November 19, 2019


Laundering White Nationalism: The Center for Immigration Studies is still giving cover for racist policy (Brendan O'Connor,  November 19, 2019, The Baffler)

At the time the leaked emails were sent, Miller was working for Jeff Sessions. They reveal that Miller pushed Breitbart to cover various CIS "studies" and promoted the work of specific CIS authors. Among them was Jason Richwine, an immigration restrictionist who was forced out of the Heritage Foundation in 2013 after the discovery that his dissertation argued Latinx people have lower IQs than white people. CIS has since seen fit to publish dozens of reports and blog posts by Richwine, who also remains a contributing writer at the National Review. Richwine's dissertation adviser, George Borjas, is himself a former CIS board member. Miller, the emails show, is a big fan of both; he cited their research as he worked to shape the way the Mercer-funded publication wrote about immigrants and immigration. His entreaties to the Breitbart editor are sprinkled with tactical flattery. "Elites can't allow the people to see that their condition is not the product of events beyond their control, but the product of policy they foisted onto them," Miller wrote. "They want people to feel helpless, retreat into their enclaves, and detach. Our job is to show people they can still control their destiny. Knowledge is the first step." Later that day, he added: "Btw - Bannon was praising your work on this to me again."

This trove of emails presents a problem for CIS, which has sued the SPLC over its designation of the think tank as a "hate group," claiming it was an attempt to financially destroy them. (The suit was thrown out by a federal judge.) This is because their function within the wider network of nativist organizations in the United States is to present itself as non-ideological, rigorous, and studied. CIS "avoids making harsh, dispositional attributions about the immigrants themselves, placing the focus instead on protecting popular American institutions, public services, and national goals," sociologists Joshua Woods, Jason Manning, and Jacob Matz wrote in a 2015 paper on the organization's "impression management" tactics. Rather than engaging in populist demagoguery, CIS "depersonalizes its claims against immigrants by attributing them not to people or even analysts, but rather to scientific facts," they argue, suggesting "that 'data' lead inevitably to conclusions about the negative effects of immigration."

When someone takes those conclusions to their logical, violent endpoint, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian only shrugs. "If you have a guy who is going to be angry about immigration, have a killer offering reasons for shooting up immigrants, how could he not use reasons that have already been articulated by legitimate sources?" Krikorian told the Washington Post after the massacre in El Paso. "There's only so many concerns about immigration," he said. "Of course he's going to articulate reasons that already have been spelled out in great detail by immigration skeptics. I don't know how you avoid that." (Krikorian did not respond to my interview request.)

What's more, Woods, Manning, and Matz found, CIS made no mention of the influential nativist John Tanton, without whom it would not exist, in any public-facing documents until a 2009 SPLC report revealed the extent of Tanton's ties to white nationalists, eugenicists, and anti-Semites. At first, Krikorian and his associates attempted to deflect the issues raised by SPLC, accusing them of waging a smear campaign and infringing upon the think tank's right to free speech--somewhat ironic, given its recent legal efforts against the Montgomery-based nonprofit. Before long, however, Jerry Kammer, a fellow at CIS, went on to publish a lengthy and contemplative piece about the controversy, admitting that Tanton was "one of several individuals who were instrumental in starting the Center for Immigration Studies."

Tanton was not merely instrumental; he was integral. In 1985, CIS was spun off from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which Tanton had founded six years prior, "for reasons of independence from the lobbying organization," as he put it in a 1988 memo. But it was also because his biggest donor, Cordelia Scaife May, and her longtime advisor Gregory Curtis wanted him to. According to another memo, written by one of Tanton's assistants, May "would prefer to fund the same projects under different organizations rather than giving huge chunks of money to one group." Between 2005 and 2017, the late May's Colcom Foundation, to which she left the bulk of her estate, gave CIS $17.6 million.

One of May's (and later Tanton's) non-CIS projects was funding the republication and distribution of The Camp of the Saints, a racist French novel that is essentially a dramatization of the "Great Replacement" (or "white genocide") conspiracy theory.

Posted by at November 19, 2019 1:43 PM