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Julie Kirchner May Head up the Department of Homeland Security

So, Who Is John Tanton, What Is His Relationship With Kirchner and Why Should You Care

Trump appointed Julie Kirchner, who was the executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform for nine years, to serve as ombudsman of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at Homeland Security in 2017.  And now, that same Julie Kirchner is being considered to lead the agency according to rumors floated by Politico last month. Kirchner would replace Lee Francis Cissna, who is rumored to be on Trump’s ever-present chopping block. Suffice it to say, even though Kirchner has remained out of the limelight, we can assume that she holds many of the same views as John Tanton which does not bode well for immigrant Americans and their children. Here’s why.

John Tanton’s main organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), founded in 1979 with the goal of limiting immigration, is categorized, alongside the Klan and other neo-Nazi organizations, as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Tanton deemed the demise of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 by Lyndon Johnson- an act that legalized a racist quota system that limited immigration from Asia, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe, while favoring Northern Europeans- as his motivation for forming the group along with others.  

In addition to FAIR, John Tanton is associated with several other anti-immigration groups including the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Numbers USA, the US Immigration Reform PAC, and Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR).  Additionally, in 1996 Tanton headed an effort to create his own eugenics organization, the Society for Genetic Education (SAGE). Suffice it to say, Tanton has created a multi-organizational structure of think tanks, lobbyist firms and astroturfing operations devoted to the furthering of nativist and white nationalist beliefs.

As revealed in the released Tanton Papers and letters, archived at the University of Michigan, Tanton corresponded regularly with eugenicists, white separatists and characters in the alt-right movement. Robert K. Graham, one such character, was the director of The Repository for Germinal Choice, a California-based sperm bank which stored and distributed the sperm of what they deemed to be exceptional men, including William Shockley, the 1956 recipient for the Nobel Prize in Physics.  Shockley, well-known in scientific circles as a proponent of race-based eugenics, once presented the National Academy of Sciences a proposal based on the idea that blacks were devolving more rapidly than whites, since low-IQ blacks were out breeding high-IQ blacks. In 1972 he proposed that the welfare system be replaced with his Voluntary Sterilization Bonus Plan. For each IQ point under 100, the volunteer was to be given $1000.00 if they underwent a vasectomy or tubal ligation. The repository closed in 1999.

Another released letter, sent to a law professor at Rutgers in 1975, reveals that Tanton condoned modifying the 14th Amendment in order to eliminate birthright citizenship. He states, “I’m still bothered by the provisions of the fourteenth amendment which provide that children of illegal aliens born within the United States are automatically United States citizens. Looking to the future, this may become a highly undesirable situation.”

Tanton also subscribed to a host of pseudo-scientific race realist arguments citing both The Pioneer Fund and alt-right anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald in correspondence to his board of directors. MacDonald is a director of the American Freedom Party, a Naziesque political party formed in 2009 by William Daniel Johnson, and he is a self-described “white advocate”. Macdonald is also the founder of white supremacist website Occidental Observer which publishes articles about “White Identity, Interests and Culture”.  Recent articles include, “Black Crime and its Jewish Apologists”.

The Pioneer Fund, associated with the race IQ data that underlies Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, is a eugenics organization initially headed by Harry H. Laughlin who regularly communicated with Nazi scientists in the Reich’s early days. Laughlin was also a key proponent of compulsory sterilization legislation at the turn of the century, calling for the sterilization of all unfit members of society. In fact, by 1914, 12 states had passed sterilization laws that were not being entirely enforced. This frustrated Laughlin as he believed the problem was the way in which the laws were worded. As such, in 1922 he created what he believed to be model legislation, and in response 18 more states passed sterilization laws. It should be additionally noted that Nazi Germany passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring in 1933 loosely based on Laughlin’s model. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Heidelberg in 1936 for his work in the area of what can only be considered the science of racial cleansing. Laughlin additionally served as the director of the Eugenics Record Office at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, New York which was funded in part by the Carnegie Institute of Washington.

FAIR has received $1.2 million in grants from the Pioneer Fund.

Tucked into one of the boxes is a rough draft for a paper titled “The Case for Passive Eugenics” in which Tanton ponders how to overcome the reality that “Hitler’s reign in Nazi Germany did little to advance  a the discussion of eugenics among sensitive persons.” Part of overcoming this travesty apparently entails a comparison to euthanasia. He claims, “A parallel can be seen in the broad question of Euthanasia. Here useful distinctions have been drawn between its active and passive forms.”

Further on in the paper, in an almost comical Freudian slip that has been crossed over in pencil, Tanton replaces the word eugenics with euthanasia stating, “Passive euthanasia. This concept embraces working with natural forces to improve the genetic character of children within any specific family.”

Tanton further exchanged thoughts on population control with Vdare founder Peter Brimelow.  Vdare is a website with white nationalist tendencies. Brimelow, who is responsible for the anti-immigrant treatise Alien Nation, spoke at the American Renaissance conference in 2017 stating, “But there’s no doubt that something in that book got to [President Donald Trump], because the way his speech was set up. His announcement speech went to the question of Hispanic crime, specifically rape[…]There’s ethnic specialization in crime. And Hispanics do specialize in rape, particularly of children. They’re very prone to it, compared to other groups.”

The Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan has the Tanton papers archived. And although they reveal a man deeply committed to both white nationalism and eugenics, not all of the documents have been released to the public. Indeed, only 14 of the boxes have been made public, with several more remaining sealed until 2035- including nine folders labeled The Pioneer Fund.  The University of Michigan has been fighting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by immigration attorney and Virginia House of Delegates candidate Ahmad Hassan

I spoke with Hassan and asked him what initially prompted his FOIA request. He had this to say, “A picture in Nov 2016 of Kris Kobach with then-President-Elect Trump, where Kobach forgot to put his “strategic plan” inside his leather binder. I had heard of John Tanton, and was curious about his connection with Kobach, if any. That led me to an NYT article about Tanton, which led me to the University of Michigan library’s website, where I first found that half of Tanton’s papers were sealed. It was quickly becoming clear that Tanton’s organizations were eager to inject themselves into the new White House, so the public interest would be served by shining a light on the origins of what Tanton called “the cause.” So I filed an FOIA, and when it was denied, I sued.” His request is currently pending a decision at the Michigan Court of Appeal.

In fact, another Tanton paper from 1994 spells out FAIR’s clear objective of ending legal immigration from what Trump would consider “shitehole” countries. In his A Moratorium on Immigration? memo, Tanton describes an under the radar path to accomplish this. He states, “The Moratorium proposed by FAIR would admit only a “packet” of the spouse, together with their dependent, minor  never-married children….This would break migration chains by not including parents, siblings, or other relatives. This structure to a moratorium would assure that the numbers would decrease over time and probably fairly rapidly.”

And in another communication to board members in 2001, Tanton recommended the BBC film The March because, from his point of view, it glorifies the anti-immigration book The Camp of Saints penned by French novelist Jean Raspail. Raspail’s novel portrays the destruction of Western civilization by mass immigration from refugees and the Global South. Alarmingly, almost forty years after its initial publication, the book returned to the bestseller list on Amazon in France in 2011. And, in fact, one can find the English audio version on the Daily Stormer website. Tanton states, “It portrayed the seemingly impossible invasion of France by a raging flotilla from India. Translated into several languages and roundly vilified, it opened discussion across Europe on a difficult topic…. In the intervening decade, invasions – or whatever one wants to call them – have become the stuff of daily journalism. Most recently, 900-plus Kurds from Iraq floated up on the Sun Coast of France in a rusting ship. Masses of people also came overland. All of this has made The March even timelier today than when it was produced.”

Sound familiar?

The tentacles of John Tanton reach deep into the Trump administration.  In addition to the aforementioned Julie Kirchner, we have John Zadrozny currently serving at the State Department helping to guide refugee policy. Trump transition aide and former US Representative from Pennsylvania Lou Barletta was on FAIR’s national board of advisers. In fact, Tanton’s PAC, the US Immigration Reform PAC, donated to Rep. Lou Barletts’ Senate campaign as well as to Rep. Steven King’s from Iowa, who has repeatedly come under fire for racist remarks.  Ian Smith, who resigned under accusations to ties of white supremacist Richard Spencer last year, has worked as a political analyst at the Department of Homeland Security after working at FAIR. Elizabeth Jacobs, the current Senior Advisor to the Chief Counsel at the Department of Homeland Security, worked for FAIR in 2017 as a lobbyist.  And Kellyanne Conway’s firm, The Polling Company, has conducted polls and focus groups for FAIR centering on anti-Muslim sentiment. Indeed, Item 22 on Hassan’s filing includes this, “In December 2016, current FAIR President Dan Stein said, “FAIR began working with [Counselor to the President] Kellyanne Conway as far back as 1996, and we have used her for polling virtually every year since then. We take it as a certain amount of personal pride, is that when she became the campaign manager for Donald Trump…she was possessed of intimate professional knowledge of the immigration issue as it related to the voter concerns. And we saw that influence helping to shape Donald Trump’s positions and statements once she came onboard.”

I asked Hassan if we should be concerned in regards to Julie Kirchner possibly heading up the Department of Homeland Security. His response was a resounding yes. “I believe FAIR is a white nationalist group, because they live, breathe, and feed off of white nationalist ideas. Ideas like fear of an invasion, immigrants not being aspiring Americans, linking them with crime, and advocating for policies that have a grossly disproportionate impact on people of color. That they don’t don white robes is a distinction without a difference.”

Indeed. These associations should clarify once and for all, if it wasn’t already clear, that Trump’s immigration views have dangerous white nationalist underpinnings.


Written by Tina-Desiree Berg

Tina-Desiree Berg

Tina-Desiree Berg is an Actress with an MA in Philosophy. She is host of the District 34 Podcast and author of Unraveling Race: A History of Scientific Racism. As a non-profit Public Policy Director, she has worked on legislation pertaining to human trafficking, HIV/microbicides, and child obesity and poverty. She can be reached at district34@yahoo.com.

Tina is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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A Brief History of Free Speech Grifters Suing Their Haters for Libel

Julie Kirchner May Head up the Department of Homeland Security