A progressive outside organization is slamming three immigration groups that are frequently cited by conservative lawmakers, suggesting they have ties to white nationalism.
The People for the American Way (PFAW) released a report Monday that accuses the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA of trying to "poison the well" on immigration legislation and spreading extremist ideology.
"Despite the fact that these groups peddle misinformation and pander to the xenophobic fringe to further their anti-immigration goals, they continue to wield influence in the media, in Congress, and on the campaign trail," PFAW Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery said in a statement.
The group says in its report that the organizations have "ties to the dark underbelly of the anti-immigration movement, which smears immigrants using racial terms" pointing to quotes and financial contributions dating back to the 1980s.
The report quickly notes controversial comments on immigration from GOP presidential frontrunner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE, who has been under pressure to disavow the support of former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
Officials from the three groups — who say they are pro-immigrant but advocated for reduced immigration — denounced the report, suggesting that left-leaning groups had been making similar accusations for years.
"It's complete nonsense but they've pitching that for years," Mark Krikorian, the executive director for the Center for Immigration Studies told The Hill. "We're just completely opposed to any kind of ethnic and racial criteria for immigration. We just want less of it."
Dan Stein, the president for FAIR, added, separately, that any suggestion that the organization was trying to use immigration "to shape the ethnic basis of our society is full of crap" and amounted to "name calling."
The three groups also suggested that the outside groups accuse them of having ties to racism because left-leaning groups are "losing" the immigration debate.
"This stuff became a huge deal after they lost the amnesty fight of '07," Roy Beck, the executive director of NumbersUSA told The Hill, adding that the group has "no organic connection with anybody, anything that deals with white nationalism."
A Pew Center study released last year found that 49 percent of Americans wanted immigration levels to decrease, compared to 15 percent who wanted them increased and 34 percent who believe they should be kept at current levels.
But a separate Gallup poll released in July found that 34 percent of Americans wanted immigration levels to decrease, compared to 40 percent who wanted them to stay at current levels and 25 percent who wanted to see them increased.
The PFAW report — entitled "The Anti-Immigration Lobby: The White Nationalist Roots of the Organizations Fight Immigration" — explores the ties that the three groups have to John Tanton, a now-retired doctor. PFAW calls Tanton a "white nationalist" who help build the "anti-immigration movement as we know it today."
It's not the first time the organizations, which are frequently cited by conservative members of Congress, have been connected to Tanton or accused of having ties to racism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has repeatedly written on three organizations and classifies FAIR as a "hate group." In a 2002 article that mentions the organizations, the center said the "anti-immigration movement... is increasingly in bed with racist hate groups."
Tanton rebutted the article in 2003, adding that while he helped start NumbersUSA he is not a member of the board and that he helped get funding in 1985 for the Center for Immigration Studies but "played no role in the Center's growth or development."
The People for the American Way was founded by Norman Lear, the creator and producer of TV hits such as “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son.”