Center for Immigration Studies

Center for Immigration Studies

Motto Pro-Immigrant, Low-Immigration
Formation 1985
Type Public policy think tank
Headquarters 1629 K Street N.W., Suite 600
Executive Director
Mark Krikorian[1]

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is a non-profit research organization that advocates immigration reduction in the United States.[2] It was started as a spin-off from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 1985.[3] The CIS'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."[4]


  • Board and funding 1
  • Activity 2
    • Publications 2.1
    • Congressional testimony 2.2
    • Supreme Court Citation 2.3
  • Policy Stances 3
    • Attrition through enforcement 3.1
    • E-Verify 3.2
    • US-Visit 3.3
    • Population and the environment 3.4
  • Katz award 4
  • Criticism 5
    • Southern Poverty Law Center 5.1
    • Wall Street Journal 5.2
    • People for the American Way 5.3
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Board and funding

The founding CIS Board Members were:[5]

Several of the founding members are still on the Board, which is headed by former U.S. Attorney Peter Nunez and includes T. Willard Fair from the Urban League of Greater Miami.[6]

Funding comes from contributions and grants by private foundations, from contracts with the Census Bureau and Department of Justice, and from donations by individuals,[6] including donations made through the Combined Federal Campaign.[7]



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.[8] It also maintains a blog.[9] The organization's publications address topics relating to both illegal and legal immigration.

Congressional testimony

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.[10] 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

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.[11]

Policy Stances

Attrition through enforcement

The Center advocates a policy called "attrition through enforcement". Mark Krikorian, executive director of the CIS, described the policy as:[12]

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."[12]

Krikorian said that he rejects the plausibility of mass deportations for three main reasons:[12]

  • "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:[13]

  • 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,[14] 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.[15]


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.[16] Specifically, it said that 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.[17] The author of the report, former Foreign Service Officer Jessica Vaughan,[18] 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.[16]

Population and the environment

The Center has asserted that there are adverse effects of immigration on the environment.[19]

A web video series, published by the Center, asserted that illegal immigrant smuggling along the southern U.S. border has caused environmental damage.[20] 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 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.[21][22] The center said that this would cause an increase in CO2 releases and other ecological damage.[23]

Katz award

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."[24] 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:


Southern Poverty Law Center

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, and alleging that he has ties to white supremacy groups and a eugenics foundation.

The SPLC's 2009 report charged:[26]

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:[27]

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."[28] Tanton also challenged the SPLC to a public debate at the National Press Club.[29]

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. [30][31] Ken Silverstein wrote in his online blog in reference to the SPLC's article:[32]

Wall Street Journal

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."[33]

Several months earlier, Krikorian denied allegations made in a similarly critical Wall Street Journal editorial[34] 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."[35]

Although former Rep. Cannon expressed a negative view of CIS, the CIS website quotes other elected officials, including U.S. Representative

  • Center for Immigration Studies official website

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ DeParle, Jason (April 17, 2011). "The Anti-Immigration Crusader". New York Times. 
  4. ^ Center for Immigration Studies
  5. ^ Graham, Otis. Immigration Reform and America's Unchosen Future, Authorhouse, 2008, p.140.
  6. ^ a b c CIS: About the Center for Immigration Studies
  7. ^ CIS: CFC Promotion Video
  8. ^ CIS: Publications
  9. ^ CIS: Immigration Blog
  10. ^
  11. ^ See, Arizona v. United States,
  12. ^ a b c Downsizing Illegal Immigration: A Strategy of Attrition Through Enforcement | Center for Immigration Studies
  13. ^ If It's Fixed, Don't Break It: Moving Forward with E-Verify | Center for Immigration Studies
  14. ^ Janice Kephart | Center for Immigration Studies
  15. ^ KEPHART: E-Verify ambush - Washington Times
  16. ^ a b [2]
  17. ^ US-VISIT Expanding Soon to New Immigrants and Some LPRs | Center for Immigration Studies
  18. ^ Jessica Vaughan | Center for Immigration Studies
  19. ^ Immigration, Population, and the Environment: Experts to Debate Impact of Current Policies | Center for Immigration Studies
  20. ^ Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border Series | Center for Immigration Studies
  21. ^ 100 Million More: Projecting the Impact of Immigration On the U.S. Population, 2007 to 2060 | Center for Immigration Studies
  22. ^ U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050 | Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project
  23. ^ The Environmental Argument for Reducing Immigration to the United States | Center for Immigration Studies
  24. ^ Katz Award page on CIS website.
  25. ^ SPLC: John Tanton is the Mastermind Behind the Organized Anti-Immigration Movement
  26. ^ a b Beirich, Heidi. The Nativist Lobby. Southern Poverty Law Center.
  27. ^ Krikorian, Mark. "Free Speech Is Great, But...." National Review Online. February 11, 2009.
  28. ^ Tanton, John. "SPLC’s MO: Audacter calumniare semper aliquid haeret (slander boldly, something always sticks)." The Social Contract. Spring 2010.
  29. ^ "Press Release: John Tanton challenges Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to Debate over 'Lies'." February 3, 2009.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Krikorian, Mark (2010-03-18). "Panel Transcript: Immigration and the SPLC | Center for Immigration Studies". Retrieved 2010-09-13. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ "Borderline Republicans",  
  34. ^ Riley, Jason L. (March 15, 2004), "'"GOP Nativists Tarnish Reagan's 'Shining City,  
  35. ^ Krikorian, Mark. "Strange Bedfellows." National Review Online. March 31, 2004.
  36. ^ CIS's Steinlight: Ban Muslim Immigration Because 'Muslims Believe In Things That Are Subversive To The Constitution' | Right Wing Watch
  37. ^ CIS's Steinlight: Immigration Reform A 'Psychotic' 'Plot Against America' That Will Kill The Constitution | Right Wing Watch
  38. ^ Top Anti-Immigrant 'Expert' Says 'Being Hung, Drawn And Quartered' Is 'Too Good' For Obama | Right Wing Watch
  39. ^ Conservative Scholar Disciplined For Suggesting Obama Be 'Hung, Drawn And Quartered'


On July 24, 2014, CIS announced that it had disciplined Steinlight for both remarks.[39]

The organization People for the American Way has highlighted a number of controversial statements by CIS senior policy analyst Stephen Steinlight made in July 2014. Steinlight said that the US should ban Muslim immigration because "Muslims believe in things that are subversive to the Constitution",[36] called immigration reform "a plot against America" and Republicans who support it "psychotic",[37] and of President Barack Obama that "being hung, drawn and quartered is probably too good for him."[38]

People for the American Way