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Activists and alumni are fighting back after Cornell Law School invited Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) executive director Mark Krikorian to speak at a conference for Dreamers today.
An online petition started by Kica Matos, a Cornell Law alumna and the Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change, has gathered more than 4,000 signatures in 24 hours opposing Krikorian’s presence.
Cornell’s one-day conference is called “Dreamers and Beyond: Our Broken Immigration System” and seeks to present an overview of the Dreamer movement, their history of powerful activism, what DACA is and its current legal limbo, and the state of undocumented immigration today. Attending the conference will be prominent Dreamers like Julissa Arce and Gaby Pacheco, as well as a number of major immigration reform leaders and policy champions.
And then there’s Mark Krikorian.
Krikorian, of course, is the leader of the Center for Immigration Studies, a hate group designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center. CIS earned this designation thanks to the more than 2,000 times it was found to have circulated white nationalist and Holocaust-denying content — and thanks to its mission of pushing out laughably junk research that has painted immigrants as takers and tried to blame them for global warming.
CIS is also part of the “nativist lobby”, a shadowy network of anti-immigrant organizations and hate groups founded by white supremacist John Tanton, who believed that “a European-American majority” is required to maintain American culture. This lobby is tight with the Trump Administration, and CIS has been a key and vocal proponent of ending DACA and maximizing immigrant detentions and deportations.
Krikorian himself regularly refers to immigrants as “illegal aliens”, once tried to school Sonia Sotomayor on how to say her own name, claimed that “Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough”, and called award-winning Univision anchor Jorge Ramos an “ethnic hustler.” He’s also an online troll, harassing Dreamers and asking if they’ve been deported yet.
As Kica Matos said in a statement:
The fact that Cornell has asked Krikorian to speak at a conference for Dreamers, when Dreamers (and others deeply impacted by CIS’ mass deportation agenda) will be in the audience is astounding. Krikorian attacks and harasses others, yet craves respect, and Cornell’s invitation — to a conference that otherwise seems well-meaning and deserving of praise — will help to legitimize his hateful work.
Comments left on the online petition, signed by a number of Cornell alums as well as activists and Dreamer supporters, have been blasting the school for its decision. Below is a sample:
“Why is Cornell sponsoring hate? Please reconsider to save face, to do the right thing, and to spare the Dreamers further heart ache.”
“You do not dissipate hate by giving it a forum. You amplify it. Learn from the past, please. Speech that encourages doing harm to other people is not protected speech. People’s right to life and liberty is protected.”
“Racist nationalists do not deserve a platform at one of the best universities in the country!”
“I support presenting both sides of an issue. But racism is not a legitimate side of any issue. Disinvite Krikorian!”
“This is horrible. As a resident of Upstate NY, I am sickened to see this sort of activity in an otherwise beautiful place to live. It certainly will reflect poorly on an amazing part of the country.”
“Hate must be unwelcomed on campus as should be junk science!”
“Haters should not be invited to speak at any institution of learning. That is not to say I oppose free speech, but an invitation, which provides a platform, is not appropriate.”
“There are plenty of people on the lecture circuit who’d be glad to speak at Cornell, including right-leaners, if that’s who you want. There are already too many hate spewers, starting with Trump, too many anti-immigrant voices, too many negative forces “out there” that are given voice. Don’t add Cornell to the list of enablers.”