John Tanton

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John Tanton
John H. Tanton (main photo for Wikipedia).jpg
Born 1934 (age 82–83)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Residence Petoskey, Michigan, U.S.
Alma mater Michigan State University
University of Michigan
Occupation ophthalmologist, activist
Spouse(s) Mary Lou Tanton

John H. Tanton (born 1934) is a retired ophthalmologist from Petoskey, Michigan, and an activist in efforts aimed at reducing immigration levels in the United States. He was the founder and first chairman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an immigration-reduction non-profit organization. He was the co-founder of the Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit research group; and NumbersUSA, a grassroots lobbying group. He was chairman of U.S. English and ProEnglish. He is the founder of The Social Contract Press, which publishes the quarterly journal The Social Contract.

Early life[edit]

Tanton was born in 1934 in Detroit.[1] In 1945, he moved with his family to a farm northeast of Bay City, Michigan on which his mother had been raised and on which he worked.[2]

Tanton graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Michigan State University in 1956, and received his doctor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1960.[1] He received an M.S. in ophthalmology from the University of Michigan in 1964.[1]


Tanton ran an ophthalmology practice in Petoskey, Michigan.[3]

Political advocacy[edit]

Tanton is a proponent of immigration reduction to the United States.[3] He is the founder and patron of many immigration reduction non-profit organizations.[4] He founded Petoskey chapters of the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood and, for a time, became the national president of Zero Population Growth. Unable to secure support from colleges, in 1979, he founded the non-profit Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) with early support from Warren Buffet and Eugene McCarthy.[3] By 1983, he co-founded U.S. English.[5][6]

Additionally, Tanton co-founded and has been heavily involved in the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Numbers USA, the American Immigration Control Foundation, American Patrol/Voices of Citizens Together, Californians for Population Stabilization, and ProjectUSA. Donations flow through U.S. Inc.,[7][8] which also supports Scenic Michigan, the International Dark-Sky Association, the Foreign Policy Association's Great Decisions Series, and the Harbor Springs chapter of the North Country Trail Association. Tanton serves on the Board of Population-Environment Balance.[9]

Tanton founded the Social Contract Press in 1990. He serves as its publisher. Additionally, he has been the editor-in-chief of its journal, The Social Contract, since 1998.[10]

The Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized Tanton's nativism.[11][12]

Resignation from U.S. English[edit]

In 1988, shortly before a referendum in Arizona to make English the state's official language, a private memo written by Tanton was leaked to the media. In this memo, he expressed concerns about the potential political, cultural, environmental, and demographic impacts of continued high levels of Hispanic immigration into the U.S., especially if the Hispanic fertility rate remained higher than that of other ethnic groups. He ended by calling for limiting the flow of immigrants to a rate that would enable them to be assimilated. However, several of his questions and statements were provocative, such as: "Will Latin American migrants bring with them the tradition of the mordida (bribe), the lack of involvement in public affairs, etc.?", "What are the differences in educability between Hispanics (with their 50% dropout rate) and Asiatics (with their excellent school records and long tradition of scholarship)?", and "On the demographic point: perhaps this is the first instance in which those with their pants up are going to get caught by those with their pants down!"[13]

After the media published the memo, several prominent members of U.S. English cut their ties with the organization, including advisory board member Walter Cronkite and its executive director Linda Chavez, a prominent conservative Republican columnist.[14] Tanton himself eventually resigned, although he complained that he had been smeared as a racist.[15]

Funding of FAIR[edit]

Under Tanton's leadership FAIR was criticized for taking funding for many years from the Pioneer Fund, a non-profit foundation dedicated to “improving the character of the American people” by, among other things, promoting the practice of eugenics, or selective breeding.[14] FAIR responded to this criticism by asserting that the Pioneer Fund clearly states that it supports equal opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, national origin, or ethnicity; that other major organizations, including universities in the United States and other countries, have also accepted grants from the Fund;[16] and that the Pioneer Fund's contributions to FAIR were used only for the general operation of the organization.[17] In February 2009, after the Southern Poverty Law Center publicized these allegations against him, Tanton challenged that organization to a public debate at the National Press Club.[18]

Tanton’s environmentalist and immigration-reduction activities are well-documented in 17 file boxes of archives he donated to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.[19][20]

Personal life[edit]

Tanton is married to Mary Lou Tanton. She chairs the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC.[21] She also serves as the first vice president of Scenic Michigan.


  1. ^ a b c "John Tanton Papers 1960-2007: Biography". Bentley Historical Library. University of Michigan. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ Sustainable Agriculture?
  3. ^ a b c DeParle, Jason (April 17, 2011). "The Anti-Immigration Crusader". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  4. ^ SPLC: John Tanton's Network, Intelligence Report, Summer 2002.
  5. ^ Christopher Hayes (2006-04-24). "Keeping America Empty -- In These Times". In These Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  6. ^ Pear, Robert (2007-07-15). "Little-Known Group Claims a Win on Immigration". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-22. Numbers USA is one of many organizations fostered by John H. Tanton, an ophthalmologist from Michigan who has also championed efforts to protect the environment, limit population growth and promote English as an official language. 
  7. ^ "The Puppeteer," Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center, Summer 2002
  8. ^ Hate in the News: The Puppeteer. June 18, 2002
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Social Contract Journal
  11. ^ John Tanton's files, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
  12. ^ SPLC: The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance. Intelligence Report, February 2009.
  13. ^ "Memo to WITAN IV Attendees from John Tanton." Intelligence Report, Summer 2002. Southern Poverty Law Center, January 20, 2009
  14. ^ a b Potok, Mark, Intelligence Report, Spring 2004, pp. 59-63.
  15. ^ Tanton, John (30 Oct 1988). "U.S. English - it's being victimized by the `Big Lie'". Houston Chronicle. p. 5. 
  16. ^ Ferris State University
  17. ^ Federation for American Immigration Reform: Response to the Southern Poverty Law Center
  18. ^ Tanton, John. "Press Release: John Tanton challenges Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to Debate over 'Lies'." February 3, 2009.
  19. ^ Beirich, Heidi. “The Tanton Files.” Intelligence Report. Winter 2008.
  20. ^ *John Tanton's files, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.
  21. ^ Bulkeley, Deborah (2006-02-25). "Foe of immigrant tuition denies supremacist links". Deseret News. pp. B.01. ISSN 0745-4724. 

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