The media’s problem of citing the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) as merely “conservative” -- and effectively elevating it as a legitimate source -- has allowed for the proliferation of anti-immigrant extremist groups in mainstream media. However, some outlets have become a welcome exception by appropriately describing “the nativist lobby” of CIS and its sister organizations, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has dubbed these three groups “the nativist lobby” for their ties to white supremacists. It has also specifically singled out CIS and FAIR as hate groups in its latest annual hate group census, listing them as among “the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups that have proliferated since the late 1990s.” CIS is referred to as the “think tank” arm of the Nativist Lobby because it attempts to mask its extremist agenda under a veil of academic discipline. CIS produces studies that routinely use flawed methodologies, distort reputable research, and demonize immigrants despite its attempt to cast itself as being “low-immigration, pro-immigrant.”
Media have aided the group in sanitizing its image. Major newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, Politico, and others have all cited CIS within the last year without accurately exposing the group’s anti-immigrant agenda and unreliable research. USA Today routinely publishes articles written by CIS members that misinform readers about immigrants and refugees; the paper justifies the platform as “the opposing view,” offering the space as a counterpoint to the paper’s editorials. CIS is also no stranger to mainstream cable news outlets like CNN.
But a handful of outlets are offering a refreshing exception to this media pitfall. The New Yorker, New Republic, and La Opinión have recently joined The Daily Beast in exposing the CIS anti-immigration campaign that is having tangible effects via President Donald Trump's administration. The New Yorker zeroed in on the group’s growing influence, calling it one of the most “prominent nativist groups” and writing, “Under the Trump Administration, the relationships between anti-immigrant stalwarts and Border Patrol are being strengthened, and formalized, as never before.” New Republic lambasted CIS for bolstering Trump’s border wall proposal with false statistics, noting that the group has been “Trump’s go-to source for research about migrants and the dangers they pose.” La Opinión pointed to CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA as “the pillar organizations of the nativist movement today,” noting that their roots “emerge from their concern that Latinos bring maladies and defects that damage [American] society.”
Articles like these are welcome nuggets of truth in a political climate often devoid of facts, especially when it comes to immigration. CIS responded to the New Yorker and New Republic articles, attempting to discredit the outlets as well as the SPLC, which the articles cited. The group’s response underscores the need for other media outlets to ditch the “conservative” label when mentioning CIS and its cohorts and apply the proper name: “anti-immigrant hate groups.” Failure to provide audiences with the complete truth about the nativist lobby will only serve to further their already established influence within the administration and throughout government.