Immigration

Anti-Immigration Hardliners Launch Fake "Progressive" Front Group

A fringe group is trying to give the illusion that the anti-immigrant movement is broader than it really is.

Real progressives would do well to prepare in the coming months. The civil rights organization Center for New Community announced in the most recent edition of its e-bulletin, FAIR Exposed, that the Tanton Network has launched a front group called Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). PFIR is simply another addition to a growing list of anti-immigrant groups being set up under the Tanton Network to give the illusion that the anti-immigrant movement is broader than it really is.

This network of organizations is named after white nationalist John Tanton the founder and key leader in a network of anti-immigrant organizations, spin-offs and front groups. Key entities include Center for Immigration Studies, Social Contract Press, and the Coalition for the Future American Worker.

John Tanton is a controversial figure. The founder and a current board member of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Tanton helped secure over a million dollars in funding from a foundation known as the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation that peddles pseudo-science claiming that blacks are intellectually inferior to whites based on cultural and biological factors. In the 1930s the Pioneer Fund distributed propaganda films developed by the Nazi Germany to public schools.

The Tanton network has made repeated attempts to recruit within progressive circles targeting environmentalists, labor and black civil rights organizations with only token success. However, with immigration reform back on the table and the majority of Americans lining up behind it, progressives are now seen by the Tanton network as a possible block to sink any attempts at creating a viable immigration system in the United States.

During the summer of 2008 Tanton associate Roy Beck of NumbersUSA began circulating a job posting for the executive director position at Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR). Unsurprisingly the position was given to another Tanton insider Leah Durant. In 1995, while Leah Durant was joining Tanton’s Federation for American Immigration Reform as legal counsel, Tanton was exploring both aphrodisiacs and anti-Asian racism, writing "[i]t seems that the main market is in the orient -- very interesting, considering that in general, male Orientals are less well equipped than those of some other groups."

As the debate surrounding immigration reignites, progressives should remain vigilant to wolves in sheep’s clothing attempting to sell us bigotry wrapped as economic and social justice. Progressives have much more in common with emerging immigrant and refugee communities than with white supremacy disguised as mere anti-immigrant hysteria.

In 1990 investigative journalist Chip Berlet authored a groundbreaking memo on attempts by far right organizations to influence the anti-war movement and highlighted the willingness of some left leaders choosing to work alongside quasi neo-Nazi institutions. Released in 1990, Right Woos Left still remains the quintessential essay on why so-called "Red-Brown" alliances will never achieve more than nihilistic suicide for a left that says it is committed to strengthening economic, political, and social rights.

Chip Berlet opens Right Woos Left by quoting journalist George Seldes who wrote in 1938 that "Fascism and Reaction inevitably attack. They have won against disunion. They will fail if we unite."

We should remember the words of Seldes in the coming months; we should see the emergence of PFIR as a gauntlet thrown down in front of the progressive community by the forces of bigotry. As progressives we should respond as we always have–in one voice. The time has come to shut down the Tanton Network and its peddlers of hate.