Mainstream Media's Fixation With Anti-Immigrant Commentator Mark Krikorian

Now that the Obama administration and Congress are engaged in a debate over immigration policy, a Media Matters review of major news outlets has found that when it comes to immigration coverage, anti-immigrant commentator Mark Krikorian continues to be the media's preferred conservative voice. Krikorian heads the Center for Immigration Studies, a group associated with notorious nativist John Tanton and whose research has been called into question -- but these facts are routinely ignored in coverage of his remarks.

Major News Outlets Have Turned To Krikorian For Conservative View On Immigration

Analysis: Twelve Major News Outlets Mainstreamed Krikorian As Credible Conservative Voice On Immigration. According to a Media Matters analysis, between December 6, 2012 and January 17, 2013, 12 major news outlets turned to CIS executive director Mark Krikorian to provide the conservative view on immigration-related topics:

Media Outlet


The Miami Herald


Tampa Bay Times

1/15/2013, 12/16/2012

ABC News




The New York Times

1/10/2013, 1/8/2013

Houston Chronicle


Los Angeles Times

1/4/2013, 1/3/2013

Chicago Tribune

1/4/2013, 1/3/2013

San Francisco Chronicle


USA Today




The Christian Science Monitor


Krikorian's Group Is Part Of Nativist And Hate Network

Media Outlets Ignored Krikorian's Extremist Ties. The news outlets that quoted or interviewed Krikorian simply identified CIS as an organization that promotes stricter limits on immigration. In fact, the group was founded by notorious nativist John Tanton, an anti-immigrant activist with ties to the Federation For American Immigration Reform, an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group. From SPLC:

Although you'd never know it to read its materials, CIS was started in 1985 by a Michigan ophthalmologist named John Tanton -- a man known for his racist statements about Latinos, his decades-long flirtation with white nationalists and Holocaust deniers, and his publication of ugly racist materials. CIS' creation was part of a carefully thought-out strategy aimed at creating a set of complementary institutions to cultivate the nativist cause -- groups including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA. As is shown in Tanton's correspondence, lodged in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Tanton came up with the idea in the early 1980s for “a small think tank” that would “wage the war of ideas.”

And while Tanton never actually ran CIS, his correspondence shows that as late as 1994, nine years after it was started, Tanton, who remains on FAIR's board of directors today, saw himself as setting the “proper roles for FAIR and CIS.” He raised millions of dollars for the think tank and published the writings of top CIS officials in his racist journal, The Social Contract. He maneuvered a friend on to the board of CIS -- a man who shared his interest in eugenics and who attended events with Tanton where white nationalists gave presentations. Through it all, CIS pumped out study after study aimed at highlighting immigration's negative effects.


In 2007, a year before his comments on Washington Mutual, Krikorian accepted an invitation to speak at the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. It apparently didn't bother him that MSU-YAF had been widely covered in the media for a series of nasty stunts -- staging a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,” holding a “Koran Desecration” competition, and posting “Gays Spread AIDS” fliers across campus. [Southern Poverty Law Center, February 2009, via Media Matters]

Center For Immigration Studies Reports Have Been Repeatedly Discredited

SPLC: CIS Studies Often Reach Baseless Conclusions. SPLC has reported that CIS studies are hardly neutral and that their conclusions are often biased to “blame immigrants for all of the U.S.'s problems.” SPLC also argues that the claims at the heart of numerous CIS reports “are either false or virtually without any supporting evidence” and that “CIS is not interested in serious research or getting the facts straight.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, February 2009]

CBPP Has Faulted CIS For “Reaching Invalid Conclusions Because Of Poor Research Methodology.” In April 2003, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities took issue with a CIS report that concluded that the “welfare use rates for immigrants and natives are essentially back to where they were in 1996 when welfare reform was passed.” In fact, as CBPP reported, that conclusion turned out to be “misleading” since the percentage of legal non-citizens participating in each of the major social benefits programs has declined significantly since 1996. CBPP wrote:

This is not the first time that CIS has been faulted for reaching invalid conclusions because of poor research methodology.  In 2001, the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and the Urban Institute released a report refuting claims by the Center for Immigration Studies that recent immigrants were responsible for most of the growth in the number of uninsured people.[22]  That more careful analysis showed recent immigrants accounted for only a negligible change in the number of uninsured people and that most of the increase occurred among U.S. citizens. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4/21/93]

American Prospect: “Convoluted Logic And Paranoia Is Typical Of The Research” CIS Puts Out. The Migration Policy Institute recently released a two-year report showing that the United States spends about $18 billion per year on immigration enforcement, which exceeds federal spending on all other federal criminal law-enforcement efforts combined. CIS took issue with this conclusion as The American Prospect reported:

Being the scrupulous researcher that he is, Krikorian hopped over to the websites of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) -- the two federal agencies whose primary responsibility is immigration enforcement -- and found some press releases about cyber crime and drug smuggling. This naturally showed the report was lying because ICE and CBP don't spend all their money regulating immigration; they also enforce customs laws. Its authors, Krikorian concludes, were just cooking up numbers to support President Obama's open-borders, amnesty agenda. His organization followed up with a press release saying much the same thing a few days later.

This convoluted logic and paranoia is typical of the research Krikorian's group puts out, but it illustrates an important point about the immigration debate: No amount of money or resources will ever be enough to convince the enforcement-first crowd that the border is finally “secure.” This sets up a road block: So long as securing our borders is a precondition for tackling immigration reform, opponents can always claim -- citing a recent crime committed by an immigrant or anecdotal evidence of border violence -- that we're just not there yet. In effect, “enforcement first” ends up being the “enforcement only.” [The American Prospect, 1/17/13]

Krikorian Has A History Of Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Krikorian Has Repeatedly Disparaged Immigrants. Krikorian has made various inflammatory remarks about immigrants [in his] including arguing that Islam is a “danger to our republic,” and labeling a rally for immigration as an “illegal-alien-palooza.” He has also stated that Haiti is “so screwed up” because “it wasn't colonized long enough”; blamed a bank's demise on its diversity policy -- specifically, its commitment to Hispanic diversity; and he has repeatedly suggested that the U.S.-born children of foreign nationals, because they won't be raised in the United States, could one day grow up to become terrorists. [Media Matters, 10/28/11]

For more on how major media often cite extreme anti-immigrant voices, click here.


Media Matters performed a search through the Nexis database of news transcripts and U.S. newspapers and wires for “Mark Krikorian” between December 6, 2012, and January 16, 2013.