Ties Between Anti-Immigrant Movement and Eugenics

February 22, 2013

In the wake of a major push for immigration reform from both political parties in the United States, politicians and major figures on the right are re-examining their relationship with the anti-immigrant movement. A close examination of the history of the movement reveals another reason for politicians to distance themselves: key members of the anti-immigrant movement have promoted eugenics – the practice of selective breeding with the aim of “race betterment,” a policy practiced by the Nazis.

John Tanton, the architect of the modern day anti-immigrant movement, wrote a paper in 1975 titled, “The Case for Passive Eugenics.” In the paper, Tanton promotes a “passive” form of eugenics, which he clearly considered more palatable to the public. He cited as an example the practice of “restricting childbearing to the years of maximum reproductive efficiency, between the ages of 20 and 35.” In the paper, Tanton also noted, “Hitler’s reign in Nazi Germany did little to advance the discussion of eugenics among sensitive persons.” Tanton later formed a pro-eugenics organization, the Society for Genetic Education (SAGE).

Tanton was also a friend of Harry Weyher, the former president of the Pioneer Fund. The New York Times has described the Pioneer Fund as having been established for the express purpose of promoting research into eugenics and as having sponsored projects based on the notion that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.

Through his relationship with Weyher, Tanton received funding from the Pioneer Fund that helped him grow the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), one of the leading anti-immigrant organizations in the country today. In total, FAIR solicited and received over $1 million from the Pioneer Fund over a number of years. Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), the leading anti-immigrant group in California, also received funding from the Pioneer Fund.

Tanton, who in addition to FAIR helped found the anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), was an advocate of population control and saw immigration as its biggest threat. Tanton also feared changes to the demographics of the United States. In a letter Tanton asserted, “I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that."

There are other ties between the figures involved in the eugenicist and anti-immigrant movements. Donald Collins, former FAIR board member and current co-chair of FAIR’s advisory board, is also on the advisory committee of and contributor to the Journal of Social Political and Economic Studies (JSPES), a publication founded and edited by Roger Pearson, a longtime eugenicist and anti-Semite who has received funding from the Pioneer Fund for his promotion of eugenics.  In a book he wrote on eugenics Pearson once asserted, “If a nation with a more advanced, more specialized, or in any way superior set of genes mingles with, instead of exterminating an inferior tribe, then it commits racial suicide...” Pearson and Tanton are acquainted, having written cordial letters to each other on a number of occasions.

Work from a number of anti-immigrant figures has appeared in JSPES, including articles from Steven Camarota of CIS, Phil Cafaro of Progressives for Immigration Reform and Jack Martin of FAIR.  The articles do not promote eugenics but instead call for a reduction in immigration to the United States.  Some advocate for population control, something Pearson and Tanton both clearly favor.