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Jessica Vaughan, staffer with anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), to testify in the House tomorrow

On Thursday, February 15, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will host a hearing titled, “The Effect of Sanctuary City Policies on the Ability to Combat the Opioid Epidemic.”

The hearing will feature two witnesses with direct ties to anti-immigrant hate groups, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and Sheriff A.J. Louderback of the Jackson Country, Texas Sheriff’s Office. 

Vaughan’s organization has become the go-to resource for the White House for its nativist immigration policies. President Trump’s key advisor Stephen Miller has repeatedly cited CIS since taking up a position in the White House. Vaughan’s testimony will mark the twelfth time that the organization has testified on the Hill since the beginning of 2016. This despite the fact that it was founded by white nationalist John Tanton and has a decades-long history of bigotry.

Like her colleagues, Vaughan, too, has a history of bigoted public statements and extremist associations. Among other things:

  • Vaughan has disparaged the humanitarian Temporary Protected Status program for supposedly contributing to “the burgeoning street gang problem in the United States.”
  • She has praised anti-immigrant sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s bigoted proposal to send inmates in his Massachusetts prison to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist in constructing Trump’s border wall. “If any of the inmates working on the wall are criminal aliens from south of the border, they’ll be that much closer for deportation,” Vaughan said. “Not only that, they can use their new skills to support themselves in their home country.”
  • Vaughan has previously discussed her work with The American Free Press, a virulently antisemitic newspaper founded by Willis Carto, a Holocaust denier who was active on the radical right for over five decades before his death in 2015.
  • She has also been a featured speaker at multiple extremist events including white nationalist publisher The Social Contract Press’s annual Writer’s Workshop and the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s Sheriff Border Summit. At the Writer’s Workshop, white nationalist Peter Brimelow of the racist website VDARE also spoke.
  • In 1996, Vaughan appeared on an episode of “Borderline,” a show produced by FAIR, alongside Chilton Williamson, a longtime editor of Chronicles magazine, a publication with strong neo-Confederate ties that caters to the more intellectual wing of the white nationalist movement.  

More importantly, however, Vaughan has been integral to CIS’s poisoning of the immigration debate with misinformation and obfuscation. One prominent example the Center for New Community has previously highlighted is Vaughan and CIS’s blatant misrepresentation of sanctuary policies. In this area, Vaughan’s relationship with the truth is particularly egregious. In 2015, CIS published a map listing over 270 jurisdictions as so-called sanctuaries that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Vaughan and her colleagues willfully omitted crucial information regarding the legality of so-called detainer requests federal immigration enforcement agents issue to state and local police. Courts have ruled that honoring such requests can lead to detaining individuals in direct violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.

Vaughan and CIS’s work in this area has dangerously shifted the terms of public debate away from facts and toward the anecdotal and heuristic. Law enforcement officials in some of the jurisdictions targeted by CIS have objected to sanctuary characterization, clarifying that their actions follow court orders. Vaughan has defended these reckless and dangerous allegations she and her organization have made against law enforcement officials. “If being listed as a sanctuary causes people in the community to complain, well, that’s a good thing,” she told The Washington Times earlier this year. “They should have to explain themselves to the public. That’s called accountability.”  

For decades, CIS and another anti-immigrant hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have worked directly with law enforcement officials and one of the other witnesses in the February 15 hearing, Sheriff A.J. Louderback is a classic example. In December of 2014, FAIR helped to organize a trip for sheriffs around the country, including Louderback, to visit Washington, D.C. for a series of events culminating in a press conference where sheriffs, and then Senator Jeff Sessions among others spoke out against executive actions taken by President Obama to protect undocumented immigrants. 

In August of the following year, Louderback teamed up with Vaughan and other Texas law enforcement officers to hold another press conference, this time decrying the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) created by President Obama that prioritized the undocumented immigrants that ICE would focus on. At the press conference, Louderback claimed PEP, “has created a sanctuary state for criminal aliens because it has gutted the immigration system.” 

In 2016, Louderback participated in a CIS-sponsored panel titled, “A Case Study of How Flawed Immigration Policy Begets Gang Violence.” The panel followed the release of reports by CIS attempting to tie women and children fleeing violence in Central America which hit highs in 2014, to criminal gangs, most notably MS-13. During his speech, Louderback focused on telling stories of brutal crimes committed by MS-13 members in his jurisdiction. 

Vaughan’s long track record of peddling fearmongering mistruths and bigoted statements about immigrants combined with Louderback’s documented history of working with hate groups indicates that House members are going to get more than their fair share of nativism at tomorrow’s hearing. 

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