Today, the Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism” report, which found 917 hate groups were operating in the United States in 2016. There are now 14 anti-immigrant groups listed, including, for the first time, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) was also named as a hate group today, too.
Heidi Beirich, Director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, explained the designation of CIS as a hate group:
CIS has a long history of bigotry, starting with its founder, white nationalist John Tanton, but in 2016, the group hit a new low. CIS commissioned Jason Richwine, a man who’s PHD dissertation endorses the idea of IQ differences between the races, to write multiple reports and blog pieces for the organization. The group also continued to circulate racist and anti-Semitic authors to its supporters and finally, staffer John Miano attended the white nationalist group VDARE’s Christmas party in December.
CIS joins other groups from the “John Tanton’s network” on the SPLC hate group list, notably the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR). SPLC has closely monitored the work of Tanton’s groups, stating in its 2009 report, The Nativist Lobby: Three Faces of Intolerance:
FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA are all part of a network of restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the “puppeteer” of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots.
SPLC has rigorous criteria for designating organizations as hate groups, noting, “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics” and “This list was compiled using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.”
Upon release of the 2016 report on Hate Groups, SPLC’s Mark Potok said:
“2016 was an unprecedented year for hate. The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists. In Steve Bannon, these extremists think they finally have an ally who has the president’s ear.”
This is a key point as CIS has established itself as a key player in the anti-immigrant agenda of the Trump administration. Trump has appointed staff from both CIS and FAIR to jobs in his administration. The group has very close ties to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the Los Angeles Times noted last month:
Already well known as the Senate’s fiercest opponent of immigration, Sessions holds views shaped in part as he forged close ties over several decades to the Center for Immigration Studies and two other groups with similar agendas, NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. With Sessions poised to be an influential voice on immigration policy in the Trump administration, these formerly fringe groups have their best chance yet to see Washington policy turn decisively in their direction.
CIS staffers, including Executive Director Mark Krikorian, are often cited as authorities on immigration in mainstream media. In addition, they also regularly appear before legislative committees in Washington and around the country. A recent appearance by Krikorian in the Florida State House resulted in Democratic legislators walking out.
Krikorian and the others have tried to disassociate themselves from their founder and his white nationalists views. But, Tanton and his views are in the DNA of CIS. And, today, SPLC made it clear: CIS is a hate group.