This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Would Immigration Reform Have Occurred in the US Had There Not Been John Tanton?

Efforts to limit immigration, especially undocumented immigration from Mexico, are widespread in the United States. However, a lengthy story in the New York Times suggests that the movement can trace its origins back to the 1970s to a small-town doctor in Michigan--John Tanton.

Time and again, Dr. Tanton urged liberal colleagues in groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club to seek immigration restraints, only to meet blank looks and awkward silences.
“I finally concluded that if anything was going to happen, I would have to do it myself,” he said.
Improbably, he did. From the resort town of Petoskey, Mich., Dr. Tanton helped start all three major national groups fighting to reduce immigration, legal and illegal, and molded one of the most powerful grass-roots forces in politics. The immigration-control movement surged to new influence in last fall’s elections and now holds near veto power over efforts to legalize any of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
One group that Dr. Tanton nurtured, Numbers USA, doomed President George W. Bush’s legalization plan four years ago by overwhelming Congress with protest calls. Another, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, helped draft the Arizona law last year to give the police new power to identify and detain illegal immigrants.
A third organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, joined the others in December in defeating the Dream Act, which sought to legalize some people brought to the United States illegally as children.
“He is the most influential unknown man in America,” said Linda Chavez, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan who once led a Tanton group that promoted English-only laws.
Over time, it appears that Dr. Tanton evolved from simply being worried about the impact of immigration on population growth and resources in the United States to being worried about cultural change in the US as a result of foreigners flooding in. The latter perspective is not a new one, of course, and led in the 1920s to the very restrictive and blatantly racist immigration laws that were finally dismantled in 1965.

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