John Tanton

John Tanton
Date of Birth: 
1934
Location: 
Petoskey, Mich.

John Tanton is the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement. He created a network of organizations – the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and NumbersUSA – that have profoundly shaped the immigration debate in the United States. A retired Michigan ophthalmologist, Tanton has white nationalist beliefs and has written that to maintain American culture, "a European-American majority" is required. As of 2010, Tanton served on FAIR’s board of directors.

In His Own Words
"I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that."
– Dec. 10, 1993, letter to the late Garrett Hardin, a controversial ecology professor.

"I have no doubt that individual minority persons can assimilate to the culture necessary to run an advanced society but if through mass migration, the culture of the homeland is transplanted from Latin America to California, then my guess is we will see the same degree of success with governmental and social institutions that we have seen in Latin America."
– Jan. 26, 1996, letter to Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA (and then an employee of Tanton's foundation U.S. Inc.).

"Do we leave it to individuals to decide that they are the intelligent ones who should have more kids? And more troublesome, what about the less intelligent, who logically should have less? Who is going to break the bad news [to less intelligent individuals], and how will it be implemented?"
– Sept. 18, 1996, letter to now-deceased California multimillionaire and eugenicist Robert K. Graham.

"I write to encourage keeping track of those on our same side of the issue, but who are nonetheless our competitors for dollars and members."
– April 20, 1998, correspondence asking several FAIR employees to ensure they receive mailings from American Renaissance, a racist, pseudo-scientific magazine focusing on race, intelligence and eugenics. (The underlining was in Tanton's original letter).

Background
A retired Michigan ophthalmologist, John Tanton spent decades at the heart of the white nationalist movement. His racist views were first exposed in 1988 when a series of private memos he wrote for principals at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) were leaked to the press. The memos were filled with racist statements and warned about a coming "Latin onslaught."

At the time, Tanton’s group U.S. English, which opposed bilingualism in public schools and government agencies, disavowed any racial motivation. “Hispanics who learn English will be able to avail themselves of opportunities,” explained its president, former Reagan administration official Linda Chavez. She resigned when Tanton’s memos were leaked. The news that U.S. English had received funds from the distributor of The Camp of the Saints, a racist French novel in which starving Third World refugees overrun Europe, added to Chavez’s sense of betrayal. (She had reviewed the book back in 1975, denouncing its presentation of “racial mistrust and hatred as a natural condition of man.”) Chavez continues to publicly criticize Tanton and his organizations, urging her fellow conservatives in 2007 to be wary of “problematic allies” like FAIR, which she called “the most influential organization in the country on immigration.”

Tanton’s white nationalist views are fully exposed in his private papers at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. "I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." Tanton wrote in a Dec. 10, 1993, letter to Garrett Hardin, a controversial ecology professor.

The papers in the Bentley Library also show that Tanton has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene. He has corresponded with Holocaust deniers, former Klan lawyers and the leading white nationalist thinkers of the era. He introduced key FAIR leaders to the president of the Pioneer Fund, a white supremacist group set up to encourage "race betterment," at a 1997 meeting at a private club. He wrote a major funder to encourage her to read the work of a radical anti-Semitic professor — to "give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life" — and suggested that the entire FAIR board discuss the professor's theories on the Jews. He practically worshipped a principal architect of the Immigration Act of 1924 (instituting a national origin quota system and barring Asian immigration), a rabid anti-Semite whose pro-Nazi American Coalition of Patriotic Societies was indicted for sedition in 1942.

Tanton also runs the racist publishing company, The Social Contract Press, which is part of his foundation, U.S. Inc. One special issue of the press’ journal, The Social Contract, was devoted to the theme of "Europhobia: The Hostility Toward European-Descended Americans" and featured a lead article from John Vinson, head of the Tanton-backed hate group, the American Immigration Control Foundation. Vinson argued that multiculturalism was replacing "successful Euro-American culture" with "dysfunctional Third World cultures." Tanton elaborated in his own remarks, decrying the "unwarranted hatred and fear" of whites that he blamed on "multiculturalists" and immigrants.

In 1994, The Social Contract Press republished an infamous racist novel, The Camp of the Saints, along with his wholehearted endorsement and a special afterword from its author saying "the proliferation of other races dooms our race, my race, to extinction." The novel describes "swarthy hordes" of Indian immigrants who take over France, send white women to "a whorehouse for Hindus" and engage in a grotesque orgy of men, women and children. The immigrants are described as "monsters," "grotesque little beggars from the streets of Calcutta" and worse. Unconcerned, Tanton said he was "honored" to republish what he described as an important and "prescient" text. The novel, like the race war fantasy The Turner Diaries, has become a key screed for American white supremacists.

This history has not prevented Tanton from playing a central role in the nation’s immigration debate, particularly through the many anti-immigration organizations he has founded or funded over the years. He is still active with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which he founded and where he was listed as a board member as recently as 2010.

FAIR, whose members have testified frequently before Congress, accepted more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation devoted to proving a connection between race and intelligence. FAIR has hired as key officials men who were also active in white supremacist groups and has others who write for anti-immigrant hate sites. Due to these activities, FAIR has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). 

FAIR is just one part of an anti-immigration network created by Tanton that has never strayed far from its roots. In fact, these groups are fundamentally linked and driven by their founder's vision that non-white immigration is a threat to white America.

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) – which bills itself as a scholarly think tank and has been widely quoted in the media – began its life as a FAIR program and continues to produce dubious studies furthering FAIR's anti-immigration agenda. It's a vision described by Tanton in a 1985 letter in which he wrote that CIS would produce reports "for later passage to FAIR, the activist organization, to remedy."

Similarly, NumbersUSA began life as a Tanton foundation program. Its executive director, Roy Beck, was designated by Tanton as his "heir apparent" at U.S. Inc. Beck edited The Immigration Invasion, a book by Tanton and a colleague that was so fierce in its immigrant-bashing that Canadian border authorities banned it as hate literature.

Tanton and FAIR often assert they are being unfairly attacked by their critics, but Tanton's own words offer evidence to the contrary. On Jan. 26, 1996, he wrote to Beck, then an employee of U.S. Inc., questioning the ability of Latinos to govern California. 

Tanton wondered "whether the minorities who are going to inherit California (85% of the lower-grade school children are now 'minorities' -- demography is destiny) can run an advanced society?"

On April 20, 1998, Tanton wrote to several FAIR employees to ensure they receive mailings from American Renaissance, a racist, pseudo-scientific magazine focusing on race, intelligence and eugenics. 

"I write to encourage keeping track of those on our same side of the issue, but who are nonetheless our competitors for dollars and members," Tanton wrote.