New Study Links Anti-Immigration Groups To Pro–Population Control Environmentalists

America’s immigration debate is heating up, and conservatives anxious about liberal solutions to the issue are looking for answers of their own. Unfortunately, the major immigration groups that often receive the name “conservative” are anything but. A new study published in Human Life Review reveals these groups all were founded by the same radical environmentalist that advocates ending population growth with immigration restrictions, abortions and sterilizations.

The largest and most active anti-immigration groups — that is, groups that want to restrict the number of legal admissions — are the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and NumbersUSA. All these groups were founded by the same man: radical environmentalist John Tanton (top-left), the former national chairman of the Sierra Club population committee and a former national board member of Zero Population Growth.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups blame environmental problems on too many people, even though the U.S. and other modern capitalist countries have managed to drastically cut pollution and clean rivers while their populations doubled. Until the 1990s, the Sierra Club’s official position opposed new immigration on these environmental grounds. As John Tanton said, “If we cut pollution per capita in half, but double the number of people, we’re back where we started.”

Tanton served as board member for local Planned Parenthood organizations, founded the Michigan Women for Medical Control of Abortion, chaired the Zero Population Growth Immigration Study Committee and served as a sexuality education consultant and curriculum development advisor for local middle schools. He worked for the Sierra Club until the mid-1970s.

Because of its predominately liberal membership, the Sierra Club could not be as zealous about its anti-immigration agenda as Tanton wanted. So, over several decades, he went on to found FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA. “It is immigration that is making us grow and that must be cut to levels where immigration = emigration, if we’re to avoid continuous population growth,” he said. Tanton received immediate support from the radical population-control forces within the environmental movement.

Garret Hardin — the environmentalist and population-control advocate who coined the term “tragedy of the commons” — served on FAIR’s board. Population-control advocate David Irish became the director of Tanton’s umbrella funding organization for FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA known as U.S. Inc. Sarah Epstein, longtime board member of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, served as FAIR’s board secretary. She wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times in 1988 explaining she thought “the Chinese have developed one of the most humane and rational population policies in the world,” and opposed giving women who “fear forced abortion at home” asylum out of “respect for policies of other countries.”

Epstein founded Pathfinder International, a major provider of abortions in Africa. David Collins, FAIR advisory-board member, founded International Services Assistance Fund to promote female sterilization and developed the quinacrine pellet, which awaits FDA trials and was tested in the developing world. FAIR also funds the sterilization scheme directly. The list of population-control advocates who either fund FAIR or work for FAIR consumes much of the study.

The Center for Immigration Studies also was founded and funded by Tanton until 1994.  Although now independent of Tanton, CIS repeats his population-control positions with regard to the environment and immigration. NumbersUSA, another Tanton creation, has as its explicit mission to end population growth in the United States. President Roy Beck argues Congress does not understand U.S. environmental sustainability “is not possible unless we greatly reduce immigration numbers.”

Conservatives are rightfully concerned about America’s damaged immigration policy for both social and national security issues. Unfortunately, these immigration groups’ agendas are at odds with their own. The media’s description of FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA as “conservative” in no way reflects the truth. The reality is that they fight for policies that view human lives as problems rather than as solutions to problems. To have a real debate about immigration, conservatives should reject input from these organizations in the coming months.