Even amid the impeachment drama, the tranche of emails unearthed this month by the Southern Poverty Law Center has been attention-grabbing. The communications, sent in 2015 and 2016 by current Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, reveal a man deeply immersed in the most rancid tenets of white nationalism.
Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, called the evidence “incontrovertible.” U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote that “Miller, Trump’s architect of mass human rights abuses at the border (including child separation & detention camps w/child fatalities), has been exposed as a bona fide white nationalist.” Fifty-nine civil rights groups, saying Miller promotes “white supremacy, violent extremism, and hate,” sent a letter to President Trump demanding that he immediately dismiss his senior adviser.
But the story is much bigger than Stephen Miller. The real story is about a vast racist network that has a shocking degree of reach into mainstream Republican politics.
Miller has long been a close ally of the nativist empire built over decades by the late John Tanton, who was himself revealed as a white nationalist in private communications that became public years ago. Tanton’s many powerful groups—which include the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and Numbers USA—adopt varying degrees of camouflage, but at their heart are infected with Tanton’s view of America as a nation for white people.
FAIR, CIS, and Numbers USA form the core of what has grown into a sprawling American nativist lobby. FAIR officials have testified more than 100 times to Congress and CIS propaganda is regularly cited by politicians and other important players. Numbers USA played a key role in the defeat of comprehensive immigration reform in 2007.
And they are not alone. Tanton has founded or funded more than a dozen anti-immigration groups, and those groups have in turn worked with many smaller groups in a continuing battle for immigration restriction.
The most remarkable thing about the Tanton network is how seriously it is taken, despite the white nationalism at its core. The result is that virtually the entire immigration restriction movement is the fruit of a poisonous tree.
Tanton, who died age 85 in July, was plainspoken enough when he wasn’t in the public eye. He once wrote that he had “come to the view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Elsewhere, he added, “Demography is destiny. We decline to bequeath to our children minority status in their own land.”
Tanton warned darkly of a “Latin onslaught,” and corresponded with white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, and a Klan attorney. He republished a wildly racist French novel, The Camp of the Saints, that describes an invasion of France by “swarthy hordes” of Indian refugees who end up taking over the country and consigning white women to special whorehouses for Hindu men. (Tanton’s edition of the book included an afterword from author Jean Raspail claiming that “the proliferation of other races dooms our race, my race, to extinction.”) He enthused over eugenics, the Nazi “science” of breeding a better human race, and once asked if a “local pair of sisters” with nine children could be forcibly sterilized.
Above all, Tanton wanted to overturn the 1965 immigration law that ended a racist quota system instituted in 1924. He idolized the architect of the 1924 law, John Trevor Sr., a man who warned of “diabolical Jewish control” and distributed pro-Nazi propaganda. To Tanton, as he wrote to a FAIR board member, Trevor’s work should serve as “a guidepost to what we must follow again this time.”
Miller’s connection to Tanton’s world is a tight one.
He has repeatedly cited CIS, an organization listed by the SPLC as a hate group. In May 2015, Miller was the keynote speaker at a CIS awards ceremony, where he praised staffers extravagantly. In February 2017, he cited misleading CIS claims about terrorism to support Trump’s Muslim ban, and six months later he cited the group again while arguing for drastic reductions in legal immigration. He spoke to CIS and other nativist groups in a January 2018 phone conference.
Miller promoted The Camp of the Saints in some of his newly revealed emails, which were sent to a staffer at Breitbart News whom he was cultivating as a racist writer on immigration issues. He suggested the staffer read articles from American Renaissance, a racist journal published by Jared Taylor—a man Tanton also admired and who once asserted in his publication that “[w]hen blacks are left entirely to their own devices… civilization disappears.”
Miller also cited a racist website called VDARE, after Virginia Dare, said to be the first English person born in the New World. While VDARE is not a Tanton group, it was partly funded for years by Colcom, a foundation established by the late Cordelia Scaife May, who harbored racist and eugenicist views like Tanton’s. Between 2005 and 2017, Colcom lavished about $180 million on FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA, according to a New York Times investigation.
Miller’s views are loathsome. But Miller is both a promoter and, to some extent, a product of a much wider racist network aimed at preventing non-white immigration into the United States.
It is possible, if unlikely, that the Miller brouhaha will lead to his demise as a presidential adviser. But the larger world of the racist Tanton network—a network that already has contributed several key officials to the Trump administration and has repeatedly worked to frustrate comprehensive immigration reform—constitutes a grave threat to rational and humane immigration policies that will continue long after Miller is gone.