In covering President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant proposals and new hires, some mainstream media outlets have been misleadingly identifying groups in favor of more restricted immigration as “conservative” or merely supportive of “stricter” rules, when the groups are actually nativist with members that promote the work of white nationalists.
The “nativist lobby” is made up of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated a hate group -- NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), among several other smaller affiliated groups. While these three groups’ ties to white supremacists and their reputation for producing shoddy research to advocate for limiting all forms of immigration are well-documented, media outlets have sanitized their image by repeatedly referencing them and citing their work without mentioning their associations with nativism and white nationalism.
In the past week alone, several mainstream outlets continued to help normalize these organizations -- specifically the Center for Immigration Studies -- by allowing them to pass as mainstream conservative organizations with a valid seat at the table in the immigration policy conversation. The Washington Post referred to CIS as “a conservative group that calls for added immigration restrictions,” USA Today identified CIS as an institution that “favors stricter control on immigration,” The Tampa Bay Times called it a “Washington D.C., think tank that favors stricter immigration policies,” while the Financial Times took the group’s word, calling it a “self-described ‘low-immigration, pro-immigrant,’” center.
These characterizations fail to provide not only a full picture of the groups’ nativist, white nationalist ties but also their true intentions, which their “racist architect” John Tanton describes as a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” Even some conservatives are hesitant to attach to these organizations, rejecting their extremism and saying they “loathe the Tanton network.” For example, Neil Stevens of the conservative outlet Red State, recently condemned CIS for pushing white-nationalist literature and called on conservatives to “stop pretending CIS and FAIR are groups we can work with, since the last thing we need is to poison our movement.” It might be too late for that, judging from the number of figures linked to these groups currently joining the conservative-backed Republican administration.
As Trump taps members and supporters of these organizations for his administration or lets them influence its policies, media have a greater responsibility to properly identify these groups and their members, specifically:
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach -- who works as legal counsel to the legal arm of FAIR, the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) -- influenced Trump’s first two anti-immigration executive orders.
The former executive director of FAIR, Julie Kirchner, is set to become chief of staff at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), was the keynote speaker at FAIR’s advisory board meeting and has credited the organization for helping sink bipartisan plans for immigration reform.
Given Trump’s recent executive orders and indications that he will be adopting these groups’ ideas it has become imperative for the press to correct course and provide an accurate, full picture of their affiliations and motivations.