Opponents of Proposition 187 stepped up their rhetoric Friday, blasting what they described as an ominous link between a foundation that has supported inflammatory racial research and a co-author of the November ballot measure that would deny most government services to illegal immigrants.
The connection was branded as ludicrous by proponents of the ballot measure, who said the allegations by Taxpayers Against 187 are a desperation tactic against an initiative that has registered consistent support among likely voters in pre-election polls.
At issue is the relationship between Proposition 187 co-author Alan C. Nelson, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Pioneer Fund, a New York-based organization that has supported research by scientists including the late William B. Shockley, who held that blacks are inherently intellectually inferior to whites.
When former federal immigration chief Nelson helped write the initiative last year, he was a Sacramento lobbyist for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national organization that advocates sealing the nation’s borders and reducing immigration. The federation receives an annual donation from the Pioneer Fund, which has amounted to more than $600,000 since 1988, according to tax returns.
At a Los Angeles news conference, Taxpayers Against 187 news director Scott Macdonald said the set of facts establish a “very direct link from the Pioneer Fund to Proposition 187.”
“They somehow expect us not to believe that there is a link of ideas and money and people?” he asked.
Passage of the proposition, Macdonald charged, would further the goals of the Pioneer Fund, which was described in an accompanying press release as a “white supremacist” organization. When asked for clarification, however, Macdonald carefully refused to explicitly characterize proponents of the ballot measure as holding racist or white supremacist ideals.
Under the provisions of Proposition 187, illegal immigrants would be denied education, non-emergency health care and other government benefits. Although the measure has popular support, it is opposed by an array of education, medical and law enforcement groups, including the California School Boards Assn., California State PTA and Congress of California Seniors.
Speaking at the news conference, Max Turchen, chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of the seniors’ organization, charged that the measure fosters a police state mentality by requiring the investigation of people suspected of being illegal immigrants. “What are the criteria? The color of your skin? The way you speak? Your last name?” he asked.
But proponents of the initiative contended that the opposition was engaging in undemocratic smear tactics.
“They’re just trying to tar and feather the messengers because the message is too strong to attack,” said initiative co-author Harold Ezell, who served as western regional chief of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under Nelson. “FAIR was never a player at all in the initiative.”
Nelson and federation Executive Director Daniel A. Stein also insisted Friday that the federation had nothing to do with the drafting of Proposition 187. “The last year with FAIR I was on a half-time contract when I worked on the initiative,” said Nelson, who no longer works as a federation consultant.
Stein added that his organization has no qualms about accepting donations from the Pioneer Fund, a publicly registered charitable foundation formed in the late 1930s.
The fund, he said, has provided support for research at such institutions as Cornell and the University of Illinois. “We take our place proudly behind other grantees.”
In the past, the philosophical roots of the Pioneer Fund has drawn criticism from sources ranging from former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas to CBS. On Friday, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in an interview that the organization has “been involved in funding racist activities for decades.”
Cooper cited a portion of the fund’s original charter calling for the encouragement of “reproduction of individuals descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original 13 states or from related stock.”
Pioneer Fund President Harry Weyher, contacted later, said the charter provision referred to a program under which less well-to-do parents with such attributes as courage and strength could receive financial assistance in order to have an additional child. The word white , he said, was stricken from the charter in 1985.