The Tanton Network: Dividing itself and America

Brian Schultz • Jul 20, 2011

The anti-immigrant movement has never been noted for its compassion, but now it can’t even treat itself nicely. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the organized nativist movement has been dividing its own house over the proposed national E-Verify measure, HR 2164, introduced by Lamar Smith (R-TX). The fragmentation has become so extensive that it’s split the largest anti-immigrant network in the country, a constellation of organizations founded by white-nationalist John Tanton.

On June 16, Dan Stein, current president of the Tanton-founded Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), detailed the then-new fissure on his Stein Report blog, noting contention over the bill’s proposed “defanging” of (or, in proper jargon, “preemption” of) existing state laws.

This split erupted into a pervasive debate, polarizing the nativist movement into two camps. The first encompasses proponents of a national/federal standard who favor HR 2164. Most of the organized anti-immigrant movement has chosen this stance as a “party line,” among groups including the following:

  • FAIR, who have chosen to provisionally support HR 2164. Once capitalizing on disinterested moderation (vis-à-vis Stein’s blog), it formulated a stance that notes the bill’s contentious elements, but promotes the far-reaching federal law.
  • The keynote organizations within the network, including the Tanton-founded Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), whose executive director Mark Krikorian has picked several fights with his allies over the bill. Also included is NumbersUSA, whose current president, Roy Beck, once edited John Tanton’s white-nationalist Social Contract Journal. From the bill’s inception, NumbersUSA has championed it.
  •, a blog professing devotion to the “national question,” but mostly just writing bigoted diatribes. Writer Donald A. Collins, a former FAIR board member, has favored the bill in his articles. The enigmatic nom de plume “Washington Watcher” has also written amiably about the E-Verify measure, though noting his reservations on the preemption (i.e. “defanging”) clause.

Even still, within these branches of the Tanton Network are individuals speaking out against the bill, claiming the concession of states’ autonomy as too egregious. These include the following:

  • Kris Kobach, of counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), an organization founded under FAIR to help state and local lawmakers write anti-immigrant legislation. Kobach was one of the first and most public voices against the bill, fomenting an online spat with CIS’s Mark Krikorian. He has cited the preemption of state legislation—legislation that he, in many cases, wrote—under HR 2164.
  • Former and current state and local legislators, whose locally branded nativism is now threatened. They include Daryl Metcalfe, Pennsylvania state Representative and founder of the anti-immigrant State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI); Russell Pearce, the Arizona state Senator who introduced SB 1070; and Lou Barletta, former mayor of Hazleton, PA. All have sponsored legislation that could be nullified by HR 2164’s preemption clause.
  • Former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo. Though initially supporting HR 2164 (a topic of much fanfare at NumbersUSA), Tancredo quickly rescinded his endorsement.
  • Other Tanton Network personnel, including Rick Oltman, vice-president of the Tanton funded 9/11 Families for a Secure America, has claimed that HR 2164 is a form of amnesty.
  • State contacts for FAIR and the Tanton network, including a fellow at the Tanton-affiliated Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), Michael Cutler, who has expressed doubt that national measures would be enforced; and Ron Woodard, FAIR contact in North Carolina and director of the anti-immigrant group NC Listen, who has urged congress to amend the preemption clause or throw the bill out.

How suitable for those who want to divide America—the Tanton network’s radical-exclusionary agenda has inverted, and begun to exclude itself.



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