Hate Campaign’s Anti-Climax
‘We spent $100 million to demonize restrictionists and all we got was a lousy T-shirt.’


Mark Krikorian

DeParle also describes Tanton’s evolution “from apostle of centrist restraint to ally of angry populists and a man who increasingly saw immigration through a racial lens.” That’s an unfortunate development; I think my colleague Jerry Kammer summed up Tanton’s main failing last year in his piece on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s smear campaign: “The small-town doctor from Northern Michigan combines relentless organizational energies with a provincial temperament and a tin ear for the sensitivities of immigration. In an arena that requires the ability to frame issues in a way that broadens consensus, he sometimes speaks with a free-wheeling bluntness that can upset even those who admire him.”

All very interesting, but it’s a far cry from the xenophobic puppeteer.

The New York Times article makes clear the falsity of the hate campaign’s charge of “Tanton’s empire of fear and prejudice” (the words are those of the Center for New Community). The immigration-reduction movement, like any other broad movement, is a diverse group of people with a wide variety of sometimes-conflicting political views and concerns, from the “folksy” Roy Beck and others making “serious liberal arguments for lower immigration,” to “angry populists” at the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s annual talk-radio event, where the worst thing DeParle seems to have heard was “calls to use Tomahawk missiles on Tijuana drug lords.” (Is anyone surprised to hear that on talk radio?)

Probably the biggest hole in the Times piece was its failure to parallel Tanton’s story with an account of the origins of the hate campaign against him. In the wake of the spectacular defeat of the Bush-Kennedy-McCain amnesty in the summer of 2007, there was a series of meetings of all the pro-amnesty groups — including the Center for American Progress, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Council of La Raza, the National Immigration Forum, and others — where a strategy was formally adopted, and duties parceled out, to leave substantive policy debates aside and focus instead on the supposed racism that drove the many-headed “anti-immigrant” hydra. Tens of millions of dollars were devoted to this project by otherwise respectable foundations, websites were set up (the flagship site was finally discontinued by La Raza last year as a failure, but you can see its last iteration here), and the SPLC was instructed to cook up a phony “hate group” designation for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Fleshing out that completely unreported story would have been a good use of the resources of the New York Times and made the article genuinely newsworthy.

Be that as it may, the Times piece clearly marks the end of the smear campaign. I mean, what else is there for them to do — get a story in Newsweek? Having failed to drive immigration skeptics out of polite society, maybe now the grownups on the other side of the debate will put this sordid and disreputable episode behind them and actually engage in a thoughtful debate on substance.

Even after enduring years of their contempt and defamation, I’m willing to talk. Are they?

— Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an NRO contributor, and author of The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal and How Obama Is Transforming America Through Immigration.



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