The Republican House Judiciary Committee invited Jessica Vaughn to Congress in spite of her connections to white nationalism and anti-Semitism
Continuing their dangerous trend, House Republicans have once again invited another witness to testify in a border related hearing who is currently employed by a hate group. Jessica Vaughn, Director of Policy Studies from the Southern Policy Law Center designated hate group, Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is set to testify before the upcoming the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement on Wednesday. Vaughn also has a long history as an anti-immigrant zealot who was a close ally of Stephen Miller. She has echoed white nationalist conspiracy theories and worked with a notoriously anti-Semitic publication associated with Holocaust denial.
The Republicans’ other witnesses have spewed the same dangerous rhetoric as the domestic terrorist attacks in the United States and other conspiracy theories. Like, Sheena Rodriguez, Founder and President for Alliance for Safe Texas, whose Substack is filled with great replacement, conspiracy theory rhetoric about the so-called migrant “invasion.” Rodriguez also frequently collaborates with hate groups like CIS.
And Tara Lee Rodas, an activist with the shady hard-right Project Veritas. Rodas attended CPAC with the recently pushed-out founder James O’Keefe. Republicans’ use of these congressional hearings to platform hard-right activists with many connected to white nationalism is increasingly appearing more like a feature than a bug.
Republicans’ witnesses revealed a stark and disturbing fact that they are more interested in dangerous political theater than in actually addressing the real issues at hand.
Vaughn has worked for CIS since 1992 and is a leader in spreading misinformation about immigration. CIS was founded by white nationalist John Tanton and has not strayed from its roots even as it strives to add the thin veneer of respectability to an extreme nativist agenda and promote the ideas of white nationalists. CIS has circulated white nationalist material over 2,000 times. Vaughn’s boss, Mark Krikorian, attempted to defend the group’s circulation of content from the white nationalist website VDare by calling it an “important source of immigration news” and comparing it to the New York Times. VDare is neither. In 2008, CIS circulated an article by the infamous white nationalist Richard Spencer. After the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010 that killed thousands of people, Krikorian wrote, “My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.” The mass murderer who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011 cited CIS’s data in his racist screed. Krikorian also said the mass murder, who killed 23 people in El Paso, had a manifesto that was “remarkably well-written for a 21-year-old loner,” when interviewed by the Washington Post’s David Nakamura about the similarities in their xenophobic content.
Vaughn had also previously worked with the notoriously antisemitic The American Free Press, a newspaper founded by Willis Carto and associated with Holocaust denial. An emblematic figure in the modern white nationalist movement, Carto spent five decades peddling bigoted ideas and conspiracy theories. The infamous Klan leader David Duke fawningly introduced Carto in 2004 to a conference of racists and bigots, describing him saying: “There is no individual in this room who has had more impact on the movement today, in terms of awareness of the Jewish question, and this individual.” Vaughn’s past association should raise serious flags about lending her legitimacy as an “expert” witness in a congressional hearing. What’s troubling is that this is not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern.
After her 30 plus years in the nativist movement, Vaughn’s extreme positions towards immigration in the border have now been adopted by a leading faction of the Republican Party. She contributed heavily to Donald Trump’s cruelty and chaos agenda as a close ally to Stephen Miller. Vaughn closely worked with Miller during the Trump’s administration and cited CIS numerous times to gain support for his xenophobic, bigoted immigration agenda and make white nationalism mainstream. As a keynote speaker at one of CIS’s events, Miller praised and thanked CIS and Vaughn saying: “there is no one in America who knows more about immigration enforcement.” Miller also praised CIS for “everything they do to illuminate a debate that far too often operates, like illegal immigrants, in the shadows”.
She has consistently employed fear-mongering and misinformation to oppose pro-immigration policies. Here are just a few examples:
- In 2008, Vaughn attacked the humanitarian program, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which protects eligible individuals from war-torn countries, environmental disasters or other extenuating circumstances as a blame for “its contribution to the burgeoning street gang problem in the United States”,
- She, without evidence, claimed that so-called “sanctuary cities” made it possible for MS-13 to become more established here.”
- She falsely claimed that the diversity lottery visa “create[s] an attitude of entitlement among prospective immigrants” and that “fraud has become the most troublesome immigrant visa problem”.
- Last year, she spoke at an event held in Massachusetts by the Northborough Tea Party on the topic of “Stop the Surge of Illegal Aliens Before It’s Too Late” which echoed a version of the great replacement conspiracy theory.
In her personal Twitter account, Vaughn has tweeted multiple online articles about an invasion at the southern border.
This language of invasion refers to the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory. It was chanted in the streets of Charlottesville in 2017, posted online before a man murdered 11 in Pittsburgh in 2018, shared in racist screeds before the murder in Poway and the murder of 23 in El Paso in 2019, believed by those who attacked the Capitol in 2021 and copied by the gunman who killed ten people in Buffalo in May in 2022. Dr. Heidi Beirich, the co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, draws a direct connection between the rhetoric and the violence, saying, “When migrants are described as invaders, that leads to violence,” she said. “Because how else does one stop an invasion?”
Meanwhile, the FBI, Attorney General, and Secretary of Homeland Security have all testified that the threat from violent domestic extremists is a leading terrorist concern. In November 2022 and again in December 2022, DHS issued memos warning about threats to people and infrastructure at the southern border in response to anti-immigrant-related concerns.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Vaughn has testified before Congress. It should be her last. The Republican House Judiciary committee members are not only legitimizing her statements but also contributing to the spread of hatred and putting a bullseye on the immigrant communities.