Contact: Gabriel McMorland | 412.719.3424 | [email protected]
Krystle M. Knight | 832.508.3676 | [email protected]
70+ Civic and Environmental Leaders and Organizations Sign Letter Calling on the Colcom Foundation to Cease Funding Anti-immigrant Hate Groups
List of Speakers:

Rep. Sara Innamorato, PA House State Representative of District 21
Rev. Ross Carmichael, Pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church 
Andy Kang, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition 
Sara Stock Mayo, Spiritual Leader and member of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Pittsburgh
Guillermo Perez, President of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement - Pittsburgh 

Pittsburgh, PA – Activists are inviting community groups to sign an open letter urging the Pittsburgh-based Colcom Foundation to stop funding its network of extremist anti-immigrant, white nationalist political groups. The letter is an effort of the Drop Colcom Campaign, which has three goals:

  1. Raising public awareness of the Colcom Foundation’s funding of anti-immigrant, white nationalist groups
  2. Encouraging organizations, elected officials, and activists to pressure Colcom to stop supporting its powerful anti-immigrant network
  3. Demanding Colcom redirect 100% of its funding to civic and conservation projects 

The letter outlines how the Colcom Foundation engages in the practice of greenwashing, using its contributions to myriad local and national environmental and civic organizations to legitimize itself as a positive force in the movement for environmental sustainability, while deflecting attention from its large contributions to anti-immigrant efforts. 

The Drop Colcom Campaign is inviting local, state, and national organizations, congregations, philanthropies and public officials to sign the letter and join in demanding Colcom stop funding white nationalism and anti-immigrant political work. Among the 70+ current signatories are local civic and environmental organizations, local and state-wide politicians, local businesses, and state-wide and national nonprofits. Jewish Family and Community Services (JFCS) and Casa San Jose, two Pittsburgh organizations who support immigrants and refugees, have signed on to this open letter, as has the Opportunity Fund, a local philanthropic foundation along with Three Rivers Community Foundation and The Douty Foundation. The campaign calls on other organizations, elected officials, and community leaders committed to equity and inclusion to add to the coalition of voices opposing Colcom's funding of hate groups.

The Colcom Foundation was established in 1996 by Cordelia Scaife May, an heiress to the Mellon-Scaife family fortune, to fund various anti-immigrant organizations founded by Dr. John Tanton. Tanton was an environmentalist and avowed eugenicist who advocated for a majority white population in the U.S. and a sealing off of the U.S.-Mexico border to protect against what he called a “Latin onslaught.” Based on tax filings between 2005 and 2017, Colcom has provided $180 million to anti-immigration groups demonstrating that the majority of their funding goes to this work.

Colcom awards grants to prominent Pittsburgh-area civic and environmental groups, but also many of the country’s leading anti-immigrant groups, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, U.S. Inc., Progressives for Immigration Reform, and the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). FAIR and CIS have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center and IRLI acts as the legal arm of FAIR. The consequences of these donations include the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 (IRLI), the infamous “show me your papers” law, and the smear campaign against Pennsylvania’s HB 279 (FAIR). According to IRS records for 2017, Colcom devoted $34.1 million to funding anti-immigrant groups. The amount represented 81% of total giving by the foundation that year.
WHO: The Drop Colcom Coalition: Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) - Pittsburgh, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action - Pittsburgh, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) - Pittsburgh, & Thomas Merton Center
WHAT: Press conference and photo opportunities.
WHEN: Monday, February 28, 2022 at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Thomas Merton Center, 5129 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

To the Colcom Foundation board of directors,

We write as a coalition of labor, faith, veteran, and immigrant rights activists, and community groups who work together to make our neighborhoods a more fair, equitable, and just place for all. We call on you, the Colcom Foundation, to stop funding the network of extremist anti-immigrant white nationalist political groups you’ve long supported. We ask that you stay out of the immigration policy debate altogether, after more than two decades of funding extremist anti-immigrant organizations.

According to IRS records for 2017, Colcom devoted $34.1 million to funding anti-immigrant groups. That amount represents 81% of total giving by the foundation that year. In 2019, Colcom spent $27.3 million on anti-immigrant groups. The New York Times has estimated that Colcom has provided $180 million to anti-immigration groups since 2005. The Colcom Foundation, founded by Cordelia Scaife May, funds four of the country’s leading anti-immigrant groups. Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) received the Colcom Foundation’s largest grant awards in 2019. Both FAIR and CIS have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and immigrant rights activists cite them as having played a key role in immigrant detention, death, and violence. In the foundation’s home city of Pittsburgh, we saw the most deadly antisemitic attack in our nation’s history perpetuated by an extremist who, because of rhetoric perpetuated by these anti-immigrant groups, blamed Jews for supporting immigrants.

Cordelia Scaife May was close friends with noted eugenicist and white nationalist John Tanton, and bankrolled his many organizations even prior to the 1996 founding of the Colcom Foundation. Tanton was the central figure in and founder of many anti-immigrant groups Colcom still funds today. Tanton, who spent years running a white nationalist publishing company, Social Contact Press, once wrote, “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

The foundation’s mission bears no mention of its anti-immigration agenda and instead markets itself as a champion for environmental causes by addressing “overpopulation.” The overpopulation argument has long been debunked by numerous scholars and studies; overconsumption is a much more significant problem, and furthering the overpopulation argument is both factually inaccurate and ethically reprehensible. We reject the ideas promoted by Scaife May and Tanton that immigration is a major cause of ecological degradation and we fundamentally refute that overpopulation is a threat to American society.

The greenwashing Colcom engages in affects all of our communities, as the facade of environmentalism and conservation disengenuously obscures the foundation’s true goal of stoking fear of immigrants and enacting dangerous, xenophobic policies. Enjoying museums, parks, and trails with the Colcom Foundation name engraved in stone masks the truth behind their anti-immigrant agenda. Once more, we call on Colcom to stop funding organizations that promote eugenics and white supremacy.
350 Pittsburgh
About Face: Veterans Against the War
Allegheny County Councilor Anita Prizio
Alliance for Police Accountability (APA)
Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Pittsburgh Chapter
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action Pittsburgh
Berks Gas Truth
Better Path Coalition
Bloomfield Development Corporation
Bridge Beyond
CAIR- Pittsburgh
Camp White Pine
Casa San José
Catapult Greater Pittsburgh
Chicken Latino 
CMU Against ICE
Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration
Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (CADBI) West (Pittsburgh)
County Councilor Olivia Bennett
East Coast Asian American Student Union
Environmental Health Project
Fossil Free Pitt Coalition
Global Women's Strike/US
Havertown Area Community Action Network (H-CAN)
Hello Neighbor
Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up!
Immigration Working Group of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod
Jewish Family and Community Services of Pittsburgh
Just Harvest
Justice at Work (Pennsylvania)
Las Palmas
Lawrenceville Pet Supply
Lawrenceville United
MILPA- Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania
Moulin Consulting LLC
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP)
National Young Farmers Coalition
Ohio Valley Environmental Resistance
Opportunity Fund
PA State Rep Joe HohensteinHD177 
PA State Rep Sara Innamorato
PA State Rep Summer Lee
PA State Senator Tim Kearney
Payday men's network/US
Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition
Pittsburgh Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid
Pittsburgh United
Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates
Polish Hill Civic Association
Project CoffeeHouse
Repair the World Pittsburgh
Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter
Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA
Sixth Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew Lutheran Church Congregation Council
Studio 9
Sunrise Movement, Pittsburgh Hub
The Alliance for Sustainable Communities Lehigh Valley
The Douty Foundation
The Restaurant Opportunities Center of Pennsylvania (ROC PA)
Three Rivers Community Foundation
Ukombozi 412
Veterans For Peace (National)
Veterans for Peace Chapter 31 Philadelphia Area
Veterans for Peace of Western PA (chapter 47)
WILPF- Greater Philadelphia Branch
Women of Color Global Women's Strike/US
Women’s Law Project