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Anti-Immigrant “Progressives” Defended On White Nationalist Website

Stephen Piggott • Jul 28, 2010

durant_lutton_gemmaLast week we reported that the anti-immigrant group Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) had its column on Huffington Post cancelled after the group’s connections to white nationalists were exposed. Apparently this was news to PFIR’s executive director, Leah Durant, who only found out about the cancellation after reading about it on Imagine 2050.

Durant sent a letter to Stuart Whatley, the Associate Blog Editor at the Huffington Post. Below is an excerpt from Durant’s letter:

About a week ago, our staff was confronted with a piece by Stephen Piggott, a writer at Imagine 2050. The piece announced that PFIR’s postings on Huffington had been “pulled” due to PFIR’s alleged “connections to white nationalists…”

In my opinion, if this is in fact the case, it is not only unethical for Huffington Post to pull our commentary based on the accusations of a single interest group like Imagine 2050, it is also highly disappointing that no one at the Huffington Post had the decency to inform us that our commentary would be pulled, or to provide us with an explanation.

She continued:

As for Imagine 2050’s central allegation of PFIR’s having ties to white nationalists, not only are these charges patently false, they are almost certainly actionable.

Durant clearly rejects claims that her organization is connected to white nationalists and asserts that her organization’s column was canceled because of accusations by “a single interest group.”

Sadly for Durant, both of her claims are easy to disprove.

Imagine2050 is not the only organization to expose PFIR’s ties to white nationalists. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a report on the topic yesterday called Greenwash: Nativists, Environmentalism & the Hypocrisy of Hate. The report closely examines PFIR and other groups that falsely paint themselves as progressive.

Last week the Center for New Community released a report, “Apply the Brakes: The Anti-Immigrant Co-Optation of the Environmental Movement,” examining how anti-immigrant groups have polluted the dialogue on population and environment. The report profiles some of PFIR’s leadership, most notably William Ryerson and Phil Cafaro.

Perhaps the most notable evidence linking Leah Durant to anti-immigrant hate groups is her former position as a legal analyst for John Tanton’s group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and work to revamp FAIR’s legal arm, Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) in 2005. IRLI is the group responsible for crafting Arizona’s racist law SB 1070.

In the summer of 2009, the white nationalist journal The Social Contract, published by John Tanton, featured a six page article about PFIR including an interview with Leah Durant. The article and interview were written by Peter Gemma, who also writes for the anti-Semitic Occidental Quarterly and Middle American News (MAN). MAN’s earliest leadership included white nationalist Samuel Francis (now deceased). Gemma participated with the extremist Council for National Policy and spoke at a white nationalist event alongside the famous neo-Nazi David Duke. In 2003 Gemma spoke at a Council of Conservative Citizens event addressing “The Attack on White Culture.” Other presentations at the event included defending Mississippi symbol of the Southern Confederacy. Gemma regularly posts at the website VDARE named after the first alleged white child born in North America.

On October 4, 2009, PFIR’s Durant attended Tanton’s 33rd Annual Writers Workshop. She was photographed there alongside Gemma and Wayne Lutton (see photo above), who has been active in several white supremacist groups and published in a Holocaust denial journal.

One of the sad ironies is that I only came across Durant’s letter because it was published along with an article defending PFIR on the white nationalist website VDARE. VDARE is named for Virginia Dare, allegedly the first white settler born in the United States. The website has published dozens of racist writers including Kevin McDonald, the infamous anti-Semitic professor at California State University, Long Beach. The author who defended Durant and published her letter was Donald A. Collins, a regular VDARE contributor and co-chair of FAIR’s National Advisory Board.

Collins isn’t the only individual linking PFIR to John Tanton’s anti-immigrant empire. John Tanton’s colleague Roy Beck (and former consultant and editor of Tanton’s quarterly journal The Social Contract Press) helped staff PFIR by circulating an employment letter for PFIR’s executive director in June 2008.

Frank Morris, PFIR’s vice president, is also a board member of John Tanton’s white nationalist think-tank Center for Immigration Studies and is a member of the national board of advisors for FAIR.

Vernon Briggs is the author of PFIR’s first policy paper and a close colleague of John Tanton since 1984. In 1995 Tanton solicited $25,000 from eugenicist Garrett Hardin “to enable Vernon Briggs to update his book…” according to a John Tanton letter. Briggs is currently a board member of Tanton’s think-tank, Center for Immigration Studies, and was a board member of Tanton’s The Social Contract Press.

Faux progressive groups like PFIR don’t have a leg left to stand on. That’s obvious when bigots are the only ones left defending them.

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