NY Times uncritically cites anti-immigrant “hate group” Center for Immigration Studies
On June 25, The New York Times published an article on the suspension of a Biden administration policy that ordered law enforcement to prioritize the arrest of undocumented immigrants who are considered a threat to public safety and national security. In its reporting, the Times quoted the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant group with roots in the white supremacy eugenics movement, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group.
The Times quoted Andrew Arthur, a resident fellow on law and policy at CIS, and merely described CIS as a group “which favors restricting all immigration.” In reality, CIS was founded by eugenicist John Tanton, who has been described as the “architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement,” and it is at the forefront of “eco-fascism,” a white supremacist ideology that is trying to co-opt genuine environmental concerns and repackage them in support of white nationalism. Tanton’s mission to limit immigration was based on his desire to maintain the United States as a white-majority country.
Still, media outlets routinely launder the hateful anti-immigrant beliefs and misinformation spewed by Tanton’s network of anti-immigrant groups under the guise of presenting “both sides” of any given immigration topic — often without any context to the actual motivations behind these groups. The Times did just that in its June 25 article discussing President Joe Biden’s now-suspended deportation policy:
Some of those who have advocated a harder line on immigration applauded the lower court’s decision, arguing that immigration laws should be uniformly enforced.
They said agents could not be expected to make value judgments about whether an undocumented immigrant should be allowed to remain in the United States. Anyone with a good argument against deportation could make the case before an immigration judge, said Andrew Arthur, a resident fellow on law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors restricting all immigration.
“Congress doesn’t allow immigration officers, nor can it expect them, to assess whether these are good fathers, coach Little League or are ushers in their local church,” he said. “ICE officers don’t have a crystal ball or magical score sheet to know everything going on in a person’s life.”
In addition to failing to provide adequate context for CIS, the Times also allowed Arthur to promote a bad-faith argument with little pushback. The idea that Arthur dismisses as absurd — that agents could not make “value judgments” about whether to deport an undocumented immigrant — is known as “prosecutorial discretion,” and it is already a fixture among law and immigration enforcement agencies. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement website describes prosecutorial discretion as “the longstanding authority of a law enforcement agency to decide where to focus its resources and whether or how to enforce the law against an individual.”
CIS, and right-wing media more broadly, have long railed against the idea of prosecutorial discretion in immigration policy, dishonestly misrepresenting the legal precedent as “lawless” and extraordinary. In reality, prosecutorial discretion in the context of immigration has existed for decades, since at least 1971.
Mainstream media outlets uncritically quoting groups like CIS as an authority on immigration only serves to legitimize extremist, white supremacist voices who explicitly seek out these outlets to maintain a veneer of respectability and remain a fixture within the immigration debate.