Skip to main content

Trend One: The Decline of the Nativist Establishment

The Nativist Establishment includes national institutions (FAIR, US Inc., Americans for Immigration Control, and NumbersUSA), think tanks (Center for Immigration Studies), political action committees (US Immigration Reform PAC, Team USA PAC, and the Minuteman PACs), and a grassroots wing (including the two Minuteman factions, groups with a national footprint like California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR), Californians for Population Stabilization, and ALIPAC, networks like the FIRE Coalition, and assorted local groups).
Available data suggests a significant decline in support for the Nativist Establishment, with the numbers of donors/members, organizational financial support, and the number of local anti-immigrant groups all decreasing since a peak in 2007-2008.

Accurate and reliable information about the membership of the organizations constituting this Nativist Establishment is not readily available. To bolster their image, these groups often exaggerate their levels of support, and have generally been unwilling to substantiate their claims. There are sources of data, however, which do reveal the trajectory of support for the Nativist Establishment. Two of the oldest institutions and one relative newcomer, for example, sell their member/donor lists to direct mail companies. These lists tend to fairly accurately reflect member/donor support, particularly as a trend line. All three of the Establishment groups recorded sizeable declines in support during the past two years.

The oldest and arguably most influential institution in the Nativist Establishment, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, saw its membership fall from a high in 2007 of 45,000 to a low in 2011 of 18,848–a decrease of 58%.[4] Americans for Immigration Control, founded in 1983, saw its membership base decline from 218,931 in 2008 to 73,111 in 2011—a decline of more than 66%.[5] One of the newer groups to join the establishment back in 2005, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps had 115,000 active donors on its mailing list in 2008. Though the group officially shuttered its doors in 2010, its mailing list is still available but has fewer than 2,200 donors—a precipitous drop of 98%.[6]

Financial data provides another indicator of support trends for the Nativist Establishment. Unlike the paucity of membership data available, substantially more financial data is available—at least for the national institutions, political action committees, and grassroots groups with national footprints.



The apex for Nativist Establishment financial support occurred in 2008. In that year, ten different groups had a total income of $31,343,351.[7] By 2009, total gross receipts for these same groups had dropped to $22,403,267 a loss of more than 28% from the previous year.[8] For 2010, three of these groups have not yet made financial reports available. As a result, it is not yet possible to develop a complete picture for 2010. But for the seven groups for which reports are available, financial support dropped 32.8% from 2008 ($27,632,012) to 2010 ($18,565,445).[9] For a complete financial picture, see Appendix B.

To varying degrees, all of the significant players in the Nativist Establishment experienced the drop. Financial support for FAIR (including IRLI and FAIR CTF), for instance, declined just over 22% from 2008 to 2010. NumbersUSA financial support plummeted nearly 46% from 2008 to 2010, casting real doubt on the organization’s claims of expanding membership. John Tanton’s US Inc., which houses the nativist journal The Social Contract and has provided important seed money to local groups in the past, saw gross receipts drop from $3,360,118 in 2008 to $1,411,666 in 2010—a decline of roughly 58%.

What was true for the core organizations of the Nativist Establishment was also true for their political action committees, though not as dramatically.

For the Nativist Establishment political action committees (ALIPAC, US Immigration Reform PAC, the Minuteman PACs, and Tom Tancredo’s Team America PAC), the high water mark for contributions occurred in 2006, when the groups brought in a combined $1,623,319.[10] Totals for 2010 declined to a total of $1,216,811—a 25% decrease.[11] Between 2008 and 2010, contributions to the establishment PACs declined by 17%.



The FAIR-affiliated US Immigration Reform PAC had only $8,200 in cash on hand on July 1, 2011, according to its most recently available FEC filing. By way of contrast, in 2007, it had $24,510 in cash on hand at end of the year.

Team America PAC enters 2012 in a noticeably weakened condition. This political action committee is chaired by one of the anti-immigrant movement’s seminal figures, Tom Tancredo, and its executive director is Angela Bay Buchanan. As a Republican Congressman from Colorado, Tancredo founded the so-called House Immigration Reform Caucus, which has blocked meaningful reform legislation with its “enforcement-only” policies. Ms. Buchanan served President Reagan as Treasurer of the United States and managed commentator Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaigns. These campaigns included strong anti-immigrant planks, and succeed in writing opposition to birthright citizenship into the 1996 Republican Party platform.

Team America PAC spent $424 in 2011 in an unsuccessful attempt to save Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce from a re-call election. During the last seven years, Pearce had been one of the most visible faces of government for anti-immigrant politics in that state—a fate he shared with Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio. Pearce lost his recall, and Arpaio faces local opposition and a Justice Department investigation. Team America PAC now has only $5,237 cash on hand, according to its December 2011 report to the FEC.

Various Minuteman political action committees similarly fell on hard times. In 2006, Minuteman PAC Inc., associated with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and its founder Chris Simcox, received $997,574 in contributions. In 2007 it received $902,290, in 2008 that number was $826,712, in 2009 it was $594,200 in 2009, and in 2010 it was $513,979. According to its October Quarterly report to the Federal Election Commission, in 2011, Minuteman PAC Inc. had just $12,525 cash on hand, and had reported $45,835 in individual contributions.[12] While the trend line of contributions tends to go down almost from the start, the fall between 2010 and 2011 is of a significantly larger magnitude. To raise cash in 2011, the Minuteman PAC sent out racist birther fundraising appeals and added an Islamophobic “Third Jihad Watch” section to their website.[13]

The other PAC affiliated with the MCDC, the Declaration Alliance Minuteman Civil Defense Corps PAC has just $500 cash on hand, and received a minimal $27 in 2011.[14]

While the Minuteman Project-affiliated Minuteman Victory PAC still has $39,546 on hand, it received only $87 in new contributions during 2011.[15]

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), once known for its innovative and confrontational tactics and as a force among the grassroots, announced in November 2011 that it was (temporarily) closing its doors, with the hope of re-opening its operation in 2012. It reportedly failed in its after recent fund-raising efforts, and had only $327 in bank on July 1, 2011, according to FEC reports.[16]

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind

Author Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind

More posts by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind