Monday, April 18, 2011

The anti-immigration movement: Brought to you by eugenicist John Tanton

One recurring theme in the anti-abortion movement is that organizations like Planned Parenthood are the fruits of bad seeds—irrevocably tainted by events that happened decades ago. And so you see frequent invocations of "eugenicist Margaret Sanger" in these debates. By that standard, then, I guess it's fair to accompany every single mention of the modern anti-immigration movement with a reference to eugenicist John Tanton—who helped create Numbers USA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the Center for Immigration Studies.

Here's a key excerpt from Sunday's profile in the New York Times:
But if anything, Dr. Tanton grew more emboldened to challenge taboos. He increasingly made his case against immigration in racial terms.

“One of my prime concerns,” he wrote to a large donor, “is about the decline of folks who look like you and me.” He warned a friend that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

Dr. Tanton acknowledged the shift from his earlier, colorblind arguments, but the “uncomfortable truth,” he wrote, was that those arguments had failed. With a million or more immigrants coming each year — perhaps a third illegally — he warned, “The end may be nearer than we think.”

He corresponded with Sam G. Dickson, a Georgia lawyer for the Ku Klux Klan, who sits on the board of The Barnes Review, a magazine that, among other things, questions “the so-called Holocaust.” Dr. Tanton promoted the work of Jared Taylor, whose magazine, American Renaissance, warned: “America is an increasingly dangerous and disagreeable place because of growing numbers of blacks and Hispanics.” (To Mr. Taylor, Dr. Tanton wrote, “You are saying a lot of things that need to be said.”)

Beyond immigration, he revived an old interest in eugenics, another field trailed by a history of racial and class prejudice.

“Do we leave it to individuals to decide that they are the intelligent ones who should have more kids?” he wrote. “And more troublesome, what about the less intelligent, who logically should have less. Who is going to break the bad news to them?”
I don't believe that everybody who favors tight restrictions on immigration and the forever treatment of immigrant children as outlaws is a racist or a secret eugenicist. (I do think they're wrong.) But by the standards of our modern discourse, though, none of that really matters. John Tanton's ties to modern-day anti-immigration organizations are deeper than Margaret Sanger's to modern Planned Parenthood—he's still alive, and sitting on the board of FAIR. As the Times piece noted, his colleagues in those organizations have been mostly reluctant to distance themselves from him and his views. (Probably out of politeness, like how you tolerate a racist relative at Thanksgiving, but still.) If the fruit of a bad seed is forever tainted, then today's anti-immigration organizations can't remove John Tanton's outrageous racism from their DNA.

No comments: