In his State of the Union address this week, President Trump congratulated his administration for having “taken historic actions to protect religious liberty.”
And it was historic when his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, issued religious freedom guidance eroding protections for LGBT people after he consulted with another anti-LGBT hate group, the Alliance Defending Freedom.
CIS presents itself as an independent think tank, but it began as a project of the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform and was founded by white nationalist John Tanton.
CIS frequently manipulates its findings to achieve results that further its anti-immigrant agenda. Last fall, for instance, CIS staffer Jessica Vaughn published a report exaggerating how many people would enter America via a process that CIS calls “chain migration” — the hate group’s preferred phrase to stigmatize the idea of immigrant families reuniting.
The phrase “chain migration” appeared twice in this week’s State of the Union, alongside dangerous and hateful misinformation about immigrants taken directly from CIS talking points.
Given the State of the Union’s author, that should be no surprise.
Senior adviser Stephen Miller, who took the lead writing the speech, served for years as an aide to Jeff Sessions, who has himself endorsed CIS’ work, spoken on a CIS panel, and taken whispered counsel from a former CIS staffer during immigration debates on the Senate floor.
When Sessions hired Miller fresh from Duke University, he did so at the recommendation of anti-Muslim extremist David Horowitz. Now in the White House, Miller has been claimed and praised by extremists for advocating policy on hate group wish lists and pushing anti-immigrant narratives like the one we heard in the State of the Union.
For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour in to our most vulnerable communities. They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans,” Trump said Tuesday, reading Miller’s text off a teleprompter.
But studies consistently show that immigrants help — not hurt — the U.S. economy.
“Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives,” Trump said Tuesday — despite study after study finding immigrants commit crime at rates lower than native-born Americans, not higher.
Hate groups should not have a seat at the table on matters of national policy or influence what talking points to highlight in the State of the Union.
But thanks to Stephen Miller, they have exactly that.
P.S. Here are some other pieces we think are valuable this week:
- What kids are really learning about slavery by Melinda Anderson for The Atlantic
- How the far right has perfected the art of deniable racism by Gary Younge for The Guardian
- Indian slavery once thrived in New Mexico. Latinos are finding family ties to it by Simon Romero for The New York Times
- The terrifying rise of alt-right fight clubs by Bryan Schatz for Mother Jones
SPLC’s Weekend Read is a weekly summary of the most important news reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequality, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive the Weekend Read every Saturday morning.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh