The White House is relying on hate groups and their junk research to defend the RAISE Act

The White House has endorsed the RAISE Act, a staunchly anti-immigrant piece of legislation that would drastically cut legal immigration to the U.S. on the false premise that immigrants have a negative impact on the economy. To defend its support for the bill, the White House relied on widely-criticized studies by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and cited the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA for their praise of the bill. CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA are anti-immigrant nativist groups and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled FAIR and CIS as “hate groups.” After years of right-wing media promoting their policies and mainstream media legitimizing them in their reports, the Trump administration is finally manifesting their nativist wish list.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

The White House backed an immigration reform bill that would slash legal immigration

Wash. Post: Trump endorsed RAISE Act, legislation that would limit legal immigration. On August 2, President Donald Trump endorsed an immigration bill co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA), The Washington Post reported. According to the Post, The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act would “create a ‘merit-based’ immigration system” and “reduce the annual distribution of green cards awarding permanent legal residence to just over 500,000 from more than 1 million.” The bill would also “create a point system based on factors such as English ability, education levels and job skills to rank applicants for the 140,000 employment-based green cards distributed annually,” the Post reported. The legislation was “quickly denounced” by Democrats and, according to the story, “is also likely to face resistance from ... moderate Republicans.” From the August 2 report:

Trump appeared with Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) at the White House to unveil a modified version of a bill the senators first introduced in February to create a “merit-based” immigration system that would put a greater emphasis on the job skills of foreigners over their ties to family in the United States.

The legislation seeks to reduce the annual distribution of green cards awarding permanent legal residence to just over 500,000 from more than 1 million. Trump promised on the campaign trail to take a harder line on immigration, arguing that the growth in new arrivals had harmed job opportunities for American workers.


The bill would create a point system based on factors such as English ability, education levels and job skills to rank applicants for the 140,000 employment-based green cards distributed annually.


The legislation was quickly denounced by congressional Democrats, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and immigrant rights groups. It is also likely to face resistance from some business leaders and moderate Republicans in states with large immigrant populations.

Opponents of the bill said that immigrants help boost the economy and that studies have shown they commit crimes at lower levels than do native-born Americans. [The Washington Post, 8/3/17]

The White House relied on anti-immigrant nativist groups to justify its defense of the RAISE Act

Stephen Miller cited the Center for Immigration Studies' (CIS) George Borjas and Stephen Camarota to misinform about immigrants’ economic impact. At the August 2 White House press briefing, Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s senior policy advisers, mentioned George Borjas, a CIS contributor, and Steven Camarota, CIS’ director of research, as sources of information that laid the groundwork for the proposed immigration policy:

GLENN THRUSH: Two quick questions. First of all, let's have some statistics. There've been a lot of studies out there that don't show a correlation between low-skilled immigration and the loss of jobs for native workers. Cite for me, if you could, one or two studies with specific numbers that prove the correlation between those two things because your entire policy is based on that. And secondly, I have sources that told me about a month ago that you guys have sort of elbowed infrastructure out of the way to get immigration on the legislative queue. Tell me why this is more important than infrastructure.

STEPHEN MILLER: Your latter statement isn't true. I think the most recent study I will point to is the study from George Borjas that he just did about the Mariel boatlift, and he went back and re-examined and opened up the old data and talked about how it actually did reduce wages for workers who were living there at the time. And Borjas has, of course, done enormous amounts of research on this, as has the Peter Kirsanow on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, as has Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, and so on and so forth.

THRUSH: How about the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine?

MILLER: And -- right, and their recent study said that as much as $300 billion a year may be lost as a result of our current immigration system in terms of folks drawing more public benefits than they're paying in. [White House press briefing, 8/2/17]

The White House cited praise from Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and from NumbersUSA. In a section of its website titled “What They Are Saying,” the White House cited praise for the RAISE Act from representatives of anti-immigrant nativist organizations Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA. From the White House website:

Federation for American Immigration Reform President Dan Stein: “The RAISE Act ends chain-migration by limiting family-based immigration to the nuclear family and replacing the employment-based system with a skills-based point structure. It helps select immigrants who have the tools to succeed in the U.S. while returning immigration to more traditional levels. President Trump, and bill sponsors Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, should be applauded for recognizing the current dysfunction of our outdated immigration policies that, unlike the rest of the nation, have been stuck in a time warp for the last 50 years. The RAISE Act closely follows the bipartisan recommendations of President Clinton’s Jordan Commission, which called for moving the nation to an immigration model that emphasized skills over bloodlines and returned immigration to more traditional levels. These changes will truly make immigration great again.”

NumbersUSA President Roy Beck: “The RAISE Act introduced today by Senators Cotton and Perdue will do more than any other action to fulfill President Trump’s promises as a candidate to create an immigration system that puts the interests of American workers first. Our recent polling confirms that American voters overwhelmingly want far less immigration because they know mass immigration creates unfair competition for American workers. Seeing the President standing with the bill’s sponsors at the White House gives hope to the tens of millions of struggling Americans in stagnant jobs or outside the labor market altogether. NumbersUSA stands with these Americans in wholeheartedly endorsing the RAISE Act.” [, accessed 8/3/17]

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), NumbersUSA, and FAIR are anti-immigrant nativist groups that SPLC has labeled as “fruits of the same poisonous tree”

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and FAIR are anti-immigrant nativist groups that SPLC has labeled as “hate groups.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has extensively researched CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA, laying down their insidious anti-immigrant agenda and their ties to white nationalists. All three groups were founded by John Tanton, a white nationalist who believes that in order to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required. Currently, FAIR and CIS are considered to be hate groups by SPLC. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 1/31/09]

FAIR was founded by white supremacists with the mission of “severely limit[ing] immigration into the United States.” Despite FAIR’s attempts to cover up its nativist agenda, the group’s leaders have been quoted making comments about the inferiority of Latino immigrants, which first prompted the SPLC to designate the organization a “hate group.” It noted that FAIR “promotes hatred of immigrants, especially non-white ones,” adding, “By defending racism, encouraging xenophobia and nativism, and giving its all to efforts to keep America white, FAIR has more than earned its place in the pantheon of hate groups.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/10/12]

CIS “frequently manipulates data” and uses media to spew its racist message. SPLC has outlined a number of studies that demonstrate how CIS manipulates data to subvert positive aspects of immigration. According to SPLC, the claims at the center of most CIS studies “are either false or virtually without any supporting evidence.” SPLC’s report of CIS also explained one of many instances in which the group used right-wing media -- in this case National Review Online -- to smear Latinos, suggesting in an op-ed that Washington Mutual’s hiring of Latinos led to the bank’s collapse. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 1/31/09, accessed 8/3/17]

NumbersUSA is “the country’s largest grassroots restrictive immigration group” and has ties to white supremacists. Conservatives and progressives alike have denounced NumbersUSA for its racist roots, but its numbers have “ballooned” over the years as a result of its efforts to appear credible and unbiased. Nonetheless, conservatives have pushed back against the group’s influence on immigration policy. Alfonso Aguilar of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles once explained that, “If these groups can be unmasked, then the bulk of the opposition to immigration reform on the conservative side will wither away." As reported by SPLC, Numbers USA's executive director, Roy Beck, has “long been a close associate of Tanton and has spent nearly 20 years relentlessly attacking American immigration policies. He even edited Tanton’s book The Immigration Invasion, which is so raw in its nativism that Canadian authorities banned it as hate literature. Beck has also written for and edited Tanton’s white nationalist quarterly, The Social Contract. He was still the magazine’s Washington editor in 1998 when the journal published what may have been its most lurid edition ever, “Europhobia: The Hostility to European-Descended Americans.” In 1996, he addressed a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist hate group that has referred to blacks as a “retrograde species of humanity.”” [Media Matters, 2/21/13; Daily Kos, 6/7/09; Southern Poverty Law Center, 5/25/11]

The Trump administration has previously supported policies that come from the nativist groups’ wish list

The Daily Beast: Trump’s White House seems to be relying on a CIS immigration wish list for immigration policy inspiration. As reported by The Daily Beast, Trump’s White House seems to be relying on a CIS immigration wish list for immigration policy inspiration, as a “number of the 79 items” proposed by CIS “have either been implemented or shown up in leaked draft proposals from the administration,” including Trump’s “controversial VOICE office,” which “may have had its genesis with CIS.” VOICE is the acronym for the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement; it’s stated purpose is to assist victims of immigrants’ crimes, but experts have denounced the program as unnecessary and misleading since foreign-born residents actually tend to commit fewer crimes than native citizens. All three nativist groups have also received additional access to the administration and “to the people who make immigration policy decisions.” In February, CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA were invited to attend a stakeholder meeting between ICE and immigration advocates, an occurrence that immigrants rights advocates found to be “very disturbing.” From the March 13 article:

On April 11, 2016, a tiny think tank with a bland name published a 79-point wish list. The list garnered virtually no media coverage, and in the 11 months since its publication has been largely ignored—except, apparently, by the White House.

Today, Donald Trump seems to be working through it as he rolls out his immigration policy. A number of the 79 items on the list composed by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), have either been implemented or shown up in leaked draft proposals from the administration. It’s a course of events that has that think tank cautiously exultant and has immigrants’ rights activists anxious and disturbed.


Mark Krikorian, CIS’s executive director, told The Daily Beast that last month, for the first time, his group scored an invite to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement stakeholder meeting, a gathering that happens a few times a year where ICE leaders talk policy and procedure with immigration lawyers and activists. And he said that since Trump’s inauguration, he’s been in touch with new appointees at the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a new level of access and influence that helps explain the quick, dramatic changes Trump has made in immigration policy—changes that will impact millions of people.


And the controversial VOICE office Trump announced at his speech to Congress—which would provide special advocacy and support to Americans hurt by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants—may have had its genesis with CIS.


Just 50 days into his presidency, and Trump’s team has already discussed, proposed, or implemented upwards of a dozen of CIS’s ideas.


CIS isn’t the only restrictionist group to find newly open ears at DHS. Dan Stein, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, told The Daily Beast his group was also invited to the meeting as well (though he added it received meeting invites from the Obama administration too). Stein said his group has found the Trump administration to be very open to their ideas.


And Roy Beck, who heads NumbersUSA—a restrictionist group that boasts a 1.5 million-member email list—said his organization was invited to the ICE stakeholder meeting as well, and has found open ears in the Trump administration, particularly DHS.


These three groups share a co-founder: John Tanton, a population control activist who flirted with racist pseudo-science, supported Planned Parenthood, and argued that immigration and population growth were bad for the environment. Immigrants’ rights advocates argue that the groups are covertly white supremacist and motivated by animus towards people of color. [The Daily Beast, 3/13/17; Media Matters, 3/2/17]

Mainstream and conservative media have legitimized the groups by routinely citing them in reports

Right-wing media often rely on CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA to push anti-immigrant myths. Right-wing media outlets routinely boost nativist groups’ problematic research to claim that immigrants have a negative impact on the economy and public safety. Nativist groups have taken advantage of their welcome home in conservative media to push for unpopular policies, such as rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). [Media Matters, 9/3/15, 2/23/17, 3/1/17, 7/18/17]

Mainstream media frequently cite the groups without accurately conveying their anti-immigrant agenda. Mainstream media outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, International Business Times, Politico, Vox, Los Angeles Times, Univision, and many others frequently cite the nativist groups without properly labeling them, which has, in effect, granted them legitimacy. A survey done by the nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) found that many news reports on immigrant detention cite CIS at a similar rate or even more often than legitimate immigration groups. [Media Matters, 12/28/16, 2/28/17]

Click here for more information on Trump’s debunked anti-immigrant claims about wages and jobs that came from CIS.

CORRECTION: This item has been corrected to reflect that out of the three anti-immigrant nativist groups that “John Tanton, the 'puppeteer' of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots” created, SPLC has designated as “hate groups” the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) due to their connections to white supremacists and other extremism. The third, Numbers USA, has not been designated a hate group by SPLC but is part of this “network of restrictionist organizations” designed by Tanton who “has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene,” and SPLC currently describes the group to be the “grassroots organizer” for the “nativist lobby,” which includes FAIR and CIS.