Skip to main content Accessibility

Trump taps hate group fellow Ronald Mortensen for important post dealing with refugees

On Thursday, President Trump nominated Ronald W. Mortensen, a fellow with the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), for Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. 

The Bureau’s mission is “to provide protection, ease suffering, and resolve the plight of persecuted and uprooted people around the world on behalf of the American people…”

If approved by the Senate, Mortensen would be the fourth individual from an anti-immigrant hate group to join the Trump administration. Mortensen’s former colleague, longtime CIS staffer Jon Feere, left CIS in 2017 to take a position as a senior advisor to ICE director Thomas Homan.

CIS was founded by white nationalist John Tanton who wrote in 1993, "I've come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that." CIS has three decades of anti-immigrant animus, publishing reports and blogs depicting immigrants as terrorists, criminals and carriers of disease under their belt. CIS publications refer to immigrants as “Third-World gold-diggers,” and claimed that a lasting legacy of the Temporary Protective Status program is “the burgeoning street gang problem in the United States.” 

In 2014 a senior CIS staffer said of President Obama, “I would think being hung, drawn and quartered is probably too good for him,” and after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian wrote “My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough (his emphasis).” In a 2016 tweet, he wrote, “Obama's Justice Dept has been doing everything in its power for 7.5 yrs to foment race war. Happy now?” CIS has also commissioned disgraced former Heritage Foundation staffer Jason Richwine to write reports and blogs for the group. In 2013, civil rights groups discovered the racist nature of Richwine’s Harvard dissertation in which he claimed, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.”

Despite this, CIS advised the Trump campaign on immigration issues and is routinely cited by Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller, who serves as the bridge between nativist hate groups and the White House. In 2015, Miller gave the keynote address at a CIS awards ceremony, where he sang the praises of the group’s leadership. 

Mortensen has written for CIS since 2009 and co-founded the anti-immigrant Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration. He repeatedly paints immigrants as criminals — against the evidence — who have no allegiance to the United States. 

  • Just last year, Mortensen wrote a piece in The Hill titled, “Most illegal aliens routinely commit felonies.” In it he states bluntly, “The myth of the law abiding illegal alien is just that: a myth.” 
  • In another 2017 Hill article, Mortensen said that President Obama’s DACA programs, “Rewards illegal aliens (the so-called "Dreamers") for destroying the futures of innocent American children.” 
  • In 2014, Mortensen penned a blog for CIS titled, “McCain Rolls Out the Welcome Mat for ISIS on America's Southern Border.” 
  • In a CIS blog in 2017, Mortensen claimed that President Trump’s executive order on immigration signed in January 2017, “destroys the myth of the noble, law abiding illegal alien and forces illegal aliens and their supporters to finally acknowledge that people illegally in the United States routinely commit multiple felonies and other serious violations of American law when they enter the country, get jobs, and obtain benefits reserved for citizens and legal residents.” 
  • A 2014 blog by Mortensen on the CIS website was titled, “Open Borders: A Threat to Public Health.” In it, he writes, “The Obama administration's unrelenting focus on open borders has exposed Americans to deadly diseases and has politicized the public health agencies that are charged with protecting the health of Americans…” Later he writes, “Rather than putting the health of Americans first, these agencies, which once took their roles to protect the public seriously, now go to great lengths to ensure that foreign nationals from countries with serious diseases are allowed to freely enter the United States.” 
  • In a 2011 CIS blog Mortensen compared supporters of undocumented immigrants to “war profiteers,” writing, “War profiteers replace national interests and the interests of the nation's citizens with their own personal interests. Illegal immigration profiteers support open borders and encourage people with no allegiance to the United States to take the place of hard-working Americans who do their best to obey the laws and to raise their children to be honorable citizens.” 
  • In a 2010 CIS blog, Mortensen attacked elected officials in sanctuary cities, writing, “Will they give in to blackmail from illegal immigration advocates who say that illegal aliens will refuse to cooperate with police unless police let illegal alien murderers, identity thieves, gang bangers, and other assorted thugs remain in the U.S.?” 

Mortensen’s work also attracted the attention of white nationalist group American Renaissance (AMREN), founded by Jared Taylor, one of the most important white nationalist figures of the past quarter-century. A 2016 article by Mortensen depicting Utah’s undocumented population as criminals that was originally published on the CIS website was cross-posted on the AMREN website. 

The Utah resident’s tendency to make sweeping statements isn’t simply reserved for immigrants. In 2015 following the high-profile departures of the immigrant-friendly Salt Lake City police chief Chris Burbank and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff after scandals, Mortensen wrote:

Are Burbank and Shurtleff a purely a Utah phenomenon or are they symptomatic of a wider behavior pattern? For example, do those who support illegal aliens have a greater propensity to ignore the rule of law and to take the position that equal justice under law is simply not possible? Do they place certain individuals or groups above others based on personal beliefs and preferences rather than treating all people equally under the law until such time as laws they disagree with are changed? And is this an indication that the United States system of justice is becoming more corrupt and moving closer to the highly corrupt systems that are found in the home countries of illegal aliens? 

Trump’s decision to recruit from the ranks of the nativist anti-immigrant movement is keeping with his draconian crackdown on immigrants and racist rhetoric in defending his policies. Clearly, Mortenson was selected because of his record, not despite it. 

Comments or suggestions? Send them to Have tips about the far right? Please email: Have documents you want to share? Please visit: Follow us on Twitter @Hatewatch.