Today, a coinciding of two events underscored the influence anti-immigrant extremists have on the Trump Administration — specifically those tied to John Tanton, a well-known white supremacist whose shadowy network of influence has reached all the way to the White House.
First, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) held an event at National Press Club in Washington, D.C. with Lee Francis Cissna, the director of the US Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS). CIS was founded with the help of Tanton and was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). They have frequently distributed white nationalist content and junk research that tries to blame immigrants for everything from climate change to the Great Recession.
Despite their known record as an anti-immigrant hate group, Cissna appeared at CIS’ event today, and is at least the third high-ranking Trump Administration official to participate in such an event. CIS closed the event to the public after ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called for Cissna to cancel his appearance with the hate group. “Through the use of offensive terminology and repeated falsehoods, CIS has sought to convince the public to oppose entry to our country – even legal entry – by non-white immigrants and has repeatedly called for the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program”, said Hoyer.
At the meeting with CIS, Cissna defended his removal of the phrase that America is a “nation of immigrants” from USCIS’ mission statement. He claimed the term “leads to the erroneous belief that applicants and petitioners, rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve” — which was a slightly more politic way of saying that his boss, Donald Trump, has been doing everything he can to make America white again.
Historically, USCIS is a paper-pushing, non-political agency that serves to process paperwork for those seeking green cards or citizenship. But with Trump in office and Cissna at the helm, USCIS is being transformed into an arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and a tool for speedier deportations. At the CIS event, Cissna further emphasized his anti-immigrant tendencies by defending a proposed change in the law that would end governmental help for children who are U.S. citizens but whose parents happens to be immigrants, as well as the creation of a task force seeking to denaturalize certain U.S. citizens.
Also today, immigration lawyer Hassan Ahmad began oral arguments in a lawsuit against the University of Michigan, demanding the release of CIS founder John Tanton’s papers. Eleven boxes of Tanton’s papers are currently sealed until 2035, but their contents could shed important light on the writings, ideas, and actions of the anti-immigrant network that clearly has the ear of top Trump Administration officials. Trump himself has cited data from CIS and its sibling groups, also founded by Tanton. CIS has claimed to meet with Trump, and CIS officials now attend ICE stakeholder meetings. Given these ties, Ahmad argued that Tanton’s ideas have helped frame “the immigration debate that are affecting now the lives of millions of people.” A decision in the case is expect in three to five weeks.
Tanton, of course, was a known supporter of eugenics and sterilization for those he deemed inferior. He wrote about how “a European-American majority” is required to maintain American culture, and worried about “less intelligent” people being allowed to have children. If these are the Tanton ideas that are already known to the public, what sort of information does Tanton want hidden?
As the tentacles of this anti-immigrant network continue to wrap their arms around some of the most powerful positions in the world, information about these organizations is necessary for the public good. And government officials like Cissna should stop lending legitimacy to the hate these entities espouse.