Funders of the Anti-immigrant Movement

January 27, 2014

The major anti-immigrant groups in the United States receive the bulk of their donations from foundations with close ties to the movement itself as well as foundations with a history of funding right-wing organizations. The extreme anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA benefit the most from these donations.  They boast annual budgets in the millions of dollars, which are used to promote their anti-immigrant agenda of blocking pro-immigrant legislation, drafting and promoting anti-immigrant legislation and demonizing immigrants.

Colcom Foundation – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Pittsburgh-based Colcom Foundation is the single largest funder of anti-immigrant groups in the United States. Colcom’s founder had a longstanding relationship with the architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement, racist John Tanton.  Of the ten anti-immigrant organizations funded by Colcom, Tanton founded or helped to found at least half: U.S, Inc.; the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI); the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS); and NumbersUSA. Tanton and Cordelia Scaife May, the late founder of the Colcom Foundation, were reportedly close friends. Scaife May donated money to a number of anti-immigrant organizations Tanton helped to found even before she established Colcom. Both Tanton and Scaife May were population control advocates, and claimed that immigration was the biggest threat to population control.

Tanton’s relationship with Colcom goes beyond its founder. Colcom’s current Vice President of Philanthropy, John Rohe, is also purportedly a close friend of Tanton’s and worked with him at U.S., Inc.  for a num­ber of years.  Rohe even authored Tanton’s biography, Mary Lou & John Tanton: A Journey into American Conservation.  Rohe frequently attends anti-immigrant events such as the Social Contract Press Writers Workshop. The Workshop brings together anti-immigrant activists and extremists to hear presentations on different immigration topics.

According to recently released financial documents, Colcom significantly increased its donations to anti-immigrant groups from the period of July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012 compared to the previous cycle from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. In total, Colcom donated over $11.7 million to anti-immigrant organizations during the fiscal year July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2012, an increase of over $2.7 million from the previous fiscal year.

A total of ten anti-immigrant organizations received funding from Colcom in 2012: Americans for Immigration Control (AIC); Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS); the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS); Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License (CDSL); the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR); the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI); Negative Population Growth (NPG); NumbersUSA; Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR); and U.S., Inc. These groups are some of the most active anti-immigrant organizations in the country and are seeking to derail the current push for immigration reform.

Colcom increased grants to the three largest anti-immigrant groups in the country, FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA, totaling over $8.6 million for 2012. In fact, eight of the ten anti-immigrant groups saw increases in funding from Colcom from 2011 to 2012. AIC and NPG were the only exceptions.  U.S., Inc., an “umbrella organization” consisting of “projects,” such as the anti-immigrant group ProEnglish, saw its funding from Colcom increase almost fourfold from 2011 to 2012, jumping from just over $200,000 to $1 million. Financial documents detailing Colcom’s 2013 grants are not currently available.

For a more detailed look at the Colcom Foundation's grants to the anti-immigrant movement please see appendix A and B.

The Scaife Foundations – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Palm Beach, Florida  

Three of the four foundations run by members of the Scaife family – the Carthage, Sarah Scaife and Scaife Family Foundation’s – also provide ample funding for the anti-immigrant movement. The Carthage and Sarah Scaife Foundations are chaired by Richard Mellon Scaife, the brother Cordelia Scaife May. Richard Mellon Scaife is also the vice chair of the board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation, an organization that has been an outspoken critic of immigration reform.

According to financial documents, the Carthage Foundation donated $200,000 to FAIR in 2012. In 2011, the Foundation did not fund any anti-immigrant groups. According to financial documents, the Sarah Scaife Foundation donated $125,000 to both FAIR and CIS and $40,000 to NumbersUSA in 2012, totaling $290,000 for the three organizations. This number is actually down from the 2011 donations when the Sarah Scaife Foundation donated $125,000 to CIS, $275,000 to FAIR and $37,500 to NumbersUSA totaling $437,500.

The Scaife Family Foundation, chaired by Richard Mellon Scaife’s daughter Jennie, is another major funder of anti-immigrant organizations. In 2011, the Scaife Family Foundation granted $75,000 to CIS and NumbersUSA and $25,000 to ProEnglish. In 2012, the Scaife Family Foundation also granted $75,000 to NumbersUSA and CIS as well as $25,000 to ProEnglish. In total, the Scaife Family Foundation granted $175,000 to anti-immigrant groups in 2011 and 2012.

To see a breakdown of the Scaife Foundation's grants to anti-immigrant groups, please see appendix C.

The Weeden Foundation – New York, New York

Though its grants may be smaller than the Scaife or Colcom Foundation, the Weeden Foundation not only funds the anti-immigrant movement, but its officers are very active within the movement itself. Its officers, like Tanton, see immigration as the biggest threat to population control.

Don Weeden, the executive director of the Weeden Foundation serves as NumbersUSA’s treasurer. In 2009, Weeden participated in a panel event sponsored by CIS titled, “Immigration, Population, and the Environment: Experts to Debate Impact of Current Policies.” Weeden drafted an essay that is featured in the book Life on the Brink: Envi­ron­men­tal­ists Con­front Over­pop­u­la­tion edited by anti-immigrant activist Phil Cafaro. Don Weeden’s brother, Alan, is a longtime member of the FAIR board. Another member of the Weeden family, John, is a CAPS advisory board member.

The Weeden Foundation provides a number of anti-immigrant groups with funding each year. In 2011 fiscal year dating from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, the Foundation gave $20,000 to CIS, $25,000 to NumbersUSA and CAPS, $3000 to NPG. In the 2012 fiscal year dating from July 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012, the Weeden Foundation granted $45,000 to CAPS; $20,000 to CIS, $25,000 to NumbersUSA, $20,000 to PFIR, $10,000 to CDSL, $2,000 to FAIR and $4,000 to NumbersUSA.  

Many individual Weeden family members similarly donate money to anti-immigrant groups. This family funding also appears on the tax filings of the Weeden Foundation. In 2011, for example, Alan Weeden donated $15,000 to FAIR, $9,000 to CSDL, and $5000 to the anti-immigrant group Alliance for a Sustainable USA. In 2012, Alan donated $15,000 to CDSL, $10,000 to FAIR. Bill Weeden donated $5,000 to CSDL in 2012.

To compare the total funding for the Weeden Foundation to anti-immigrant groups in 2011 and 2012, see appendix D.

What do the numbers mean?

The numbers indicate that though the anti-immigrant movement relies on grassroots support to advance its goals, it does not necessarily rely exclusively on funding from its supporters. With continued financial support from these foundations, anti-immigrant groups can sustain and promote their nativist agenda. Despite the many examples of bigotry and nativism stemming from the anti-immigrant groups they fund, these foundations show no signs of curtailing their funding. This is because the executives at these foundations not only hold anti-immigrant views but are actively involved in the anti-immigrant movement. Many anti-immigrant groups appear to enjoy a close relationship with the Colcom, Scaife, and Weeden Foundations dating back a number of years if not decades.  Even if a major immigration reform bill is signed into law, the anti-immigrant movement will continue to remain both active and vocal at the state and national level due, in part, to continued support from the Colcom, Scaife and Weeden Foundations.