This fear is fueled on FAIR's Web site, which posts articles detailing horrendous crimes committed in the United States by "illegal-alien criminals."

This same fear is fanned in FAIR's alarmist "report" on the fiscal burden of undocumented immigration to taxpayers.

The think tank claims American taxpayers pay about $7.83 billion for "law enforcement costs of illegal immigration." About half is tied to federal detention, removal, and prosecution of immigrants for entering the country illegally — which FAIR has long advocated. Another $1.4 billion is tied to National Guard and Coast Guard costs.


Editor’s note: Former New Times staff writer Terry Greene Sterling is the author of the new book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone and is writer-in-residence at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Jennifer Gaie Hellum assisted with research on white-nationalist groups. Sterling's personal Web site is

The numbers are ambiguous, at best. The feds who warehouse criminal aliens don't tally who is legal (green card, visa) and who isn't, so it's impossible to get true "law enforcement costs of illegal immigration."

In April, state Representative Kavanagh stated that, in Arizona, "illegals make up 15 percent of our prison population . . . It is a fact."

It's not a fact.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, like the federal Bureau of Prisons, doesn't break down data by inmates who are in the country legally and inmates who aren't. It does tally "foreign national" inmates, but that category includes legal and illegal immigrants.

Two Arizona officials actually did distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants: Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas long pointed to a disproportionate number of illegal-alien felons incarcerated in Arizona. Thomas kept the criminal data, but if you look at it, you'll see a lot of the "felons" were immigrants with no prior criminal records who'd been nabbed for such felonies as working at car washes with fake IDs or paying a smuggler to guide them through the desert.

Dr. John Tanton is articulate and friendly. The 76-year-old paints a portrait of himself living an idyllic life of retirement on the shores of Lake Michigan. He reports being happily married to a smart woman, Mary Lou, and the two are active in the community, their Methodist church, and in environmental affairs.

Tanton likes to hike, despite early-stage Parkinson's disease, and on a recent morning, he and Mary Lou walked for four miles through a vast nature preserve they'd helped create near their beloved home of Petoskey, Michigan.

After a post-hike lunch of meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy, he returned to his office and his life's work: restricting immigration into the United States in any way possible.

He dismisses a growing number of critics who tag him as a closeted white nationalist and charge that the true aim of the web of nonprofits he's started (and/or is associated with) have one secret, chilling goal: restricting immigration to preserve the nation for a white, European majority.

Tanton says he's not a white nationalist, and neither are his organizations. He says it's irresponsible to even make the claim.

In the 1970s, Tanton was a leader of the group Zero Population Growth, which promoted two-child families as a way to stabilize the nation's population. (Kids replace Mom and Dad, net population growth equals zero.)

He has long worried, he tells New Times, that the U.S. population will overrun natural resources and destroy the country.

Tanton sees the human population exploding along Malthusian lines, although the work of monk Thomas Malthus has been discredited, and the U.N. reports that the world population may stabilize by 2300 because fertility rates are trending downward.

Nevertheless, Tanton's Zero Population Growth movement helped influence a reduction in the size of American families. Even so, the U.S. population soared from about 225 million in 1982 to more than 307 million in 2009, in part because immigrant babies have bolstered the birth rate Tanton has labored so hard to reduce.

Many population experts say this is a good thing, that immigrant babies will become the workers who pay taxes to provide social services for the aging American population.

The retired ophthalmologist from Petoskey has a "fundamental disagreement" with that theory.

He says he's open to new ideas. But his views haven't changed much since he started FAIR in 1979. The group remains near and dear to his heart; he still sits on FAIR's board.

His self-described population concerns caused him to start a funding nonprofit, US Inc., the Social Contract Press (a publishing house), NumbersUSA, and CIS. Taken together, these groups make up the so-called Tanton Network.

The network enjoys a solid, loyal list of donors, including the "green" Weeden Foundation and the Mellon family.

Richard Mellon Scaife's foundations funneled more than $2.1 million to FAIR, NumbersUSA, and the CIS from 2004 to 2009, according to foundation reports. Another Mellon scion, Tim Mellon, donated $1.5 million to Brewer's defense fund for SB 1070.

A private foundation, Fernwood Advisors, is overseen by the heirs of Sidney Swensrud, who ran Gulf Oil for the Mellon family. Two Swensrud descendants sit on FAIR's board.

In 2007, the individual nonprofits in the Tanton Network were labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC subsequently dispatched Heidi Beirich, its director of research, to comb through Tanton's papers at the University of Michigan.

Beirich says she was stunned at what she found in the boxes — reams of letters from Tanton to leading white nationalists and "race scientists."

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