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A Closer Look at the Board and Staff of Progressives for Immigration Reform

Stephen Piggott • Jun 08, 2011

After the departure of president William Ryerson in recent weeks, a major reshuffle has taken place over at Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), just one of the spin-offs of controversial anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

As we noted yesterday, anti-immigrant “environmentalist” Phil Cafaro has taken over as president of PFIR, but who makes up the rest of PFIR’s board? A closer look reveals that the board members, like the organization itself, are far from “progressive.”

First up is Frank Morris, the current vice president of PFIR. Morris has had a close relationship with the John Tanton Network – i.e. the modern day anti-immigrant movement – for decades. Morris sits on the boards of FAIR and of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Both were founded by white nationalist John Tanton. Morris was also a key member of another FAIR front group, Choose Black America. He is also involved in another amalgam of Tanton Network groups called Coalition for the Future American Worker.

Next up are two members of PFIR’s advisory board, Dick Lamm and David Pimentel. Both men, along with Frank Morris, attempted to take over the board of the Sierra Club in 2004. The plan to take over the board of the Sierra Club was hatched by the Tanton Network in an attempt to influence the Club into adopting an anti-immigrant stance. Morris, Lamm, and Pimentel all lost the 2004 elections as Sierra Club members stood together against the anti-immigrant Tanton Network.

Dick Lamm is also a good friend of John Tanton. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Lamm once stated that “new cultures” in America were “diluting what we are and who we are.”

Two other members of PFIR’s advisory team are Leon Kolankiewicz and Ben Zuckerman. Zuckerman is the vice-president of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), and Kolankiewicz is an advisory board member of CAPS. CAPS is California’s leading anti-immigrant organization and is listed on FAIR’s website as a state contact. CAPS, like FAIR, have received funding from the Pioneer Fund, a foundation that has a long history of promoting the genetic superiority of white, European-Americans through the study of eugenics.

Last but not least is PFIR’s embattled executive director, Leah Durant. Durant is a former FAIR employee. Her column in the Huffington Post was removed when her organization’s ties to white nationalists were exposed. Durant has also posed for pictures with white nationalists in the past.

Since its founding in 2009, PFIR has attempted to use progressive frames around conservation issues and activism to lure environmentalists into the anti-immigrant movement. This strategy has clearly not been working, especially since the organization’s status as an anti-immigrant front group has been exposed numerous times by myriad media outlets.

Plain and simple, there is nothing “progressive” about Progressives for Immigration Reform, with the organization’s leadership changes over the past few weeks only further cementing that fact.

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