Progressives for Immigration Reform is a small, nativist 501(c)3 organization masquerading as a liberal group to advocate for changes to our current immigration system by claiming an environmental angle, and its rhetoric has found its way to local media.
In reality, PFIR is an “astroturfed” anti-immigration organization with deep ties to the network of anti-immigrant groups founded by white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton, including two Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups, the Center for Immigration Studies and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
According to PFIR, overpopulation and immigration are fueling environmental crises. The group uses this supposed environmentalist position to push its racist and nativist rhetoric outside of right-wing spaces. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls this method “greenwashing.”
PFIR held its inaugural conference in 2010 under Executive Director Leah Durant, who was formerly employed by FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. Current Executive Director Kevin Lynn, who took over in 2017, also founded Doctors Without Jobs and U.S. Tech Workers, both offshoots of PFIR that claim immigrants are stealing jobs from U.S.-born doctors and tech workers. According to the SPLC, PFIR continues to maintain close ties to the Center for Immigration Studies and Federation for American Immigration Reform. While there are other board members listed on the PFIR website, Lynn and “writer and analyst” Joe Guzzardi appear to be the only employees publicly pushing PFIR’s narrative in 2021. Guzzardi is a regularly published columnist, and Lynn is the only paid member of PFIR’s leadership according to its 2019 federal form 990.
Compared to other organizations within the Tanton network, PFIR is small, controlling under $1 million in assets in 2019. Based on past 990 forms, a significant portion of its money comes from the Colcom Foundation, the charitable organization managing the money of the late Cordelia Scaife May (an heir who funded both environmental and eugenicist anti-immigration causes). Colcom also provides significant amounts of money to FAIR, CIS, and other arms of the Tanton network.
Despite PFIR's small size, its narrative is rampant in local media. It has managed to spread its nativist rhetoric via small local news sites that regularly publish columns from Guzzardi, who also wrote over 700 articles for white nationalist site VDare between 2001 and 2010. He has also worked for another Tanton-associated SPLC-designated hate group, Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a state-level organization that has employed a known neo-Nazi.
Guzzardi’s work has appeared in publications as large as The Associated Press, but this year his columns regularly appear in small local newspapers across the country including Arizona’s Yuma Sun, Tennessee’s The Greeneville Sun and The Daily Times, South Carolina’s Berkeley Independent, California’s Red Bluff Daily News, and other similar publications. His columns also frequently appear on the hyperlocal digital news site Patch, which hosts local news for various communities across the country. Many of these columns include a small section disclosing his association with PFIR, but some do not. The disclaimers also don’t mention his history as a writer for white nationalist publication VDare, nor PFIR’s ties to Tanton and his network of hate groups. Instead, these sites have allowed him to spread anti-immigrant rhetoric without context, including a July column meant to commemorate Independence Day in which he fearmongered about an “illegal alien surge” and falsely suggested that the United States cannot handle the environmental impacts of immigration:
Princeton University estimates that, based on historical trends, new Green Card holders petition an average of three relatives – brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and even in-laws. Doing the simple math, a 2021 amnesty creates potentially anywhere from 36 million to 75 million new immigrants. This is exclusive of the illegal aliens that continue to cross into the country unimpeded. Combined, these are totals that the nation can’t support either environmentally or fiscally.
Without taking into account the illegal alien surge – U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 520,000 border apprehensions in March, April and May, a 21-year record – the Census Bureau projects that by 2050, the U.S. will have more than 100 million additional residents, a 31% increase, for a total population of 439 million. No one on Capitol Hill dares go on the record that their constituents’ communities might expand 31% during the next three decades if amnesty is enacted.
In another column, Guzzardi railed against the Biden administration for delaying the implementation of higher-wage requirements for H-1B visas, the permits given to skilled workers. He also made the wild claim that the Department of Labor is trying to actively hurt the economy by delaying the rule, pushing a xenophobic theory that the American government is seeking to undermine its own economy to benefit “the immigration lobby”:
The department isn't concerned about “legality" or “policy consequences," but rather with pressing on with Biden's agenda to subvert American workers, and appease the immigration lobby. The main beneficiaries of the extended delay are corporations that hire H-1B, H-1B1 and E-3 visa employees. Those visa categories apply to, respectively, tech workers, so-called specialty workers from Chile and Singapore, and so-called specialty workers from Australia. A review of the jobs for which foreign-born, alleged specialty workers have been hired shows that the tasks they perform are hardly special, and could easily be done by Americans – teachers, accountants and information technology engineers.
The website moneycontrol.com, which concentrates on Indian financial news, confirmed that the wage hike delay is “indeed a huge relief" to Indian nationals, since they are the “largest beneficiaries of the visa." In FY 2019, more than 70 percent of H-1B visas issued went to Indians. By extension, a win for Indians and Chinese – the other significant H-1B beneficiaries – also means another setback for American workers hoping to get a fair shake from the Biden administration.
Guzzardi’s claim that the H-1B program is bad for the U.S. economy because it provides cheaper labor for large corporations has no support from available data. This column also appeared without correction or comment in several outlets including the Massachusetts Patch, Arizona’s The Daily Courier, Noozhawk, and the Greeneville Sun.
In an even more openly xenophobic rant -- published in the New York Patch, the Imperial Valley Press, Arizona’s Havasu News, Noozhawk, The Daily Times, and South Carolina’s Hartsville Messenger -- Guzzardi advocated for arresting expectant mothers suspected of participating in “birth tourism” or traveling to the United States to have a child in the country:
Birth tourism is terrible for America, and poses a national security threat. Anchor babies, granted U.S. citizenship under the 14th Amendment’s misinterpretation, mean that thousands of individuals will, through a fraudulent process, receive free K-12 public education and myriad other affirmative benefits. Eventually, they will serve as anchors for their returned parents, and non-nuclear, extended family members who will receive the same entitlements.
With political courage, three solutions could in short order end birth tourism. First, prosecute offenders to the law’s full extent, including mothers. After obtaining a medical certificate that the mother can safely travel, fly her home. Otherwise, she can give birth while detained, under a medical doctor’s care, and then be sent home. She’ll achieve her original goal, a citizen child, but under dramatically different circumstances than she originally envisioned
Guzzardi did not expand on the claim that children born to foreign parents in the United States are a threat to national security, nor did he acknowledge that these children will not even be able to help their parents obtain a green card until they are 21 or that the citizen child’s petition for green cards for their immediate family is a process that can take over a decade just for a sibling.
While PFIR is small, it has still found a comfortable foothold in local media, with local news site letting a white nationalist pretending to be progressive shape the discussion on immigration in their communities.