Opinion

Leaders of anti-immigration groups aren’t exactly conservative

Photo of Soren Dayton
Soren Dayton
Senior Vice President, Prism Public Affairs

In 2007, I met a field organizer who had worked against immigration reform. He was not who you might imagine. His background was in the labor and environmental movements that so many conservatives deplore.

He wanted to stop immigration reform because he believed that human beings were destroying the planet and that an increase in the U.S. population would exacerbate the environmental injustices he perceived to be occurring already.

That was my first experience with the anti-immigration reform movement’s real radicalism, but it has hardly been the last. Even though the activist was working for an immigration restrictionist group that many people instinctively think of as “conservative,” the truth is that he, like many other immigration opponents, was not conservative. He was a union-promoting environmentalist, just like many of the figures involved in the formation and funding of groups that will voice strong opposition to the new immigration reform bill this week by claiming, inaccurately, that it is not “conservative” enough.

The reality is, their problem with immigration has nothing to do with border security or the fear that immigrants will become public charges — both concerns that are dealt with robustly and effectively by the Gang of Eight’s legislation, which is vastly more conservative than the immigration reform proposed in 2006 and 2007. Their concern is with “saving the planet” from the supposed grave menace of human beings, with many prominent figures associated with anti-immigration causes and organizations having advocated for population control, abortion and sterilization.

To the extent that my acquaintance was concerned about human dignity, he viewed an increase in the population of humans as the greatest challenge to that dignity. This is something that he shared with Margaret Sanger and the founders of Planned Parenthood. That’s why Planned Parenthood supported contraception and abortion for certain elements of society. This is the real face of so many leaders of anti-immigration organizations who, when they talk to conservatives and Christians, present themselves as conservative.

As the evangelical publication World Magazine noted recently, Dr. John Tanton, an environmentalist who served as national president of Zero Population Growth, helped “found FAIR (1979), CIS (1985) and NumbersUSA (1997), groups that separately engage the public, produce research and lobby Congress for the same thing: lower immigration.”

The Wall Street Journal reported a few years back that “CIS, FAIR, NumbersUSA, Project-USA — and more than a half-dozen similar groups that Republicans have become disturbingly comfy with — were founded or funded (or both) by John Tanton, a retired doctor in Michigan. In addition to trying to stop immigration to the U.S., appropriate population-control measures for Dr. Tanton and his network include promoting China’s one-child policy, sterilizing Third World women and wider use of RU-486.”