Skip to main content Accessibility
The Intelligence Report is the SPLC's award-winning magazine. Subscribe here for a print copy.


Addressed to attendees of Tanton's exclusive retreats, where colleagues met to discuss the future of immigration, this memo is the most explicit, discussing Latinos and others in derogatory terms.

TO: WITAN IV Attendees
FROM: John Tanton
DATE: October 10, 1986

Here is a set of questions and statements that I hope will help guide our discussion of the non-economic consequences of immigration to California, and by extension, to the rest of the United States. These are not highly polished; I ask your indulgence.

These notes are based on reading Bouvier’s and related papers, on the WITAN III Meeting, and my own thinking over several years on the topic of assimilation and the character of American society. The assignment of subtopics to the main categories is a bit arbitrary; many of them could be moved around.

I. Political Consequences.

1. The political power between the states will change, owing to differential migration six immigrant-receiving states. The heartland will lose more political power (see appended Table I).

2. Will the newcomers vote democratic or republican, liberal or conservative, and what difference does it make? A lot, if you’re one or the other.

3. Gobernar es poplar translates "to govern is to populate," (Parsons’ [Thomas Malthus] paper, p. 10, packet sent May 8). In this society where the majority rules, does this hold? Will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile?

4. Does the fact that there will be no ethnic majority, in California early in the next century mean that we will have minority coalition-type governments, with third parties? Is this good or bad, in view of the European and other experiences?

5. Shall illegal aliens be counted in the census and used to apportion congressional and state house seats, thereby granting them political power?

6. Is apartheid in Southern California’s future? The democraphic picture in South Africa now is startlingly similar to what we’ll see in California in 2030. In Southern Africa, a White minority owns the property, has the best jobs and education, has the political power, and speaks one language. A non-White majority has poor education, jobs and income, owns little property, is on its way to political power and speaks a different language. (The official language policy in South Africa is bilingualism -- the Blacks are taught in Zulu and related tongues.)

In California of 2030, the non-Hispanic Whites and Asians will own the property, have the good jobs and education, speak one language and be mostly Protestant and "other." The Blacks and Hispanics will have the poor jobs, will lack education, own little property, speak another language and will be mainly catholic. Will there be strength in this diversity? Or will this prove a social and political San Andreas Fault?

7. Illegal aliens will pay taxes to the Federal Government; their costs will mostly be local.

8. The politicians are way behind the people on these issues. This brings to mind the story told of Gandhi: he was sitting by the side of the road when a crowd went by. He said, "There go my people. I must get up and follow them, for I am their leader!"

9. Griffin Smith’s point from the Federalist Papers: It was argued that the colonies would make a good nation, as they shared a common culture and language. Nineteen eighty seven is the celebration of the adoption of the Constitution, 1988 its ratification, and 1989 the setting up of the first Federal Government. Can we tie into these discussions?

II. Cultural.

1. Will Latin American migrants bring with them thetradition of the mordida (bribe), the lack of involvement in public affairs, etc.? What in fact are the characteristics of Latin American culture, versus that of the United States? See Harrison’s Washington Post article in the September 3 packet.

2. When does diversity grade over into division?

3. Will Blacks be able to improve (or even maintain) their position in the face of the Latin onslaught? (See Graph 3)

4. How will we make the transition from a dominant non-Hispanic society with a Spanish influence to a dominant Spanish society with non-Hispanic influence?

5. Do ethnic enclaves (Bouvier, p. 18) constitute resegregation? As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion? Why don’t non-Hispanic Whites have a group identity, as do Blacks, Jews, Hispanics?

6. Note that Graph 2 shows virtually all the population growth will come from immigrants and their descendants.

7. Is there a difference in the rates of assimilation between Asians and Latins?

8. Should something be said about the competing metaphors of the salad bowl and the melting pot?

9. What exactly is it that holds a diverse society together? Gerda’s paper said that in our case, it was a common language.

10. Is assimilation a function of the educational and economic level of immigrants? If so, what are the consequences of having so many ill-educated people coming in to low paying jobs?

11. We’re building in a deadly disunity. All great empires disintegrate, we want stability. (Lamm)

12. Enclaves lead to rigidity. (Hardin)

13. The theory of a moratorium: the pause in immigration between 1930-1950, combined with the assimilating experience of fighting side-by-side in the trenches in World War II, gave us a needed pause so that we could assimilate the mass of people who came in the early years of the century. Do we again need such a pause?

14. Concerning the moratorium, here are some phrases that could be used: "The pause that refreshes." "A seventh inning stretch." "Take a break, catch-up, eliminate a backlog, take a breather."

15. Perhaps mention should be made of Pacific Bell’s move to install completely separate Spanish and Chinese language phone systems in California (see May 27 packet).

16. Novak’s term "unmeltable ethnics" is probably better than some of the others that have been suggested. Similarly, ethnicity is a more acceptable term than race. It should also be noted that 50% of all Hispanic surname people on the census forms designate themselves as White. So perhaps we should speak of Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Whites, to further diffuse the issue. Is Anglo a better term that White? LANGUAGE IS VERY important here.

III. Conservation and Demography

1. What will be the effect on the conservation movement, which has drawn its support in the past from other than the minorities, and which has relied on the political power of the majority to pass legislative measures? As the people that groups like the Sierra Club represent go into opposition (minority political status), will many of the things they’ve worked for be lost because the new majority holds other values?

2. Can homo contraceptivus compete with homo progenitiva if borders aren’t controlled? Or is advice to limit ones family simply advice to move over and let someone else with greater reproductive powers occupy the space?

3. What are the consequences to California of the raw population growth that is coming, the ethnic change aside (see Graph 1)?

4. What is the conservation ethnic [sic] of the Asian and Latin American newcomers? Will they adopt ours or keep theirs?

5. The Sierra Club may not want to touch the immigration issue, but the immigration issue is going to touch the Sierra Club! (To mention just one group.)

6. On the demographic point: perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!

7. Do you agree with Teitelbaum’s statement, "International migration has now become an important point of intersection between the different demographic profiles of developing and developed countries"? (Fear of Population Decline, p. 134--see also pp. 111-115.)

IV. Jurisprudence

1. What are the consequences for affirmative action of the ethnic change coming along? Will the non-Hispanic Whites (NHW) have a limited number of spots in professional schools, etc. proportionate to their numbers? Or will affirmative action go beyond this (as it does now in Malaysia) to cut spots to below their proportionate share, to enable other groups to "catch-up?"

2. Anything to be said about drugs and the border?

3. Will we get more of the Napoleonic Code influence, and does it make a difference?

4. What do we demand of immigrants--or more correctly, what should we demand of them:
a. Learn our language.
b. Adopt our political ideals.
c. Assimilate and add their flavoring to our stew.

V. Education

1. What are the differences in educability between Hispanics (with their 50% dropout rate) and Asiatics (with their excellent school records and long tradition of scholarship)?

2. Where does bussing fit into the picture? Keep in mind that by 1990, over 50% of all the people under 15 years of age will be of minority status. They will also be heavily concentrated in certain geographic areas.

3. The whole bilingual education question needs to be mentioned.

VI. Race/Class Relations.

1. What will be the fate of Blacks as their numbers decline in relationship to Hispanics? As they lose political power, will they get along with the Hispanics? Relations are already heavily strained in many places.

2. What happens when we develop a new underclass, or a two-tiered economic system? Especially if the two groups can’t speak the same language! (See Bouvier and Martin Chapter 5)

3. Is resegregation taking place, in the Southern part of the state in particular?

4. Phil Martin’s point: In agriculture, the Whites and Asiatics will own and manage, but will not be able to speak to the Hispanic field workers. They will need bilingual foremen. Does this sound like social peace? Or like South Africa? Keep in mind the poor educational level of the field hands.

VII. The Economy.

I don’t think we should dwell much on the economy: I think we should try to make our contribution by talking about the non-economic consequences of immigration. Nonetheless:

1. Do high levels of immigration cut back on innovation (Bouvier, p. 27)?

2. Does it reduce the tendency and need of employers to hire current minority teens (Bouvier, p. 27)?

3. Is there a downward pressure on labor standards in general (Bouvier, p. 28)?

4. Phil Martin’s point on the colonization of the labor market. (Chapter 5).

VIII. Retirement

1. Since the majority of the retirees will be NHW, but the workers will be minorities, will the latter be willing to pay for the care of the former? They will also have to provide the direct care: How will they get along, especially through a language barrier (Bouvier, p. 40)?

2. On the other hand, will the older and NHW groups be willing to pay the school taxes necessary to educate the burgeoning minorities?

3. The Federal Government may have to pay for the care of the elderly in schools--will it?

XI. Religious Consequences.

This is the most difficult of all to tackle, and perhaps should be left out. Nonetheless:

1. What are the implications of the changes shown on Graphs 2 and 3 for the separation of church and state? The Catholic Church has never been reticent on this point. If they get a majority of the voters, will they pitch out this concept?

2. Same question for parochial schools versus public schools.

3. Same question for the topic of abortion/choice, birth control, population control.

4. Same question for the role of women.

5. Will Catholicism bought in from Mexico be in the American or the European model? The latter is much more casual.

6. Keep in mind that many of the Vietnamese coming in are also Catholic.

7. Is there anything to be said about the Eastern religions that will come along with the Asiatics?

X. Mexico and Latin America (Chapter 7, Bouvier & Martin).

Perhaps the main thing to be addressed here is whether or not shutting off the escape valve will lead to revolution, or whether keeping it open can avert it.

XI. Additional Demographic Items.

Teitelbaum’s phrase, "A region of low-native fertility combined with high immigration of high-fertility people does not make for compatible trend lines!"

Finally, this is all obviously dangerous territory, but the problem is not going to go away. Who can open it up? The question is analogous to Nixon’s opening of China: he could do it, Hubert Humphrey could not have. Similarly, the issues we’re touching on here must be broached by liberals. The conservatives simply cannot do it without tainting the whole subject.

I think the answers to many of these questions depend on how well people assimilate. This, in turn, depends heavily on whether the parent society has made up its mind that assimilation is a good thing (we’re confused on this point now), whether it works at assimilating newcomers (as Canada and Australia do by following them longitudinally), whether the people coming want to assimilate (not all of them do), and, even if all the factors are favorable, whether the numbers are small enough so as not to overwhelm the assimilative process.

Good luck to us all!