Donald Trump’s immigration policy proposal may have divided the right, but it’s getting plenty of praise from some of the most hardcore anti-immigration groups in America.
When the former reality television star and current Republican presidential front-runner released a six-page immigration proposal this weekend, it drew raucous condemnation from many on the right. At Commentary, Noah Rothman wrote that the billionaire’s proposal could mark the GOP “with the stain of Trumpist nativism.” At Reason, Nick Gillespie made a libertarian critique, charging Trump’s proposal would grow the surveillance state. And at the New York Post, Republican strategist Liz Mair argued that Trump’s pro-mass-deportation stance was not only bad policy, but also bad politics in the Republican presidential primary.
But as quickly as Trump’s detractors materialized, so did his defenders, which included groups that have been dubbed as nativist and, in some cases, flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League as out-and-out hateful.
In particular, three groups that sang Donald’s praise—the Center for Immigration Studies, the Foundation for American Immigration Reform, and NumbersUSA—have ideological roots in a population control movement that many find detestable.
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies told Breitbart that besides Rick Santorum, no other candidate “has as sound and as well thought-through an immigration plan.” FAIR spokesperson Ira Mehlman praised the plan to CNN, saying it “provides meaningful penalties for those who are not deterred [from violating the law].” And NumbersUSA president Roy Beck praised Trump for questioning the value of high legal immigration levels.
“The most important outcome of Trump's plans may be pressure for all candidates—including Trump—to be asked what level of legal immigration they support,” he wrote on the group’s site.
As The New York Times reported in 2011, all three groups share a founding father, John Tanton. Tanton, a Michigan ophthalmologist, worked to stop population growth, and looked to build a cross-ideological coalition that would bring together law-and-order right-wingers and C02-conscious environmentalists to fight the overpopulation of the United States.
But the groups faced a tough PR problem when news emerged that FAIR had taken money from a racist group. And the paper notes that Tanton was a booster of the work of white supremacist Jared Taylor and supported eugenics.
“Do we leave it to individuals to decide that they are the intelligent ones who should have more kids?” he once wrote, per the Times. “And more troublesome, what about the less intelligent, who logically should have less. Who is going to break the bad news to them?”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Tanton also started a group called the Society for Genetic Education and mourned that Hitler gave eugenics a bad name. The ADL said these ties give politicians cause to distance themselves from the groups Tanton helped start.
“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,” reads a post on ADL’s site.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says the three Tanton-started groups are at “the nexus of the American nativist movement.” It designated FAIR as a hate group because of “its acceptance of $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a group founded to promote the genes of white colonials that funds studies of race, intelligence and genetics. FAIR has also hired as key officials men who also joined white supremacist groups. It has board members who regularly write for hate publications. It promotes racist conspiracy theories about Latinos. And it has produced television programming featuring white nationalists.”
All three groups have offered praise for Trump’s immigration proposal, which calls for mandatory deportation of criminal undocumented immigrants and the tougher requirements for legal immigration. And some on the right say this should give conservatives pause.
“Why are conservatives listening to groups who actively promote the idea that the U.S. is overpopulated, that we can’t have more people in the U.S. because it causes environmental harm, that they contribute to global warming?” said Alfonso Aguilar, the director of American Principles in Action’s Latino Partnership, and former head of the U.S. Office of Citizenship under George W. Bush.
And Linda Chavez—president of the Becoming American Institute and chairman of the National Commission on Migrant Education under President George H.W. Bush—said she wasn’t surprised the groups favor Trump’s policies.
“These groups are radical population control groups,” she said. “They want to reduce the size of the U.S. population, and they see immigration as the key to doing that.”
“I think many conservatives are simply ignorant of the groups’ ties, ignorant of their history,” she added.
The groups defend themselves, and charge that Aguilar and Chavez’s criticisms amount to little more than guilt by association.
“Personally, myself, I think the guy’s something of a circus clown,” Krikorian said of Trump. “He’s a bloviating megalomaniac. Nevertheless, no one else has offered as concrete and sound an immigration proposal as Trump has, so you’ve gotta give credit where credit is due.”
“It really is a sign of how bankrupt the supporters of mass immigration are that this is all they’ve got,” he added. “Linda and Alfonso and the rest of them are Alinskyite conservatives.”
Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, made a similar defense.
“Alfonso Aguilar and other activists who are unwilling to set any limits on the number of immigrants that enter the U.S. hurl insults as a substitute for debate,” he said in a statement. “NumbersUSA is a nonpartisan organization that favors an immigration policy that includes spouses, minor children, fair share of refugees, people with extraordinary skills and gives preferential treatment to American workers and those that come here legally. Mr. Aguilar resorts to false accusations because this is not a good year to argue for his policies to help some rich people get richer.”
And Bob Dane, communications director for FAIR, said charges of nativism are “simply a propaganda tool to discredit groups with whom other groups disagree.”
“It’s really just a crude, transparent tactic to stop the debate,” he added.