Republicans are in an uproar over accusations that the think tanks behind their recent anti-immigration policies are not conservative at all; rather, they have their origin in the population control movement, with its advocacy of abortion and anti-human environmentalism.
From the Washington Post by Peter Wallsten:
Much of the [Republican] party’s sharp language on immigration during the election campaign, which Republican strategists blamed for alienating Hispanics, was drawn from the research and rhetoric of the groups advocating tougher measures to discourage illegal immigration.
Now, Republicans pushing the party to rethink its approach to the issue are accusing those groups — Numbers USA, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) — of masquerading as conservative. Critics say the groups and some of their supporters are pressing an unorthodox agenda of strict population control that also has included backing for abortion, sterilization and other policies at odds with conservative ideology.
“If these groups can be unmasked, then the bulk of the opposition to immigration reform on the conservative side will wither away,” said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and a leading organizer of the effort.
Officials from the groups say they are the victims of a smear campaign that unfairly characterizes their mission. They acknowledge that some key figures in their past held a wide range of views on population growth and abortion, as do some current members, but the groups accuse their critics of pushing guilt-by-association arguments to distract from the merits of the case for restricting immigration.
The groups have provided the intellectual framework and grass-roots muscle for opposing legislation that would legalize millions of illegal immigrants.
Well-funded and politically savvy, the groups produce research papers, testify at congressional hearings and appear frequently in the media to push for reducing immigration. . . .
Conservatives who are taking on the groups, including Rubio, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and officials of the Catholic Church, argue that the three organizations are motivated by far different philosophies than many of their Republican allies realize. Among those views: that population growth from increased migration threatens the environment.. . .
The critics, however, argue that the three groups have misled conservatives. These critics point to reports on the FAIR and Numbers USA Web sites, for instance, that warn of environmental devastation from unchecked population growth, and they are circulating a 1993 report by CIS researchers sympathetic to contraception and the RU-486 abortion pill.
In the latest issue of the Human Life Review, an antiabortion journal, Hispanic GOP strategist Lopez accuses the groups of “hijacking” the immigration debate for their own purposes. He argues that population-control advocates “have built, operated, and funded much of the anti-immigration movement in the United States.”
“Those who seek to advance the pro-life cause should not allow themselves to be fooled by those whose work is ultimately diametrically opposed to the right to life,” Lopez writes.
The article has created a stir in conservative circles. It ascribes the vision behind the groups to John Tanton, a controversial Michigan-based leader in the “zero population growth” movement, who co-founded FAIR in 1979 and later helped start Numbers USA and CIS.
In a 2001 letter by Tanton being circulated as part of the current campaign, he laid out his idea to “move the battle lines on the immigration question in our favor” by convincing Republican lawmakers that “massive immigration imperils their political future.” The goal, he wrote, was to “change Republicans’ perception of immigration so that when they encounter the word ‘immigrant,’ their reaction is ‘Democrat.’ ” Organizers of the campaign against the groups found the letter at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, which houses Tanton’s papers.
More from the National Journal by Fawn Johnson:
Groups opposing proposals to legalize undocumented immigrants receive grant money from environmentalist population-control groups. It’s not a secret. You can find the evidence right there on the foundation websites. The immigration groups don’t deny it either.
Republicans who are advocating for a comprehensive immigration overhaul see the environmental link to these groups as a smoking gun that undermines their conservative credentials, even though the groups themselves don’t adopt liberal or conservative labels. But because Numbers USA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the Center for Immigration Studies all argue for reducing immigration into the United States, they tend to align with many Republicans on the issue.
These groups also receive money from foundations that are concerned about overpopulation. The Colcom Foundation funds all three groups; it also gives money to Negative Population Growth and the Conservation Fund. The Weeden Foundation funds the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association as well as the Environmental Paper Network; it also consistently funds CIS and has given grants to Numbers USA in the past.
The three groups that want reduced immigration are not, in fact, conservative. They are “single-issue” organizations whose members hold a variety of viewpoints on climate change, population growth, and abortion. “We are an immigration policy group. We see [immigration growth] as a precursor for rapid population growth, which most people think isn’t good for the country. We are being attacked by both sides,” said FAIR Media Director Ira Mehlman. “As individuals, we are interested in a lot of different things.”
“Republicans think I’m a liberal. Democrats all immediately think I’m a conservative Republican,” said Roy Beck, the executive director of Numbers USA. He laughs at the conspiracy theories being floated by Republicans who disagree with his perspective on immigration.
An example of the criticism being aimed at the trio by conservative immigration-reform advocates: “These groups are in no way conservative. They were founded, and are funded and staffed, by radical environmentalists and zero-population activists,” said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.