Center for Immigration Studies

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Center for Immigration Studies logo.png
Motto Pro-Immigrant, Low-Immigration
Formation 1985; 32 years ago (1985)
Type Public policy think tank
Headquarters 1629 K Street N.W., Suite 600
Executive Director
Mark Krikorian[1]
Website Official website

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is a conservative[2] non-profit research organization "that favors far lower immigration numbers and produces research to further those views."[3] It was started as a spin-off from Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1985.[4] The Center's self-described mission is to "provid[e] immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States."[5]

Reports published by the CIS have been widely deemed misleading and riddled with basic errors by scholars on immigration; think tanks from across the ideological and political spectrum; media of all stripes; several leading nonpartisan immigration-research organizations; and by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The organization has also drawn criticism for its financial and intellectual ties to extremist racists.[6][7][8][9]

As of 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS as an anti-immigrant hate group.[10]

Board and funding[edit]

The founding CIS Board Members were:[11]

Several of the founding members are still on the Board, which is headed by former U.S. Attorney Peter Nuñez and includes T. Willard Fair from the Urban League of Greater Miami.[12]

Funding comes from contributions and grants by private foundations, from contracts with the Census Bureau and Department of Justice, and from donations by individuals,[12] including donations made through the Combined Federal Campaign.[13]



CIS publishes books and posts for free on its website a variety of announcements, research reports, memoranda, op-eds and articles, panel discussion transcripts, Congressional testimony, and videos.[14] It also maintains a blog.[15] The organization's publications address topics relating to both illegal and legal immigration.

Congressional testimony[edit]

The Center's staff have been called on to give testimony before federal and state legislators dozens of times and on numerous subjects within the realm of immigration.[16] In 2006 and 2007, as the U.S. Congress took up comprehensive immigration reform, they gave Congressional testimony on 27 different occasions.

Supreme Court Citation[edit]

The Center's research was cited by Justice Kennedy in his opinion in Arizona v. United States, on June 25, 2012, as evidence of Arizona's problem with crime committed by illegal aliens.[17]

Policy stances[edit]

Attrition through enforcement[edit]

The Center advocates a policy called "attrition through enforcement". Mark Krikorian, executive director of the CIS, described the policy as:[18]

Shrink the illegal population through consistent, across-the-board enforcement of the immigration law. By deterring the settlement of new illegals, by increasing deportations to the extent possible, and, most importantly, by increasing the number of illegals already here who give up and deport themselves, the United States can bring about an annual decrease in the illegal-alien population, rather than allowing it to continually increase. The point, in other words, is not merely to curtail illegal immigration, but rather to bring about a steady reduction in the total number of illegal immigrants who are living in the United States. The result would be a shrinking of the illegal population to a manageable nuisance, rather than today's looming crisis.

Krikorian wrote in 2005 that the Center does not advocate amnesty for illegal aliens or mass deportations, because the two represent, "a false premise: Since the federal government can't quickly deport the 10-12 million illegal aliens, the only alternative is legalization – i.e., amnesty."[18]

Krikorian said that he rejects the plausibility of mass deportations for three main reasons:[18]

  • "First, we simply don't have the capacity to find, detain, and deport 10–12 million people in a short period of time."
  • "Secondly, even if we had the capacity to magically relocate the millions of illegals, the economic disruption from such an abrupt change would make the transition more painful than it needs to be for those businesses that have become addicted to illegal labor."
  • "And finally, political support for a new commitment to enforcement might well be undermined if an exodus of biblical proportions were to be televised in every American living room."


E-Verify is currently a voluntary program run by the United States government to help companies determine whether employees and prospective employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program, the program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

A 2008 white paper by the Center made several assertions about the E-Verify program, including the following:[19]

  • That the overall accuracy of the program is 99.5 percent.
  • That 94.2 percent of all employees are authorized within the first 24 hours.
  • That 93 percent are verified within five seconds.
  • That in FY 2007 the program found 157,000 unauthorized workers who had previously evaded the I-9 forms.

The author of the study, former 9/11 Commission staffer Janice Kephart,[20] said:

E-Verify replaced a paper-based system that employers incessantly moaned about for good reason. Even after Sept. 11, 2001, employers were in a no-win situation with the federal government; they faced an immigration law rightly forbidding the hiring of illegal workers but had to rely on a paper-based system which couldn't verify the identities or documents of new hires. Then, with the creation of E-Verify in 2004, the main burden for determining work authorization shifted to the government in a meaningful way, modernizing what was known as the Basic Pilot Program.[21]


US-VISIT is a U.S. immigration and border management system. The system involves the collection and analysis of biometric data (such as fingerprints), which are checked against a database to track individuals deemed by the United States to be terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants.

A 2005 Center Backgrounder was critical of the program.[22] Specifically, it said that most Mexican and Canadian arrivals are not checked and the exit checks are extremely sparse. Since that time, the number of checks increased, but the Center has asserted that much more work is needed.[23] The author of the report, former Foreign Service Officer Jessica Vaughan,[24] said:

Lack of attention to the overstay problem continues to compromise our efforts to prevent terrorist operations and control illegal immigration. At the moment, in a dangerous international environment, we are admitting about 200 million temporary visitors a year, with virtually no way to keep visitors from staying beyond their authorized visit, and no way even to count the number of visitors who overstay. DHS estimates that at least 30 percent of the approximately 10 million illegal immigrants living in the United States are probably visa overstayers. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that figure is almost certainly understated, probably significantly so.[22]

Population and the environment[edit]

The Center has asserted that there are adverse effects of immigration on the environment.[25]

A web video series, published by the Center, asserted that illegal immigrant smuggling along the southern U.S. border has caused environmental damage.[26] The hidden cameras and other footage in the video series were asserted to show that various smuggling routes through federal lands in southern Arizona have encroached on wildlife areas and left trash and other pollution behind.

The Center also asserted that legal and illegal immigration have an adverse impact due to increasing the nation's population. The center said that if current[when?] immigration policies are held in place, future immigrants and their descendants would increase the U.S. population by approximately 100 million people over the next fifty years.[27][28] The center said that this would cause an increase in CO2 releases and other ecological damage.[29]

Katz award[edit]

The Center gives an annual award called the Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration to journalists covering immigration issues. The organization's stated purpose for the award is, "to promote informed and fair reporting on this contentious and complicated issue."[30] The award is named in memory of Eugene Katz, a native New Yorker who started his career as a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman. In 1928, he joined the family business, working as an advertising salesman for the Katz Agency, and in 1952 became president of Katz Communications, a half-billion-dollar firm which not only dealt in radio and television advertising but also owned and managed a number of radio stations. Katz was a member of the Center for Immigration Studies board until shortly after his 90th birthday in 1997. He died in 2000.

Katz award recipients have included the following:


Past reports by the CIS have been deemed misleading and riddled with basic errors by scholars on immigration; think tanks from across the political spectrum (such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, the Heritage Foundation and Center for American Progress); left-leaning, neutral and right-leaning media (including the Wall Street Journal, Politifact and NBC News); several leading nonpartisan immigration-research organizations (such as Migration Policy Institute and the American Immigration Council); and by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.[31][32][33][34][35][36][3][37][38][39][40][41][42][43]

Writing in 2007 about a recent CIS report, Wayne A. Cornelius, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UCSD, said, "Like all reports emanating from the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., the latest one... offers a relentlessly negative view of the most recent wave of immigration to the United States. The economic benefits of immigration – even illegal immigration – to the average American are barely acknowledged, while the costs are estimated in such a way as to provoke the maximum degree of public anger and anxiety."[34]

Southern Poverty Law Center[edit]

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published reports in 2002[44] and 2009[45] connecting CIS to John Tanton, who helped found various other organizations, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, and showing he has ties to white supremacy groups and a eugenics foundation.

The SPLC's 2009 report charged:[45]

FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA are all part of a network of restrictionist organizations conceived and created by John Tanton, the "puppeteer" of the nativist movement and a man with deep racist roots ... CIS was conceived by Tanton and began life as a program of FAIR. CIS presents itself as a scholarly think tank that produces serious immigration studies meant to serve "the broad national interest." But the reality is that CIS has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked, and it has frequently manipulated data to achieve the results it seeks.

In response, Krikorian wrote:[46]

The fact that they went after mainstream groups rather than fringe ones shows that the goal is not elevating the tone of public discourse but shutting it down altogether. ... The report's section on CIS is not just hackwork, but amateurish hackwork. Much of it dwells on letters written to (not by, but to) one of my board members, misidentified as having been executive director. Our research is described as having been debunked by "mainstream think tanks and organizations," oddly enough including two of the most strident open-borders advocacy groups in the nation. My tenure there, the majority of the center's existence, is dismissed briefly at the end as "The Later Years." And they didn’t even mention my book, which knits together decades of CIS research on the many facets of immigration into a unified theoretical framework – something at least worth touching on when trying to show how naughty CIS is. What's more, CIS is an unlikely source of "intolerance." The chairman is Peter Nuñez, U.S. attorney for San Diego under Reagan; the board includes the president of the Greater Miami Urban League and a former executive director of the National Black Caucus Foundation; the staff includes the former national policy director for the American Jewish Committee; and I didn't even speak English until I got to kindergarten.

Tanton also denied the SPLC's accusations. As to his alleged influence at CIS, he wrote, "I also helped raise a grant in 1985 for the Center for Immigration Studies, but I have played no role in the Center's growth or development."[47] Tanton also challenged the SPLC to a public debate at the National Press Club.[48]

In March 2010, CIS published a report written by Jerry Kammer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and senior research fellow at CIS, that was sharply critical of the SPLC, its tactics and methodologies, and its attacks against groups such as CIS, NumbersUSA, and FAIR.[49][50] Ken Silverstein wrote in his online blog in reference to the SPLC's article:[51]

Wall Street Journal[edit]

In 2004, a Wall Street Journal editorial repeated the SPLC's allegation that CIS is part of a network of organizations founded by Tanton and also charged that these organizations are "trying to stop immigration to the U.S." It quoted Chris Cannon, at the time a Republican U.S. Representative from Utah, as saying, "Tanton set up groups like CIS and FAIR to take an analytical approach to immigration from a Republican point of view so that they can give cover to Republicans who oppose immigration for other reasons."[36]

Several months earlier, Krikorian denied allegations made in a similarly critical Wall Street Journal editorial[52] and by Rep. Cannon, writing "This kind of venomous lying and guilt by association are par for the course in the fever swamps of the web, but are startling in the halls of the U.S. Congress and the pages of the nation's largest-circulation newspaper."[53]

Although former Rep. Cannon expressed a negative view of CIS, the CIS website quotes other elected officials, including U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX), former Governor Richard D. Lamm (D-CO), U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY), in support of the organization.[12]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b "Fact-Checking the First Night of the Republican National Convention". NBC News. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  4. ^ DeParle, Jason (April 17, 2011). "The Anti-Immigration Crusader". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Center for Immigration Studies
  6. ^ Dickson, Caitlin (May 15, 2014). "Inside The Center For Immigration Studies, The Immigration False-Fact Think Tank". The Daily Beast. 
  7. ^ "Are Over Half of America's Immigrants Really on Welfare?". CityLab. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  8. ^ Commentary, Wayne A. Cornelius. "Immigration study misleading, negative". Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  9. ^ "Borderline Republicans", Wall Street Journal, p. A18, June 14, 2004 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Graham, Otis. Immigration Reform and America's Unchosen Future, Authorhouse, 2008, p. 140.
  12. ^ a b c CIS: About the Center for Immigration Studies
  13. ^ CIS: CFC Promotion Video
  14. ^ CIS: Publications
  15. ^ CIS: Immigration Blog
  16. ^
  17. ^ See, Arizona v. United States,
  18. ^ a b c Downsizing Illegal Immigration: A Strategy of Attrition Through Enforcement | Center for Immigration Studies
  19. ^ If It's Fixed, Don't Break It: Moving Forward with E-Verify | Center for Immigration Studies
  20. ^ Janice Kephart | Center for Immigration Studies
  21. ^ Kephart: "E-Verify ambush". Washington Times
  22. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2009-02-11. 
  23. ^ US-VISIT Expanding Soon to New Immigrants and Some LPRs | Center for Immigration Studies
  24. ^ Jessica Vaughan | Center for Immigration Studies
  25. ^ Immigration, Population, and the Environment: Experts to Debate Impact of Current Policies | Center for Immigration Studies
  26. ^ Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border Series | Center for Immigration Studies
  27. ^ 100 Million More: Projecting the Impact of Immigration On the U.S. Population, 2007 to 2060 | Center for Immigration Studies
  28. ^ U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050 | Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project
  29. ^ The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States | Center for Immigration Studies
  30. ^ Katz Award page on CIS website.
  31. ^ Dickson, Caitlin (May 15, 2014). "Inside The Center For Immigration Studies, The Immigration False-Fact Think Tank". The Daily Beast. 
  32. ^ "Are Over Half of America's Immigrants Really on Welfare?". CityLab. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  33. ^ "Noncitizens' Use Of Public Benefits Has Declined Since 1996, Revised 4/21/03". Retrieved 2017-02-03.  line feed character in |title= at position 70 (help)
  34. ^ a b Commentary, Wayne A. Cornelius. "Immigration study misleading, negative". Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  35. ^ "Lois Lips Sink Ships". The American Spectator. 2014-08-01. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  36. ^ a b "Borderline Republicans", Wall Street Journal, p. A18, June 14, 2004 
  37. ^ "Economist: Immigrants have taken all new jobs created since 2000". @politifact. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  38. ^ "CIS Exaggerates the Cost of Immigrant Welfare Use". Cato Institute. 2016-05-10. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  39. ^ "Immigrants Did Not Take Your Job". Cato Institute. 2012-11-02. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  40. ^ ThinkProgress (2012-04-19). "Anti-Immigrant Group Runs False TV Ad Blaming Global Warming On Immigrants Entering The U.S.". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  41. ^ "Donald Trump, and the bogus myth that foreign tech workers steal American jobs". 2015-10-30. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  42. ^ "H-1B Workers: Highly Skilled, Highly Needed". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  43. ^ "Trump launches first TV ad of general election". Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  44. ^ SPLC: John Tanton is the Mastermind Behind the Organized Anti-Immigration Movement
  45. ^ a b Beirich, Heidi. The Nativist Lobby Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. Southern Poverty Law Center.
  46. ^ Krikorian, Mark. "Free Speech Is Great, But...." National Review Online. February 11, 2009.
  47. ^ Tanton, John. "SPLC’s MO: Audacter calumniare semper aliquid haeret (slander boldly, something always sticks)." The Social Contract. Spring 2010.
  48. ^ "Press Release: John Tanton challenges Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to Debate over 'Lies'." February 3, 2009.
  49. ^ Kammer, Jerry. "Immigration and the SPLC: How the Southern Poverty Law Center Invented a Smear, Served La Raza, Manipulated the Press, and Duped its Donors." Center for Immigration Studies. March 2010. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  50. ^ Krikorian, Mark (2010-03-18). "Panel Transcript: Immigration and the SPLC | Center for Immigration Studies". Retrieved 2010-09-13. 
  51. ^
  52. ^ Riley, Jason L. (March 15, 2004), "GOP Nativists Tarnish Reagan's 'Shining City'", Wall Street Journal 
  53. ^ Krikorian, Mark. "Strange Bedfellows." National Review Online. March 31, 2004.

External links[edit]