Our VoiceImmigration

Center for Immigration Studies: “[Attacks on immigrants]…have no place in civil society”


Jill Garvey • Mar 08, 2011

CIS founder, white nationalist John Tanton

In a recent report released by anti-immigrant group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), senior research fellow Jerry Kammer wrote:

It is certainly true that the volatile national debate on immigration has been debased, particularly on talk radio and the Internet by insulting commentary and dehumanizing criticism of illegal immigrants. These attacks often stir resentment not only against illegal immigrants, but also against legal immigrants and some native-born citizens of the United States. They have no place in civil society. They poison the environment for debate that is vital in a democracy.

On the surface, this appears to be a sensitive statement, except for one major inconsistency.  The actions and affiliations of Center for Immigration Studies’ leadership contributes to the “insulting commentary and dehumanizing criticism” of immigrants.

In the very same report, Kammer cites an article in the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies to support one of the anti-immigrant arguments outlined in the report. The article was originally published as a CIS report and then reprinted in the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies for its fall 2009 issue. The general editor of the Journal is British anti-Semite and eugenicist Roger Pearson. Pearson set up the Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies in 1976. He also helped to found the racialist journal Mankind Quarterly.

It’s not just CIS’ affiliations that are so troubling. In the aftermath of the tragic earthquake in Haiti at the beginning of 2010, Mark Krikorian, the executive director of Center for Immigration Studies stated, “my guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.”

He goes on to say that French colonizers didn’t do a good enough job suppressing paganism. He is referring to Haiti becoming the first Black-led republic in the world when it fought for and won independence from France in 1804. It’s akin to saying that America should have been ruled by the British longer or slavery ended too soon.

According to a March 2010 article in The Harvard Crimson:

It’s not just Krikorian’s words that are a problem—his actions are too. In 2007, he accepted an invitation to speak at the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. It apparently didn’t bother him that MSU-YAF had been widely covered in the media for a series of nasty stunts—attempting to stage a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,” holding a “Koran Desecration” competition, and posting “Gays Spread AIDS” fliers across campus. He also didn’t seem to mind being part of the same speakers series that included Nick Griffin, a Holocaust denier who heads the racist British National Party, and Jared Taylor, who says blacks are incapable of civilization.

For many years CIS has used claims of environmental degradation to further its anti-immigrant agenda. Its message is simple: more immigrants mean more pollution and fewer resources for the rest of us.

Center for Immigration Studies describes itself as a “think tank” and “pro-immigrant;” however, in July of 2009 it released a press statement and videos demonstrating that it collaborates with controversial border vigilantes. The press release linked readers to a website called Borderinvasionpics.com. This site operates in conjunction with American Patrol, Glenn Spencer’s anti-immigrant group.

In July 2011, Center for Immigration Studies put out its second “hidden camera” documentary film.  The video is titled, “Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2: Drugs, Guns and 850 Illegal Aliens.” And in September it put out a third video in the series.

It’s clear that the aim of the Arizona border films is to spread unfounded fears about immigrants and falsely portray the U.S. border in Arizona as dangerous.

This is in line with what was revealed about CIS when an investigative report by Village Voice Media uncovered the unsavory web of organizations orchestrated by John Tanton. Not only did it call out CIS, but also the organizations with which it’s closely tied:

FAIR and its sister nonprofits—NumbersUSA, which also lobbied successfully to squash immigration reform in 2007, and the Center for Immigration Studies, which refers to itself as a non-partisan pro-immigrant think tank—cite each other’s reports and studies and post each other’s findings on their Web sites.

Reporters often quote experts from the three groups as credible mainstream voices of dissent to progressive immigration reform, even though several human rights organizations have flagged FAIR, NumbersUSA, and CIS as white-nationalist hate groups.

Though these three groups maintain that the hate designations are arbitrary and untrue, the vitriolic rhetoric at the root of these organizations’ sensibilities scalds the ear.

“As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?” asked retired ophthalmologist Dr. John Tanton, founder of all three of these oft-cited groups.

In today’s climate where dehumanizing rhetoric directed at immigrants really does turn into violence, it is not enough for anti-immigrants groups like Center for Immigration Studies to say they support civil debate.

They need to sever ties with bigotry in all its forms and back up their words with practice. Until then they have no place in civil debate.

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