Recent media coverage of immigration has been dominated by anti-immigrant voices; immigrant and refugee rights advocates have been slighted. In this often one-sided discussion, no group has enjoyed more exposure than the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Retorm (also abbreviated as “FAIR,” not to be confused with the media watch group FAIR). Media outlets have an obligation to balance this important debate and take a closer look at the motives and money behind the anti-immigration movement.
The Federation, led by spokesman Dan Stein, often appears in national media unopposed or paired with centrist politicians (NBC Today Show, 6/29/1993; CNN Inside Politics, 7/13/1993; CBS 60 Minutes, 3/14/1993). A database search shows that the Federation has been cited hundreds of times in mainstream media since 1993.
While presenting itself as an organization that simply advocates for immigration reform in the public interest, the Federation receives significant funding– rarely noted in press accounts– from a foundation that is explicitly motivated by a racist, eugenicist ideology.
For years, the Federation has been supported by the Pioneer Fund, a trust founded in 1937 by Wycliffe P. Draper, a textile millionaire who promoted sending blacks back to Africa. The Pioneer Fund has been described in the London Sunday Telegraph (3/12/89) as a “neo-Nazi organization closely integrated with the far right in American politics.”
Pioneer is one of the Federation’s key financial backers. According to Internal Revenue Service records, the group has received more than $1 million from Pioneer since 1982. In 1992, the most recent year for which figures are available, Pioneer gave the Federation $130,000.
The Pioneer Fund’s charter specified that its trustees should give scholarships only to students “who are citizens of the United States…who are deemed to be descended predominately from white persons who settled in the original 13 states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.” In 1983, due to public criticism, the word “white” was omitted from the charter (Washington Times, 7/3/91).
John Tanton founded the Federation in 1979 and was chairman when the group began receiving Pioneer Fund money in 1982. In 1983, Tanton founded U. S. English an English-only advocacy group. In 1988, conservative Linda Chavez resigned as president of U.S. English following the publication of a internal memo written by Tanton. The memo, which resulted from a closed meeting that included Federation for American Immigration Reform personnel, discusses the “dangers” of an Hispanic “population explosion.” In it Tanton declares, “Whites will see their power and control over their lives declining…. Perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to be caught by those with their pants down.” (Newsday, 10/16/1991)
Tanton still speaks for the Federation and remains on the its board of directors.
By accepting money from the Pioneer Fund, the Federation for American Immigration Reform puts itself in the company of a variety of racist projects. The Fund’s other beneficiaries in recent years have included:
–Roger Pearson, director of the Institute for the Study of Man. A Wall Street Journal article in 1984 dubbed Pearson a “Racial Purist” who advocated artificial insemination to preserve pure, healthy stock” and warned of “terrible consequences” should such a program of genetic selection “fall into the hands of the cosmopolites or or one-worlders, or any who wish to see our race and our heritage destroyed.”
Pearson’s Institute publishes Mankind Ouarterly, described in the London Independent (3/4/90) as a “mouthpiece” for neo-Nazi philosophies, with links to former Nazi geneticists. Last grant to Pearson from the Pioneer Fund: $119,300, 1992.
–A study at the University of Western Ontario, comparing cranium size, gonad size and IQ distribution among blacks, whites and Asians (Sunday Telegraph, 3/12/89). Last grant: $96,753, 1992.
–Dr. Michael Levin, professor of philosophy at City College who claims that blacks as a group have low IQs. Last grant: $64,500, 1992.
–The late Professor William B. Shockley, who recommended a “voluntary sterilization bonus plan,” or paying genetically “inferior” populations to be sterilized. (Sunday Telegraph, 3/1 2/89). Last grants were in the 1970’s; figures not available.
When covering an issue as racially charged as immigration, journalists have an obligation to inform their audience if they are quoting a source that receives major funding from an explicitly racist source. This is particularly true in the case of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has frequently provided the only non-governmental viewpoint on immigration policy in news reports.
Even if the Federation were not supported in part by a racist fund, the media have an obligation to balance the immigration debate by featuring not only anti-immigration views, but also those of immigration advocates and immigrant rights groups. Below is a short list of some organizations that advocate for and represent immigrants:
National Council of La Raza
810 1st St. NE, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20002-4205
New York Immigration Coalition
1011 1st Ave. 12th floor
New York, NY 10022
Human Rights First
330 Seventh Ave. 10th floor
New York, NY 10001