The Private Money Shaping Public Conversation About Restricting Immigration

In-depth analysis. Always helpful to follow the money:

For years, the think tanks and organizations that pushed for tougher immigration restrictions operated on the fringes of public policy debates. Now, with a powerful friend in the White House, they are enjoying new influence. Promises to build a wall along the United States-Mexico border were a popular refrain at then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign rallies. As president, he has remained committed to lowering immigration levels and has escalated efforts to secure funding for the wall, starting by shutting down the government, and now by declaring a national emergency.

Cheering Trump on, and often providing intellectual ammunition for his administration’s policies, are nonprofits like the Center for Immigration Studies, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and NumbersUSA—all kept alive by philanthropic donations from a handful of foundations and donors.

Those organizations and others like them are not without controversy. The Center for Immigration Studies and Federation for American Immigration Reform are both designated as anti-immigrant hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, though the classification is rejected by supporters. NumbersUSA is not designated as a hate group by the watchdog, though several other, smaller groups working to restrict immigration are. The full list may be found here.

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, has also criticized the Center for Immigration Studies for releasing inaccurate research to advance its restrictionist agenda.

These think tanks depend on philanthropic donations for their survival. Donations made up 99 percent of revenue at both the Center for Immigration Studies and NumbersUSA in 2016. That year, they made up 96 percent of the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s revenue.

Many of those donations flow from a relatively small set of donors who’ve backed advocates and policymakers pushing for lower immigration levels over many years. These funders are finally seeing a return on their investment in a case study of the influence that can come from patiently backing policy work—so it’s worth taking a close look at their motivations and priorities.

Who Are These Funders and What Do They Want?

Foundations that give to organizations pushing to restrict immigration include the Colcom Foundation, the Scaife foundations, which include the Scaife Family Foundation and Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Weeden Foundation.

The Colcom Foundation is the most prolific of this group. The Pennsylvania-based funder gave nearly $18 million to groups pushing for lower immigration in 2016, about 60 percent of the foundation’s total giving that year.

The foundation was established in the 1990s by Cordelia Scaife May. May was a friend of John Tanton, who was involved in several anti-immigration organizations, including Colcom grantees the Center for Immigration Control, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and NumbersUSA. Tanton was known for his controversial views about eugenics and the need to defend a “European-American majority” in the United States. Colcom and other foundations that give to organizations Tanton was involved in have tried to distance themselves from racial or nativist motivations. But his views continue to provide fodder to critics.

May was the sister of Richard Mellon Scaife, the conservative billionaire behind the Scaife Family Foundation and Sarah Scaife Foundation. All three foundations give to policy groups that push to lower immigration.

Education and shaping public discourse around immigration levels is a big focus of Scaife’s grants to organizations pushing to restrict immigration. While the goal of this funding is to lower immigration levels, representatives from the Colcom and Weeden foundations stressed to Inside Philanthropy that they don’t consider themselves anti-immigrant, or even anti-immigration, though they do want to restrict the number of foreigners coming into the country.

For the Colcom Foundation, cutting immigration by about half to around 500,000 people a year would be a good starting point, said Vice President John Rohe. As a foundation, the organization does not lobby for specific policy measures, rather it hopes to influence public opinion. Rohe believes this work is necessary because of the emotional tenor of debates about immigration.

“This is fundamentally important to a country because immigration has, over time, been an emotional issue for the United States, and it still is today,” said Rohe. “It’s difficult for the United States to have a meaningful, informed conversation on the level of immigration somewhere in the middle.”

Rather than emotions, Rohe believes concerns for the labor market and environment should inform the conversation around immigration levels. “What should the level of immigration be that preserves the carrying capacity and ensures a long-term, pro-immigrant, sustainable level of immigration? Which, by the way, should be administered on a racially neutral basis,” Rohe said. “There should be no room, zero tolerance, for racism in this policy.”

The environment comes up a lot with funders that support restricting immigration levels. They believe environmental sustainability is threatened by population growth fueled primarily through immigration.

“We currently have about 328 million people. You’re looking at almost a one-third increase in 50 years in a country that has biodiversity losses, that has 40 states confronting water shortages, that has trouble controlling the toxic emissions from cars and gridlock and energy in its cities, that is dealing with urban sprawl devouring millions of acres every year, and then you add 103 million people,” Rohe said, citing a 2015 Pew Research Center report that estimated immigrants and their children would account for more than 100 million people added to the U.S. population by 2065.

“Some would have a concern that adding another 103 million people in 50 years to a nation that’s already straining its water resources,” Rohe added. “Are our landfills too under-utilized? Are our roads too open? Is there too much farmland? Is there too much fresh water? Is the water too clean?”

The Weeden Foundation funds groups pushing for lower immigration for similar reasons, though immigration work makes up a much smaller percentage of the funder’s total giving. “Immigration is addressed in the context of U.S. population growth and its impact on the environment, particularly on habitat for wildlife,” said Don Weeden, the foundation’s executive director.

“It’s not a major effort for us, but we feel it’s important to address the drivers of biological impoverishment, and that includes the United States’ very high level of consumption and its relatively high population growth,” he said. “It’s a combination of both that’s really driving a combination of unsustainable trends, including sprawl, energy use, CO2 emissions and pollution generally.”

Not everyone agrees that overpopulation is or will in the near future be a problem in the U.S. In fact, some economists argue that immigration is needed, given falling birth rates.

As the country’s birth rate declines and population ages, some economists, like Lyman Stone, a columnist for Vox and an agricultural economist at the Department of Agriculture, argue that population growth and the contribution of immigration are not only desirable, but necessary for long-term prosperity.

Stone also argued in Vox that the role population growth plays in climate change, whether through birth rate or immigration, has been overhyped.

Groups advocating on behalf of immigrants have also objected to the foundations’ use of conservation as a justification for their work to curb immigration. Daranee Petsod, president of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, stressed that overpopulation is not an issue in the United States.

“The U.S. birth rate is at a 30-year low, and many economists believe that more immigration is needed,” Petsod said. “In parts of the country that are depopulating—from Rockford, Illinois, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania—mayors, business and civic leaders are actively seeking immigrants and refugees to help revitalize their communities.”

“It’s not valid to connect the two issues because limiting immigration does not advance conservation goals,” she said. “Anti-immigrant groups often hide behind the guise of conservation to promote their restrictionist agenda.”

The Numbers

Among the foundations, Colcom gives the most—both in dollar amounts and percentage of total grants—to groups working to restrict immigration.

With about $440 million in reported assets in 2015, the foundation also gives to groups that tackle conservation from other angles. Past giving has especially favored conservation efforts in the foundation’s native Pennsylvania.

However, the majority of grants each year—about 60 percent in 2016—go to groups that focus on immigration, rather than deal directly with the environment. The biggest beneficiaries of this strategy in 2016 were the Federation for American Immigration Reform with $7.4 million in grants, NumbersUSA with $6.8 million and the Center for Immigration Studies with $1.7 million.

The foundation also gave to Americans for Immigration Control, Californians for Population Stabilization, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, Negative Population Growth Inc. and Progressives for Immigration Reform.

Perhaps an even more telling sign of Colcom’s stature in the field is how much of the organizations’ annual revenues are dependent on the foundation’s donations.

For the Federation for American Immigration Reform, in 2016 Colcom grants made up about two-thirds of the think tank’s total revenue, and nearly 70 percent of contributions the organization received.

Colcom’s giving makes up a similar percentage of NumbersUSA’s revenue and total gifts. At the Center for Immigration Studies, Colcom’s giving hovers at just under 60 percent of the nonprofit’s revenue. For smaller organizations, Colcom can serve as an even more significant lifeline. The foundation’s donations made up about 97 percent of the Immigration Reform Law Institute’s funding in 2016.

The Weeden and Scaife foundations also give to support anti-immigration groups, but to a much smaller extent when compared to their overall grantmaking. In 2015, the Scaife Family Foundation gave about 7 percent, or $225,000, to organizations arguing for less immigration. That number was near 2 percent for the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

With its other giving, the Sarah Scaife Foundation carries on founder Richard Mellon Scaife’s support of conservative and libertarian causes. In 2015, the foundation supported the conservative think tanks the Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation, along with George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the free-market economics think tank and research center supported by Charles Koch.

The Scaife Family Foundation stands out from the others for its focus on the well-being of domestic animals. The foundation supports several organizations that work with cats, dogs and horses.

The Weeden Foundation typically gives 5 to 10 percent of its grantmaking dollars to organizations like the Center for Immigration Studies. In 2015, the foundation reported about $31 million in assets.

That year, about $165,000 out of the funder’s $2.2 million in grantmaking went to think tanks working to reduce immigration, including the Center for Immigration Studies, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and NumbersUSA, along with Californians for Population Stabilization, Negative Population Growth Inc. and Progressives for Immigration Reform.

With the rest of its giving, the Weeden Foundation supports environmental organizations, conservation efforts and other means to curbing population growth, including groups that advocate for reproductive rights.

The Colcom, Scaife and Weeden foundations are not the only funders supporting hardline immigration organizations, though most others give at much lower levels.

The F.M. Kirby Foundation, Jaquelin Hume Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Weiler Foundation, and William H. Donner Foundation have also given to the Center for Immigration Studies, Federation for American Immigration Reform, or both, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive nonprofit watchdog and advocacy organization. However, those donations were at much lower levels than the Colcom or Scaife foundations.

Of course, foundations are not the only avenues donors have to give to organizations. They can give as individuals or funnel money through donor-advised funds.

Money that comes from individuals or flows through donor-advised funds is harder to track than foundation giving. Like any philanthropy, donor-advised funds are required to disclose their grantees on publicly accessible tax forms, but they’re not required to share where that funding comes from. This anonymity can be attractive to donors who want to give to causes that they may feel are controversial.

The Foundation for the Carolinas, which hosts 2,600 donor-advised funds, is one major conduit of money to organizations pushing for immigration restriction. In 2016, the foundation gave around $4.3 million to such groups. In 2015, that number was about $4.8 million. NumbersUSA was the biggest recipient, racking up about $5 million in grants over two years. These gifts, none of which can be traced back to a specific funder, made up a relatively small percentage of the foundation’s total giving each of those years, which ranged from about $260 to $290 million.

Donors Trust is another donor-advised fund, known for its support of conservative causes. The fund has given some money to anti-immigration think tanks over the years, according to a database maintained by Conservative Transparency, which tracks donations to conservative causes and candidates. However, the amounts have never rivaled foundations like Colcom or even the Foundation for the Carolinas in size.

From 2002 to 2017, the trust gave a little more than $3 million to hardline immigration organizations. NumbersUSA was the biggest beneficiary of that giving, racking up $2.7 million over that 15-year period.

The Criticism

Philanthropic support of anti-immigration organizations has attracted intensifying criticism in recent years. “For decades, these foundations have financed anti-immigrant groups to spread a narrative that demonizes and dehumanizes immigrants. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented statements and actions by many of these groups as being racist, bigoted and xenophobic,” said GCIR’s Petsod. “Their efforts to espouse fear and hate have divided our nation and have resulted in policies that are anathema to American values.”

As Petsod highlighted, several of the think tanks these foundations support are characterized as anti-immigrant hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). That includes two of the three most prominent organizations, the Center for Immigration Studies and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The SPLC and its designations are not without their own critics, especially on the right, which has accused the watchdog of inappropriately labeling groups it disagrees with as extremists.

Don Weeden sees the center’s hate group designations as another symptom of a national conversation that has deteriorated into name calling. In the past, the Weeden Foundation has given to Californians for Population Stabilization, the Center for Immigration Studies and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which are labeled as hate groups by the SPLC.

“I vouch for our grantees,” Weeden said.

“It’s a kangaroo court—that’s what the Southern Poverty Law Center is doing in labeling these groups ‘hate groups,’” he said. “In fact, it strikes me that there are those on the left—and I’m not saying everyone on the left—who have chosen to smear rather than debate. Perhaps you can say it’s easier, and in some respects more effective, but it has led in part to the polarization on this issue and the lack of national debate on this issue, as well.”

In fact, Weeden says that his foundation gets criticized from both sides of the aisle for the work it supports.

“We and our grantees get criticized on the right for being radical environmentalists. You turn it around and you get criticized from the left for being right-wing reactionaries. So where is the truth?” he said. “Well, it’s none of the above.”

“We don’t look at issues through a political lens. We look at them largely because our mission is to protect biodiversity. We look at it through that lens.”

Colcom’s Rohe echoed Weeden’s lament about the reluctance at informed, measured debate around immigration.

“This has been an emotionally charged issue, and the effort to have an informed, constructive, civic dialogue has been difficult for the country over the course of history,” he said. “Hopefully we can move beyond that.”

Rohe also denied that his foundation would have any part in supporting racism or organizations with racist agendas.

“It would not be funded by this foundation, but there could be people that would be drawn to this issue for the wrong reasons,” Rohe said. “I can’t apologize for that. The foundation would never support that.”

Source: The Private Money Shaping Public Conversation About Restricting Immigration

Trump immigration plan could keep whites in majority for up to 5 more years – Washington Post

Another example of good data-based analysis:

President Trump’s proposal to cut legal immigration rates would delay the date that white Americans become a minority of the population by as few as one or as many as five additional years, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

The plan, released by the White House last month, would scale back a program that allows people residing in America to sponsor family members living abroad for green cards, and would eliminate the “diversity visa program” that benefits immigrants in countries with historically low levels of migration to the U.S. Together, the changes would disproportionately affect immigrants from Latin America and Africa.

Currently, the Census Bureau projects that minority groups will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in America in 2044. The Post’s analysis projects that, were Trump’s plan to be implemented, the date would now be between 2045 and 2049, depending on how parts of it are implemented.

(The Post’s methodology for estimating the annual impact of Trump’s proposed cuts is explained in more detail at the bottom of this story. Projecting this far into the future based entails certain assumptions that could alter the range, but demographic experts said The Post’s approach was reasonable.)

All told, the proposal could cut off entry for more than 20 million legal immigrants over the next four decades. The change could have profound effects on the size of the American population and its composition, altering projections for economic growth and the age of the nation’s workforce, as well as shaping its politics and culture, demographers and immigration experts say.

“By greatly slashing the number of Hispanic and black African immigrants entering America, this proposal would reshape the future United States. Decades ahead, many fewer of us would be nonwhite, or have nonwhite people in our families,” said Michael Clemens, an economist at the Center for Global Development (CGD), a think tank that has been critical of the proposal. “Selectively blocking immigrant groups changes who America is. This is the biggest attempt in a century to do that.”

Trump’s plan calls for eliminating all family-based visa programs that are not used for sponsoring either minor children or spouses. That means several current family-based visa programs – including those that allow sponsorship for siblings, adult parents and adult children – would be canceled. It also calls for the elimination of the diversity visa lottery, and the reallocation of its 50,000 visas to reduce the number of immigrants already on a backlog and to go to a new visa based on “merit.”

The Post analyzed a low-end and high-end estimate for cuts to legal immigration under the Trump plan. The low-end estimate, provided by Numbers USA, a group that favors limiting immigration, suggests that about 300,000 fewer immigrants will be admitted legally on an annual basis. A high-end estimate from the Cato Institute, which favors immigration, suggests as many 500,000 fewer immigrants would be admitted. Cato bases its number, in part, on assumptions that more family visa categories will be cut.

Last August, Trump endorsed a Senate bill written by Sens. Tom Cotton , R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., that would cut legal immigration levels by close to 500,000 people annually, according to estimates by the bill’s authors. The White House has not released any estimates of its own plan.

If Trump’s plan is not implemented, the white share of the population is expected to fall from above 60 percent in 2018 to below 45 percent in 2060. The Post’s lower estimates of the impact of Trump’s proposal show whites staying the majority group until 2046.

To its defenders, the White House proposal offers a reasonable compromise. Trump would move America to an immigration system based less on bringing families together or encouraging diversity and more on bringing in those with skills proven to the economy. (He also proposes protecting about 1.8 million young immigrants known as “dreamers” in exchange for a significant boost to funding for border enforcement and a border wall.)

“It is time to begin moving toward a merit-based immigration system – one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country,” Trump said in his State of the Union address last week.

But by reducing the country’s overall population, the plan would eventually reduce the overall growth rate of the American economy. Under Trump’s plan, the American economy could be more than $1 trillion smaller than it would have been two decades from now. That’s largely because the economy would have fewer workers.

The plan could also raise the median age of the American worker. About four of every five immigrants is projected to be under the age of 40, while only half of the country’s overall population is that young, according to Census Bureau data. A demographic crunch is already expected due to millions of upcoming retirements from the aging “baby boomer” generation, raising concerns about the long-term solvency of programs such as Social Security and Medicare that rely on worker contributions.

The plans could have long-term ramifications for America’s political system, given that about 54 percent of all immigrants are naturalized within 10 years and thus able to vote, although naturalization rates vary widely based on immigrants’ country of origin, according to the latest data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Hispanic immigrants who are registered voters favor Democrats over Republicans by a 70 to 18 margin, and registered voters who are Asian immigrants favor Democrats by a 50 to 33 margin, according to the most recent data available from the Pew Research Center. (Similar data was not available for African immigrants.) Approximately 78 percent of immigrants from Africa and 65 percent of immigrants from Asia were naturalized within 10 years.

But while these effects of delaying America’s diversification would be significant, they would not fundamentally change the country’s demographic destiny. Experts say the main driver of diversification in America is the native-born Hispanic population, which grew by about five million from 2010 to 2016, just as the native-born white population shrank by about 400,000 over the same time period, according to Census Bureau data.

Among young Americans, the share of the non-Hispanic white population is already under 60 percent – a number that falls close to 50 percent among newborns and toddlers.

“You can shut the door to everyone in the world and that won’t change,” said Roberto Suro, an immigration and demography expert at the University of Southern California. “The president can’t do anything about that. If your primary concern is that the American population is becoming less white, it’s already too late.”

But if Trump’s plan were put in place, many of the family immigrants who would eventually be exposed to the cuts come from Latin America. In fiscal year 2017, about 28,000 Mexicans received family-based visas, with immigrants from Asia receiving almost 90,000 and immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean receiving more than 60,000, according to State Department data.

The changes to legal immigration could vary widely depending on unforeseeable events, including increased economic development in Asian and African countries, dislocation caused by climate change or decisions made by future administrations.

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution , produced a separate estimate of the impact of Trump’s proposed cut to legal immigration. He found that the plan would delay the arrival of a “minority-majority” nation by three years, to 2047, and stressed his projections were the best possible with the publicly available information.

Another big factor is what happens to the population of roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants, including the “dreamers,” currently in the country. The Post’s calculations (like the Census Bureau’s) currently assume they will stay. But their future status is unresolved, and if any significant number of them are forced to leave the country, it could push back the minority-majority date as well.

“The President has laid out a reasonable framework that addresses the key security issues identified by the frontline men and women” of the Department of Homeland Security, said Tyler Houlton, an agency spokesman, in a statement. “It secures the borders and ensures we can remove those we apprehend, including criminal aliens. It also seeks to protect nuclear family migration while ending two problematic visa programs that do not meet the economic or security needs of the country.”

Trump’s proposal is unlikely to be implemented in its current form. It requires congressional approval, and Democratic leadership opposes it.

“These historically high levels of legal immigration only date back a few decades,” said Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA. “The numbers we’ve seen recently are abnormal, and Trump’s proposal would eventually return us closer to historical levels.”

Immigration advocates say the percentage of the foreign-born population has been higher at several points in American history, even if the overall number of incoming immigrants has increased. Looking at the share of the population, which accounts for overall population growth, recent levels of legal immigration appear roughly in line with historical averages, with a decrease after World War II an outlier, according to Migration Policy Institute statistics.

“Recent immigration flows have been a small fraction of historical levels,” said Clemens of CGD.

Others who favor immigration restrictions have pointed to the necessity of reducing what they call the social disruption of high levels of immigration, which strikes some liberal critics as code for keeping America’s white population in the majority.

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an immigration restrictionist in Congress, said on Twitter last year.

One of the biggest unknowns is how long new immigrants will identify as racial minorities.

Some academics, as Duke Professor William Darity Jr. wrote in The American Prospect, argue that many Latino immigrants “identify less as Hispanic and more as non-Hispanic white” the longer they stay in America – a phenomenon similar to the absorption of Irish and Italian immigrants into the idea of “whiteness.”

Other demographers say a real and important shift is underway, with important consequences for American politics. They note that many Hispanics already identify as white and yet still vote like a minority group. “The contention that [Hispanics] will think of themselves as white in the future is unsettled,” said Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of a book about how demographic changes will affect American politics. “It definitely seems like they’re a different breed of cat.”

But perhaps the most lasting impact of Trump’s policies would be not to America, but to the millions of immigrants from poor and developing countries that the United States would be denying entry to, said Angélica Cházaro, a law professor at the University of Washington who specializes in questions of immigration.

“We’re talking about susceptibility to pain and violence and economic and social instability for millions of black and brown people,” Cházaro said. “People have organized their lives around the possibility of legal immigration, and this forecloses that route.”

Methodology

In 2014, the Census Bureau projected the U.S. population by race, ethnicity, sex, age and nativity. Those projections, the most recent available, are the basis for the prediction that the country will become “majority minority” in 2044.

To adjust those forecasts, we assumed cuts of between 300,000 and 500,000 per year and we assumed the cuts would be applied proportionally to each race and ethnicity based on their forecast representation in the immigrant population. The 300,000 estimate from NumbersUSA comes from projections of the Trump administration’s plan to cut several kinds of family-based immigration visas – those for siblings (65,000 visas annually), those for adult children (another 50,000) and those for adult parents of immigrants (another 125,000). NumbersUSA also projects a 55,000 reduction in annual visas awarded from the elimination of the diversity visa lottery.

The high estimate of Trump’s proposal found by the Cato Institute starts with all of the cuts found by NumbersUSA. But Cato also says other family-based visa programs are likely to be cut under Trump’s plan. For instance, Cato says a program for visas for children of non-citizens will be cut, because a Senate proposal similar to the White House framework eliminates it. That accounts for an additional 95,000 fewer visas annually between the groups’ projections. Cato also projects the annual impact of cutting visas for adult parents will be far greater than NumbersUSA does, because Cato looked at the number of these visas awarded in 2016, whereas NumbersUSA took a 10-year average of these visas. That accounts for an additional difference of 50,000.

We projected children that the lost immigrants would have had based on Census Bureau estimates of their female population of childbearing age, plus Pew Research projections of first-generation immigrant fertility by race and origin. In some cases, when it was the only data available, we used Census Bureau figures for “black only” and “Asian only” as a rough analog for “black, non-Hispanic” and “Asian, non-Hispanic.” Other groups were treated similarly.

The Census Bureau made no distinction between documented and undocumented immigrants. Our estimates only include the policy’s direct effect on legal immigration, but our models of the race, age and sex of immigrants are based on the full immigrant population. We found that more complicated models produced similar results.

We arrived at rough estimates of GDP growth by comparing our predictions for the country’s entire population under various scenarios with forecasts of per-person economic output by PwC , a global consulting firm. The estimates don’t account for how the exclusion of certain groups of immigrants would change the overall age, education and skill level of the labor force.

via Trump immigration plan could keep whites in majority for up to 5 more years – Chicago Tribune