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 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.
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 the from Rockford, Ill., to Lancaster, Pa.—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.”