Sinclair Broadcast Group host Sharyl Attkisson failed to disclose Jerry Kammer’s affiliation with the anti-immigration extremist group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) during an interview with him which aired on 162 local news stations, according to the Full Measure website. During the interview, Attkisson allowed Kammer to whitewash his organization's nativist views by describing himself as a “moderate liberal” and introducing him as a journalist. She never challenged any of his false or misleading claims about immigration. Attkisson also failed to bring up President Donald Trump’s child separation policy and the numerous deaths of people in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which Kammer's organization explicitly supported.
In his interview for Sinclair, Kammer pushed multiple debunked claims about undocumented immigrants with no pushback from Attkisson:
Kammer echoed the oft-repeated and debunked right-wing claim that undocumented people are stealing jobs from American citizens. Undocumented workers often fill jobs others do not want, and data shows more immigration helps increase overall hiring and expands the economy. In reality, increased immigration actually assists with job creation.
Kammer then asserted that most Americans want stricter immigration policy and claimed that there’s a large and influential pro-immigration lobby preventing a crackdown:
Again, Kammer’s claims are misleading. His own anti-immigration organization actually does have a way to influence politicians: CIS is connected to the U.S. Immigration Reform PAC, which has donated to the campaigns of outgoing white nationalist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and “pro-White” anti-Semite Paul Nehlen, through the two groups’ shared founder John Tanton, who was an extreme nativist, white nationalist, and eugenicist.
The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Tanton “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement” and notes that “he created a network of organizations” – including CIS, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and NumbersUSA – “that profoundly shaped the immigration debate in the U.S.” All of these organizations continue to receive support from the Colcom Foundation, the fund of the late nativist heiress Cordelia Scaife May that “has poured $180 million into a network of groups that spent decades agitating for policies now pursued by President Trump.”
Despite Kammer’s claims during his Sinclair interview, CIS is not a small grassroots organization standing up against a big pro-immigrant lobby. It is also part of a “very established presence” in American politics; in fact, many of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies came directly from a CIS wishlist.
Kammer is also wrong about Americans’ opinions on immigration. Gallup’s July polling on the subject actually shows for the first time in decades that a plurality of people want more immigration, and an overwhelming majority (77%) think it is good for the country. Polling also suggests that Americans overwhelmingly (74%) support amnesty for undocumented people brought across the border as children and only really support increased border restrictions in large numbers as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Another misleading statement actually came from Attkisson herself, who said this after the interview wrapped:
This is a false characterization of a bill President Ronald Reagan signed into law, which gave people who arrived in the U.S. before 1982 eligibility for amnesty while cracking down on future immigration, including “tighter security at the Mexican border” and “strict penalties for hiring undocumented workers.”
While most of the Full Measure interview peddled false information on immigration, it also outright ignored some of the most prominent impacts of modern immigration policy under the Trump administration. Neither Kammer nor Attkisson mentioned the administration’s family separation policy, which CIS defended at the time it was implemented. In fact, CIS claimed that tearing children away from parents, while harsh, actually protected undocumented people by deterring criminals. While CIS praised child separation, the Trump administration denied it was official policy, claiming it was a byproduct of the new “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting every illegal border crossing case. (Two years later, an internal Justice Department investigation revealed that this was a lie -- not only did the administration specifically target parents and kids for separation, but the policy also did nothing to deter criminals.)
There was also no mention of the numerous deaths in ICE and CBP custody during the Trump administration. In particular, ICE’s failure to properly implement coronavirus safety measures has resulted in the most deaths of people in its custody since 2006, according to ICE records obtained by BuzzFeed News. Additionally, several children have died in CBP custody over the last two years as inadequate medical equipment and record-keeping continues to result in needless deaths.
The Southern Poverty Law Center designated CIS an anti-immigrant hate group in 2016, but it has been on the fringes since its founding in 1985.
Kammer has been a part of CIS since 2009. He has framed himself for years as a liberal advocate for immigration restriction, but the ideas he espouses are nativist, especially his insistence on the false notion that undocumented people make life for U.S.-born workers more difficult. His past as an award-winning journalist has also given him the legitimacy to spread his ideas on large platforms, including PBS and The New York Times.