The New York Times on Thursday published an op-ed titled “I'm a Liberal Who Thinks Immigration Must Be Restricted" by Jerry Kammer of the Center for Immigration Studies think tank. It did so without disclosing that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS an extremist group for its anti-immigration and white nationalist writers — or that one of its co-founders, John Tanton, was a eugenicist.
The SPLC notes on its website that although CIS touts its “low immigration, pro-immigrant” tagline, “the organization has a decades-long history of circulating racist writers, while also associating with white nationalists.”
Kammer himself echoed this whitewashed view of his employer and his role within the organization in his op-ed, noting that he disagrees “with some of the center’s hard-line positions” and supports “a generous welcome for those who were brought here illegally as children and support comprehensive reform.”
Neither he nor the Times, however, disclosed at any point CIS’ penchant for pushing the kind of nativist talking points used by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and his white nationalist ilk. It was CIS which spearheaded research about birthright citizenship that’s often used by Carlson, President Donald Trump’s surrogates, and others to decry so-called “anchor babies.” And in 2011, CIS helped legitimize racist claims that undocumented women will cross American borders with the express intent to give birth in the U.S. -- adding credence to a claim by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who called these mostly mythical children “terror babies.”
The Times’ failure to add this context when publishing Kammer was not lost on online commentators — especially those whose work centers on extremists and hate groups.
Christopher Mathias, a senior reporter at HuffPost who covers the far-right, tweeted that it appeared to be “too much to ask the editors of our most prestigious newspaper not to publish op-eds by a dude who works at an organization founded by a eugenicist that often promotes white nationalist writers.”
Andy Campbell, also of HuffPost, noted that publishing Kammer “is both a huge embarrassment for the Times and a dangerous normalization of white nationalist propaganda” — but not one that occurred in a vacuum. Citing the Times’ softball obituary of CIS co-founder Tanton in 2019, Campbell wrote that the paper “twists itself into a pretzel pretending that anti-immigration groups and their leaders were just fine until the white nationalist boogeyman came out of nowhere and bit them in the ass.”
Another Twitter user noted that when the SPLC designated CIS and one of Tanton’s other groups, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, as extremists, Kammer honed in on the SPLC's Jewish donors. Citing an old blog post in which he discussed one of the SPLC co-founders sending letters “to zip codes that had many Jewish residents” and quoted a former SPLC employee who said the organization is “anchored by wealthy Jewish contributors on the East and West coasts.”
Perhaps most damningly, as noted by Sludge reporter David Moore, is the close relationship CIS enjoys with the Trump White House via the president’s nativist senior adviser Stephen Miller. As the SPLC reported in its coverage of leaked emails from a former Breitbart editor, Miller regularly used CIS research to launder his white nationalist beliefs into policy proposals during the 2016 campaign — a trend that continued after Trump won the presidency.
It’s a shame The New York Times didn’t keep that criticism in mind before publishing Kammer’s anti-immigration op-ed.