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ICYMI: DHS Hires Hate Group Leaders in Prominent Roles

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In a new piece for CNN, Maria Santana highlights the growing role designated hate groups, notably Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in the Trump administration — which has hired at least two hate group leaders..

Santana’s piece comes after the Department of Homeland Security hired Jon Feere, previously a CIS legal policy analyst, as an adviser to acting ICE Director Thomas Homan, and Julie Kirchner, the former FAIR Executive Director, as an adviser to acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.

As Santana mentions, “CIS and FAIR are think tanks based in Washington that advocate restricting legal and illegal immigration. The two organizations were founded by John Tanton, a retired Michigan ophthalmologist who has openly embraced eugenics, the science of improving the genetic quality of the human population by encouraging selective breeding and at times, advocating for the sterilization of genetically undesirable groups.”

As noted in Santana’s piece, “These groups have spent 20 years looking for ways that they could hurt immigrants and now they’ve been given the keys to the kingdom,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.

The headline of Santana’s piece originally referred to CIS and FAIR as “hate groups” but now simply calls them “hard-line advocates”. The edit may be a reflection of how sensitive CIS has shown itself to be about being called a hate group.

Santana’s entire piece is available online here and excerpted below: 

CIS has published articles that labeled immigrants ‘third world gold diggers’ and that blamed Central American asylum seekers for the ‘burgeoning street gang problem’ in the US, while Dan Stein has said that many immigrants that come to the US hate America and everything the country stands for,” said Heidi Beirich, director of Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which oversees the center’s yearly count of anti-immigrant groups. “We take these designations very seriously, and CIS and FAIR are far-right fringe groups that regularly publish racist, xenophobic material and spread misinformation about immigrants and immigration.”

Throughout the presidential campaign and since he’s taken office, Donald Trump’s immigration policy has mirrored details found in CIS reports. In April 2016, for example, CIS published a list of “79 immigration actions that the next president can take.” The list included such measures as withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities, eliminating the “Priority Enforcement Program,” which prioritized the deportation of the most serious criminals during the Obama administration, and reducing the number of welfare-dependent immigrants living in the United States.

Many of these recommendations have already been enacted, proposed or discussed by the administration, and some were included in Trump’s executive order on immigration issued in January.

Kirchner and Feere’s advisory roles at Customs and Border Protection and ICE have rattled some immigrants’ rights advocates, who say they are concerned by the newfound power and influence far-right nativist groups have gained within the government since Trump came into office.


This marks what some say is a drastic change in the relationship between ICE and pro-immigrant advocacy organizations. During the Bush administration, a coalition of pro-immigrant groups known as the ICE-NGO Working Group started holding confidential, closed-door stakeholder meetings several times a year with high-ranking immigration officials as an opportunity to express concerns and ask specific questions about enforcement policy, the rights of immigrants and their treatment while in detention.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Bar Association’s Immigrant Justice Project and the National Immigrant Justice Center are among the advocacy organizations that make up the ICE-NGO Working Group.

In February, at the first such get-together under the Trump administration, members of the working group felt blindsided to discover that some anti-immigrant, pro-enforcement groups also were in attendance.

In addition to CIS and FAIR, invitations were extended to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of FAIR, NumbersUSA and Judicial Watch. These groups support stricter enforcement of immigration laws, reducing overall immigration levels and the increased detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants.


“There’s obvious fear in the community because of the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from this administration, but having Jon Feere, who came from CIS, in a leadership position at ICE and now these anti-immigrant groups showing up at stakeholder meetings for the first time in 14 years, it has also created this really deep-seated fear in the advocacy community,” said an immigrants’ rights activist who teared up recalling how one advocate felt she could no longer participate for fear of exposing herself to ICE.

“Many immigrants’ rights advocates are immigrants themselves, some are DACA recipients, and they are now afraid to even show up at the stakeholder meetings because they may be taken into custody while at ICE headquarters. These are smart, professional, well-educated advocates that are now scared to do their jobs,” said the activist.