIR didn't find her views "repugnant" until it asked her to resign from the board in August, three months before the election.
Of course, if you check Tanton Network Web sites, almost all of them decry illegal-alien voter fraud. This ties into the position of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the SB 1070 author who worked for FAIR's legal arm and got elected, in part, by scaring Kansas voters into believing undocumented immigrants were voting in state elections.
It also links to Russell Pearce.
In the week leading up to the 2010 midterm election, Pearce and groups affiliated with him sent out frantic e-mails asserting that illegals were poised to steal Arizona's elections.
The e-mails warned of possible widespread voter fraud to mobilize the voter base. The Mexicans were signing up "illegal's [sic] and dead people to vote for the socialist, anti-American agenda incumbents," one e-mail said.
Ban Amnesty Now, which is closely affiliated with Pearce, echoed the claim. A November 1 e-mail from a group called Common Sense warned of widespread voter fraud, including "registering felons and illegals," in Yuma.
Reacting to the vitriolic e-mails, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix announced that FBI agents would handle "allegations of election fraud and other election abuses" on Election Day.
Republican Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, in an October 27 press release, said the e-mailed rumors of voter fraud were false.
Retired Justice O'Connor, who never discusses her judicial decisions, was not charged with ethics violations for ruling against "we the people" by striking down parts of the white-nationalist-backed Prop 200.
And Russell Pearce, the guy who called the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court an "activist judge" and railed for an investigation into her judicial conduct, is now president of the Arizona Senate.
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