Sessions' allies on opposition to immigration have their roots in population control efforts

Published on January 11th, 2017

By Joseph Tanfani
January 10, 2017
As seen in:
Los Angeles Time

During his long fight against a path to legal status for people in the U.S. illegally, Sen. Jeff Sessions, poised to become attorney general, has leaned on allies in the immigration restriction movement. But the ideological foundation of these groups, dating from a different political era, was more about limiting population than securing the border.

Today, most environmentalists and anti-immigration activists line up on opposite political teams, but in the 1970s, controlling population was a key tenet of the environmental movement. When birthrates in the U.S. began falling, the groups focused on immigration. Eventually, mainstream environmentalists dropped their advocacy for limiting population growth.

But groups including NumbersUSA, the Foundation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies, still push for lower immigration levels, and Sessions has worked closely with them to stop legislation advancing a path to citizenship.

The biggest source of funding for these groups has been the Colcom Foundation of Pittsburgh, created by the late Cordelia Scaife May, an heiress to the Mellon family fortune who believed in restricting immigration to protect the environment.

Another major source of funds is Fred Stanback Jr., a North Carolina man who has also given millions to support the environment. Stanback, heir to a headache powder fortune, was best man at Warren Buffett’s wedding and an early investor in Buffett’s firm, Berkshire Hathaway.

Stanback, a well-known donor to conservation causes in North Carolina, makes donations through the Foundation for the Carolinas, one of the largest community foundations in the U.S. In 2014, Stanback donated 1,500 shares of Berkshire to the foundation, worth $397 million, tax returns show.

From 2005 to 2014, the three groups received nearly $12 million from the foundation, tax records show. Grants also went to other immigration restriction groups, like Californians for Population Stabilization, along with millions for population control and environmental groups.

“Numbers of people affect the environment,” said Stanback in a 2013 interview. “They want all the nice things that the rest of us have, but America can’t take all the poor people in the world.”

He said then that he favored a path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally but wanted controls on birthright citizenship to control “chain migration,” when legal migrants are joined by other family members.

“He’s been very supportive of our efforts because he sees there’s no way to create sustainability in this country if we keep adding 2.5 or 3 million people a year,” said NumbersUSA President Roy Beck.

Sessions acknowledged during his confirmation hearing Tuesday that it’s not practical to deport all immigrants.

“If you continually go through a cycle of amnesty, then you undermine respect for the law and encourage more illegal immigration into America,” he testified.

You are donating to :

How much would you like to donate?
$10 $20 $30
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note