The Unholy Anti-Immigration Alliance Between Pro-Life Conservatives and Population Control Weirdos

National Review is the sole link to respectability for neo-Malthusian, ultra-restrictionist outfits that enviros are shunning.


America's anti-immigration restrictionist movement has historically had one foot in the labor protectionist camp and another in the population control camp. Many pro-life conservatives count themselves among immigration restrictionists—which makes the anti-immigration movement's population control argument downright bizarre, given that population control and abortion politics have been a key flashpoint in conservatives' broader culture war with the left.

But even as the environmental left has been shunning the restrictionist movement, conservatives have been embracing it. Indeed, the right is the sole link to mainstream respectability for three of America's most influential restrictionist groups—FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), CIS (Center for Immigration Studies), and NumbersUSA — all founded by John Tanton, an ophthalmologist who laments that Hitler gave eugenics a bad name.

Let's back up for a moment. In the 1970s, all the leading environmentalists—such as economist Garrett Hardin, Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson, biologist Paul Ehrlich (whose Population Bomb became an overnight sensation)—were also restrictionists. They feared that "mass migration," especially from third world countries with higher fertility rates, would lead to overpopulation and environmental catastrophe in America and the West.

Such fears turned out to be entirely bogus. Indeed, the West's demographic problem isn't a fertility explosion but a fertility implosion. To its credit, the environmental movement has steadily distanced itself from its restrictionist allies, refusing to acquiesce to demands that environmentalists include immigration control in their agenda.

But pro-life conservatives seem to be suffering from no equivalent qualms—even though the underlying agenda of the big three restrictionist groups arguably violates core pro-life principles.

It's not like these outfits are subtle about their true intentions. Tanton, their founder, is clear in saying his restrictionism is part of a broader population control program that also involves abortion, family planning, and other efforts to decrease fertility. He served on the board of his local Planned Parenthood chapter and as president of Zero Population Growth. His anti-Catholic sentiments are well known, given Catholicism's religious objections to population control. He has warned incessantly about the "Latin onslaught"—the threat that the multiplying Latino population poses to the existing Anglo-Saxon power structure—once musing whether this was the first time in history when "those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down."

Tanton isn't worried simply about the number of humans, but also their quality. Under his leadership, FAIR accepted $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a white nationalist organization that favors eugenics for "race betterment." While social conservatives worry that modern medicine will trigger an unnatural quest for perfect, designer babies, Tanton's concern is that it will lead to the "eroding of the gene pool" by letting less intelligent people procreate faster than more intelligent ones.

None of this is particularly new—Tanton has been covered extensively over the years. But it was only a 2011 New York Times expose about Tanton that finally forced him off of FAIR's board. His views, however, have lived on in the organizations he helped fund.

Dan Stein, Tanton's successor at FAIR, has stuck to the view that only "intelligent people" should be encouraged to breed. He has defended China's disastrous one-child policy as just an "international family planning program." FAIR also opposes asylum for Chinese moms facing forced abortions, believing that China has "one of the most humane and rational policies in the world."

While FAIR is perhaps the ickiest of the restrictionist trio, they're all quite bad. NumbersUSA president Roy Beck, who Tanton has blessed as his "heir apparent," blames population pressures due to "mass" immigration for practically every economic and environmental ill in America, real or imagined (but mostly imagined). His basic point, illustrated through dramatic videos, is simple: Population growth plus finite resources equals congestion, pollution, sprawl, depleted fresh water supplies, and loss of open spaces and wilderness.

This make good sense, except for the inconvenient truth that America's period of "mass" immigration—which in his telling started after 1965 when Congress scrapped three decades of the "golden age" of racist national quotas—has coincided with stunning environmental gains. During that period in America, water and air quality improved dramatically, forest cover increased, and the area devoted to cropland decreased even as food production boomed, much of which Cato Institute's Indur Gokhlany has richly documented.

Clearly, the relationship between immigration-led population growth and pollution is more complicated than the simple, direct correlation that Beck and his restrictionist cronies claim. Indeed, the only reliable predictor of national environmental improvement is wealth—whose generation, the vast majority of economists agree, immigrants greatly aid. That's because immigrants are not simply mouths to feed—but hands and brains to spur economic growth.

And that brings us to the third major restriction group: the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which Tanton spun off when he found himself losing the "battle of ideas." CIS's express charge was to promote restrictionism on more acceptable intellectual grounds. This move paid off when the conservative National Review, a perennial immigration opponent, gave CIS executive director Mark Krikorian (whom I have debated) a regular blogging platform. Nor is Krikorian the only one. Other CIS staffers and researchers—including Jason Richwine, whose dissertation recommending IQ tests for immigrants and musings at white nationalist websites forced him to resign from the Heritage Foundation—also write regularly for the the magazine.

Krikorian, like Beck, cut his restrictionist teeth at FAIR when he wrote for its newsletter in the 1980s. Subsequently, he attended FAIR's writers workshops while heading CIS. Although he has been careful to primarily stick to making an economic and cultural case against immigration in National Review, Mario Lopez pointed out in Human Life Review that "the same [FAIR] environmentalist, abortion, and population-control ideology permeates CIS, its funders, and founders." Human Life Review is not some progressive, lefty, PC outfit looking to demonize conservatives. It is a pro-life publication founded by a former associate publisher of National Review.

National Review fiercely disputes Lopez's argument, claiming that CIS and NumbersUSA "very deliberately take no position on abortion and population control," although its members might. But that's not quite right. CIS openly espouses population control—including "curtailing needless restrictions on abortion"—and has posted papers (authored by Roy Beck) lambasting environmentalists for "forsaking" their previous commitment to it.

Let's be clear about what is happening here: National Review, perhaps the country's leading journal for intellectual conservatives, and a magazine with strong pro-life leanings, has lent its name and platform to the leader of an organization that clearly favors population control.

National Review's stamp has no doubt helped CIS and its sister outfits lobby conservatives on Capitol Hill. Lopez notes that many pro-life Republican congressmen, such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, have worked with FAIR and/or NumbersUSA to craft immigration-related legislation—as have other pro-life think tanks and advocacy groups. Likewise, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an arch-pro lifer, is a close ally of all three of these restrictionist outfits. "This represents such a stark dichotomy that one must, at a minimum, question whether any due diligence was done at all," notes Lopez.

Reasonable people can disagree about immigration policy. I am strongly in favor of letting more people in, but there is a case to be made for cutting back. However, if the conservative movement dilutes its other core commitments to make questionable alliances in order to push its anti-immigration agenda, it'll only lose credibility over the long run. In the war on immigration, not all is fair.

This column originally appeared in The Week.

NEXT: 'War on Police' Failure Update: Cop Killings Down in 2015

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  1. Didn’t read because Shika. Literally anyone else would probably write a more compelling article on this topic.

    1. They try to hide it on the main page by listing the author as “Reason Staff”.

      1. They use that byline any time they’re putting up a blurb in H&R redirecting to a full article from the main site, regardless of the author, you know…

        1. So why does it always happen to her and Sheldon Richman articles?

      2. When you see in the byline the words ‘immigration’ AND ‘strange bedfellows’, you can be assured that it’s a Dalmia article, and almost as likely one where she strenuously alleges unholy conspiracies of racists against brown people.

    2. Always avoid that byline…staight to the comments

      1. Staightist!

        1. LOL

  2. National Review, perhaps the country’s leading journal for intellectual conservatives

    Not since the advent of David French and the Trumpkins.

    1. Back in the Derb and Steyn days maybe.

      1. Derb’s stuff was great, but he’s really gone off the rails in recent years. It’s just painful to see.

        1. Look Who’s Coming To Dinner? was a chilling cautionary tale.

  3. Let’s be clear about what is happening here: National Review, perhaps the country’s leading journal for intellectual conservatives, and a magazine with strong pro-life leanings, has lent its name and platform to the leader of an organization that clearly favors population control.

    Dalmia is all for freedom of speech, but those guys should shut up.

    There, there. Have a safe space.

    1. Why is criticizing someone an infringement of freedom of speech?

      1. Can I not mock her commitment to an ideal? In my defense, no one passed the memo on, I didn’t realize we were doing serious conversations instead of mockery this week.

        1. In my defense, no one passed the memo on

          I think you’re on double-secret probation.

          1. *hums Star-Spangled Banner*

            1. The National Anthem should be “America, the Beautiful”.

        2. Fair enough.

    2. Population biology warns people who follow math against overpopulation. Conservatives use America’s prestige and religious Svengaliism to push the same birth-control banning, antiabortion agenda that plagued These States fourscore years ago. Along with that they export fanatical prohibitionism–especially against nonaddictive enjoyable drugs. This leads nations to cruel and unusual punishment and the asset forfeiture that has thrice wrecked the US economy. It transforms dozens of countries into living hells people flee for their lives. There is no need to export totalitarian hate laws that cause streams of refugees to swarm out of the places that adopt them. Throttling back exports of repression will enable others to better control their populations and develop civilized economies to boot. That is a libertarian agenda, not a conservative agenda.

  4. If only there were ways to control births without abortions. Oh well, maybe some day.

    1. Prayer and abstinence? Forced castration?

  5. Interesting that environmentalists are distancing themselves from the restrictionists. I thought a significant portion of current environmental thinking was to move away from modern industrial technology and toward “earth-friendly” practices. If you think that way, wouldn’t you want people from Latin America to stay in their own countries where they are more likely to conduct earth-friendly practices?

    1. And less likely to spark demand for housing here – resulting in farms and woods bulldozed for new housing developments?

      1. Good point. I assume the environmentalists Shika refers to see the Democrats as their political allies and so are being good team players. But I’d be interested to know what more independent environmental groups think about immigration (globally, not just in the US).

        1. I think of environmentalism and conservation as two entirely different things.

          1. I see them as almost identical coercive religions.

      2. I know of several Chinese families who have brought their aged relatives to the USA.

        Think of how much carbon could have been saved by Skyping instead.

        (I wonder if they get on SSI and MediCal…the people I know who did this are not that wealthy to support an entirely separate household.)

  6. Ms, Dalmia, a well reasoned and documented piece. As someone who is usually pretty critical of your work, I have to say, good job.

    1. The purpose of the piece is to directly link those that believe we should be doing more to combat illegal immigration with support for the eugenics movement.

      Is that well-reasoned?

      1. Yes: if you don’t want open borders, you are, ipso facto, a racist shitlord. Duh!

      2. If that link exists in certain cases, yes.

  7. Hot tip, y’all. If you change the title around in your head to read “The Unholy Anti-Immigration Alliance Between the National Review and Population-Control Weirdos” the whole piece makes a lot more sense.

    1. And it’s not even an alliance, so much as it’s an agreement about one particular topic – immigration. That would be like if I agreed with far leftists regarding pot legalization and someone wrote an article called “The Unholy Pro-Communism Alliance Between Irish and the Far Left.”

      Supporting someone’s writings on one topic =/= endorsement of all their views, and unless NR is publishing zero population growth articles on their own website, they aren’t at fault for Malthusian idiocy that CIS wrote in 2001.

      1. You know who else Irish agrees with?

      2. “Supporting someone’s writings on one topic =/= endorsement of all their views”

        Arguing otherwise being a form of guilt by association/thoughtcrime.

        So, does Dalmia lack even basic common sense or is she being mendacious?

        Because I’m not seeing any other options.

  8. The information in this article seems based on an article by *Human Life Review* which (believe it or not) is a prolife publication.

  9. “Reasonable people can disagree about immigration policy. I am strongly in favor of letting more people in, but there is a case to be made for cutting back. However, if the conservative movement dilutes its other core commitments to make questionable alliances in order to push its anti-immigration agenda, it’ll only lose credibility over the long run. In the war on immigration, not all is fair.”

    Shikha Dalmia is such a concern troll. Especially given that the CIS position on abortion is no different than Reason’s position, so why are you guys running articles attacking conservatives for aligning with a pro-choice political group when most Reason writers are also pro-choice?

    Dalmia’s completely right about the fact these organizations have dumbass Malthusian views, but she’s basically attacking National Review for agreeing with these groups on immigration, even though National Review doesn’t agree with any of their dumb zero population growth ideas. That’s pretty ridiculous guilt by association.

    1. ‘concern troll’ was the term I was looking for.

  10. Reasonable people can disagree about immigration policy.

    Dalmia says this as though she doesn’t routinely belittle and ridicule anyone who disagrees with her to any degree on this topic.

    1. She is referring to the reasonable person in her head – like an Aaron Sorkin Republican who is responsible and pro-abortion and nobly loses to the Democrat.

      1. A candidate like that would lose to a tree stump.

        1. Get your anti-tree stump bigotry outta here brah!

  11. Population would control itself better without the welfare state. Immigration would probably be more productive as well.

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  13. The goal is to insure a steady supply of cheap labor. If your group promoted both ‘pro-life’ (domestic) and open borders then it might seem craven. So you cobble together groups that serve cross purposes and then broker between them. NR lost credibility on this issue when it complained in its NeverTrump rant: “Trump is bad on immigration because his wall will have a door through which he will let them back in.”

  14. I tell you – Reason’s immigration articles have gotten so lame it’s not even worth the effort to peel off a good insult anymore.

  15. Other CIS staffers and researchers?including Jason Richwine, whose dissertation recommending IQ tests for immigrants and musings at white nationalist websites forced him to resign from the Heritage Foundation?also write regularly for the the magazine.

    It wouldn’t be a true Dalmia article unless she put it in an ad hominem attack or two.

  16. yeh…..

    Pro-immigration-control loosely aligned with a eugenics wacko: “very bad, mkay”
    Open borders crowd aligned with reconquista La Raza wackos: “you’re a racist for thinking anything is wrong with that!”

  17. Jason Richwine wrote 2 articles for a website that became a sort of white nationalist group. This was 6 years ago. And now he writes articles for NR, only some of which have anything to do with immigration at all.

    So because Krikorian and Richwine regularly write for NR, Conservatives are now in bed with population control weirdos. Because an asshole started a group that hired people who spawned a different group, which than had a guy who gave some money to start a different group that employs a couple guys that occasionally write for NR.

    And since we are talking about eugenicists, is Dalmia going to be up in arms about Planned Parenthood? After all, Margaret Sanger was a big time eugenicist. And the path from her to Planned Parenthood is much straighter than all of the contortions she pulled to link NR with a nut job in the 70s.

    1. Don’t forget that Sanger, while interested in eugenics in relation to zero-growth population goals, was also a certifiable racist who promoted birth-control as a way to destroy brown people populations in America.

      Not that Dalmia cares.

  18. “Other CIS staffers and researchers?including Jason Richwine, whose dissertation recommending IQ tests for immigrants and musings at white nationalist websites forced him to resign from the Heritage Foundation?also write regularly for the the magazine.”

    I don’t think it was his dissertation and musings that forced him to resign.

    1. Good call: bad sentence structure there.

      -1 point for Dalmia.

  19. Obama can’t say “Islamic” and terrorist in the same sentence. Reason cant say “illegal” and immigration in the same way.

  20. Anti-ILLEGAL-immigration is not anti-immigration.

    1. Boarders, like gender and fetuses are just social constructs!

    2. I was going to make the same comment. It’s incredible that a magazine named Reason can’t tell the difference between illegal immigration and legal immigration and considers people who dislike illegal immigration ‘anti-immigration’

      A nation without borders is not a nation, it’s a patch of land between real nations.

  21. I admit, when I saw the headline, my first thought was it has to be some sort of click-bait that is going to mock wacky conspiracy theories about Mass Pro-life / Population Control programs. On attempting to wade through the mishmash of writing I am absolutely bewildered at how the author came up with her subject.

    What is with Reason’s authors lately using labels and broad strokes to paint whole groups. “restrictionist”? I’ve been deeply imbedded in social and political happenings for over a decade and I’ve never come across someone using the term “restrictionist” as a labeled pejorative to describe people who aren’t in favor of mass (read Illegal) immigration.

    Regarding this author’s weird bent that a belief in restricted immigration somehow equals hypocritical pro-lifers on population control. It is true that sometimes the most unlikely of groups can cross paths and share some similar perspectives. For example, my cousin is deeply socialist. As a Libertarian, there is little on which he and I agree. However, in a strange turn of events, neither of us are fans of Hillary Clinton. The fact that he and I share agreement on one element does not mean that we are suddenly conspiratorially in favor of one anothers’ other positions.

    1. Perhaps the author might consider that instead of conspiratorial population control underpinnings, a significant majority of pro-life citizens are also against mass immigration for practical reasons. Some of the less twilight zone reasons might be, a respect for the legal process of immigrating to the country, an honest concern about state support vs. self-sufficiency, and for the hard working Americans maybe even some legitimate fear of losing potential work to an undocumented worker (you know the average Joe/and Jane Citizen, who contrary to progressive belief are not above picking tomatoes at lower wages if it means a provision for their families, and being legal citizens would appreciate first dibs at the jobs.

      The conclusions in this piece are right up there with Area 51.

      1. Seriously. When did Reason’s supposed Libertarian writers start snacking on progressive tactics like using, broad labels, class structure, and straw man arguments to push weird shit. It’s getting harder and harder to recognize genuine libertarian values in the staff.

        A handful of fringe elements who try to make themselves mainstream by co-opting brands like “conservative” does not a large scale wave of Pro-life Population Eugenicists make.

        1. The commentariat is the only truly libertarian center on this website at this point. The writers have generally turned into bootlicking prog sympathizers with the exception of the occasional opinion piece lifted from the F.I.R.E. website.

  22. “America’s anti-immigration restrictionist movement… ”

    The lies in the first few words. That would be illegal migration of foreign nationals and unrestricted H1B visas.

    True, actual, immigrants? No problem.

    1. I agree, but I don’t think Shikha is interested in facts and intelligent discussion. If the author had a single moral qualm about lying this weird conspiratorial reasoning wouldn’t have made it to print.

  23. How Eisenhower solved illegal border crossings from Mexico..
    I would suggest taking the test for citizenship of the United States. I answered every question correctly, however several of those questions were terribly politically correct. Note that this article is from 2006, but is still an important piece. As well, the MSM has been using 12 million illegals as the number for over 15 years. The reality of it is that we now have 50 to 60 million illegal aliens in the country. I suppose they are allowed in to replace the 60 million aborted babies who have been murdered.


    FACT: 1.

    All FEMALE “Mexican Citizens” who are, or become Pregnant while “ILLEGALLY” crossing and/or within the geographical boundaries of the U.S.A., are and remain “Mexican Citizens.”

    FACT: 2.

    All FEMALE “Mexican Citizens” who are, or become Pregnant while “ILLEGALLY” crossing and/or within the geographical boundaries of the U.S.A., are “ILLEGAL ALIENS”, and they are “ILLEGAL FOREIGNERS.” (See the “Exclusionary Clause” below ? FACT 2)

    FACT: 3.

    The “MEXICAN CONSTITUTION” ? Article 30 ? states that “Mexican Citizenship” is “ACQUIRED”, by birth or by naturalization, of the “CHILDREN” of a “MEXICAN “CITIZEN” FEMALE” who gives “BIRTH” in a foreign country.

    Article 30 of the “Mexican Constitution” is unambiguous and clear.

    “Mexican Citizenship” is “acquired”, at the time of “BIRTH” of the “Anchor Baby” child, of a “Mexican Citizen” while in the U.S.A.

    The Constitutionality of “Mexican Citizenship” is “acquired” for the “Anchor Baby” under Article 30, Section A., Subsection II.

    A “Mexican Citizen” mother in a “FORIEGN COUNTRY”? whether “illegally or legally” in said “Foreign Country” who gives birth to a baby, that baby IS A MEXICAN CITIZEN.

    1. FACT: 4.

      In the U.S.A., what is commonly referred to as “Anchor Babies” from Mexico, are unequivocally and legally, “Mexican Citizens” at the time of their birth in a “foreign country”

      Article 30.
      Mexican nationality is acquired by birth or by naturalization:

      Mexicans by birth are:
      Those born in the territory of the Republic, regardless of the nationality of their parents:
      Those born in a foreign country (i.e. United States of America (USA)of Mexican parents; of a Mexican father and a foreign mother; or of a Mexican mother and an unknown father;

  25. “That’s because immigrants are not simply mouths to feed?but hands and brains to spur economic growth.”

    Lots of them are perpetual mouths to feed, and we already have ~15% of the population with mouths to feed.

    Give us your educated, your non-radicalized, you reasonable people yearning to integrate…

  26. We need an immigration policy more like Canada’s.

    Let in middle class English speaking people. Asia, Africa, even South America

    We don’t need unskilled, uneducated labor. We have enough of that already.

    1. ” even South America”

      Let’s not go too far. They are Catholics, remember.

      “We have enough of that already.”

      Who is we? If you’ve read Reason, you know they want a growing population. If America’s whites haven’t the spunk to provide it, it can be imported from darker places. It is a Tory nightmare.

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  28. It seems to allows follow the same pattern. All those for open borders and/or very loose or basically unrestricted immigration never themselves immigrate, legally or otherwise.
    Perhaps they need to go forth and make the world a better place.

    1. “All those for open borders and/or very loose or basically unrestricted immigration never themselves immigrate”

      Mexicans never immigrate. Legally or otherwise. Interesting contribution, Locris.

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