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Otis Graham Jr. papers

Identifier: MS2263

Scope and Contents

This collection relates to Otis L. Graham Jr.’s scholarly research on the history of immigration and immigration reform/restriction and his involvement with immigration reform groups.

The collection contains correspondence, working records, and publications of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Center for Immigration Studies, and U.S. Inc. Also included are records related to Graham’s later writings on the topic of the history of immigration and immigration reform in the United States. These records, mostly contained within his research files, are primarily newspaper articles, journal articles, and other publications that document immigration policy and immigration in the American political and cultural realms from the 1970s onward.

Otis L. Graham assembled this collection to assist with the writing of his memoir, “Immigration Reform and America’s Unchosen Future.” It is not wholly representative of Graham’s involvement with immigration reform groups, but rather more closely relates to the research he conducted for his memoir.

Records related to the Federation for Immigration Reform are particularly strong for the early history of the organization, from 1978 until about 2000. Working records for the Center for Immigration Studies are less complete, but publications of the Center are well represented between the years 1993 and 2008. Among these records are correspondence between Otis Graham and the board and staff members of both organizations including John H. Tanton, Mark Krikorian, Dan Stein, and Richard D. Lamm.

Also documented are activities that spanned across many of the immigration reform groups that Graham was involved with. For example, John Tanton organized a regular meeting of writers involved in the immigration reform movement. Graham attended these meetings, often referred to as "WITANs" or "Writers’ Workshops", and was active in their organization.

Records related to Graham’s service with the board of FAIR and CIS mostly focus on immigration reform on a national level. However, many of the research files that Graham collected relate to immigration and immigration policy at a local-level, mostly in California. Among these materials are newsletters and other records related to local immigration reform and anti-immigration groups (including: Minuteman Civil Defense Corps; NumbersUSA; Negative Population Growth) Newsletters, correspondence, and other records that document pro-immigration-reform politicians at various levels (local, state, national) are also represented.

Topics covered by this collection are mostly exclusive to the United States. However, some materials cover broad trends in immigration that discuss global affairs. Topics covered by this collection include: population growth and population restrictions; immigration policy and reform; labor and its relation to immigration; immigration and environmentalism; and national security and immigration.


  • 1975-2008

Conditions Governing Access

The two documents in Folder 41a of Box 2 titled "E-mail and memo regarding the FAIR Board" are closed (and have been removed and replaced with a separation sheet) to research until 2027. The documents will be open to research after 10 years from the date of Otis Graham's death. During this ten-year period permission to use may be granted by the Chairman of the Board of FAIR. Following this ten-year period the documents will be open to to the public.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.


Otis L. Graham, Jr. (1935-2017) was a historian of American politics and immigration who was actively involved in the immigration reform movement between 1970 and 2017. Graham was born in Nashville, Tennessee. He completed his undergraduate studies at Yale University and subsequently served three years in the United States Marine Corps. He completed his PhD studies at Columbia University in 1966.

Graham briefly taught at Mount Vernon Women’s College before accepting a position with the University of California, Santa Barbara. At UCSB, Graham was involved with the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. In 1980, Graham moved to the University of North Carolina to become a “distinguished professor” of history. He returned to UCSB in 1989 to develop the graduate program in public history. Graham served as editor of The Public Historian, a publication of the National Council on Public History.

Graham’s interest in immigration reform, immigration restriction, and the environment began as an undergraduate student. Later in life, he wrote three books on the topic: Unguarded Gates: A History of America’s Immigration Crisis (2004): Immigration Reform and America’s Unchosen Future (2008); and Presidents and the American Environment (2015).

Graham was actively engaged in national immigration reform efforts through participation with groups such as the Federation for Immigration Reform, the Center for immigration Studies, and U.S. Inc. Locally, Graham was also active in immigration reform efforts in California and served on the board of Californians for Population Stabilization.

Graham’s activity within the immigration reform movement was often influenced by his relationship with John H. Tanton (1934-2019). Tanton founded and funded many of the immigration reform organizations that Graham was involved with. In 1979, Tanton invited Graham to serve as a founding board member of FAIR. In 1985, Tanton urged Graham to join the steering committee and founding board of the Center for Immigration Studies. As chairman of the CIS board, Graham recruited other members including Vernon Briggs, Elizabeth Paddock, Leon Bouvier, Malcolm R. Lovell, Frank Morris, Roger Conner, and George Grayson.


9.5 Linear Feet (19 document boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection contains publications, correspondence, and other records that relate to Otis L. Graham Jr.’s writings on the history of immigration reform and immigration restriction. Also contained are working records related to Otis L. Graham Jr.’s service on the boards of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). The material dates 1978-2008.


Organized in four series: Federation for American Immigration Reform; Research files; Center for Immigration Studies; and U.S., Inc.

Arrangement for much of this material is based upon Otis Graham’s use of the materials during the writing of his memoir. Therefore, the arrangement does not necessarily reflect the order in which Graham originally used the records.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site, and may require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Otis L. Graham, Jr., 2008 (Accession 2009.009).


Guide to the Otis Graham Jr. papers, 1975-2008
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America