Dear Mr. Blitzer,
I am writing in response to the New Yorker essay of February 17, in which you reported that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies as "hate groups." You offered no elaboration, no explanation. You provided no opportunity for response. I write now in defense of the Center for Immigration Studies, where I am a research fellow. I will let FAIR speak for itself.
The hate group smear is a cheap attempt at character assassination. Your reckless recitation of it in a prestigious magazine is journalistically unethical. Before you drew your readers' attention to the smear, it had been ignored in the world of reputable journalism. Reporters and editors must have recognized that printing it would make them complicit in the SPLC's dirty work. You may be proud that you assisted the SPLC's effort to denigrate CIS. I think the SPLC, who excesses are so blindly accepted by so many liberals, has induced you to debase the New Yorker.
The purpose of the SPLC attack on the Center for Immigration Studies is to delegitimize a widely respected organization that has become an important voice of dissent from the Manhattan consensus on immigration. That consensus defends the proposition that immigration – regardless of its legality, intensity, or effects on the lives of working-class Americans – is an undiluted good, questioned only by the narrow of mind and hateful of heart.
Last year, when you reported in the New Yorker that the SPLC had called FAIR a hate group, you at least noted – with a minimalist, pro-forma simulation of fairness – that FAIR "disputes the categorization." But you failed to report that the designation, which was announced in 2007, was a publicity stunt. It was timed to draw attention to the rollout of a "Stop the Hate" campaign organized by the National Council of La Raza in cooperation with the SPLC.
That campaign, while aimed primarily at FAIR, was also an effort to discredit other groups who had opposed the 2007 immigration reform legislation. The groups, including the Center for Immigration Studies, warned that the bill would replicate the notorious failure of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).
As you may know, IRCA was presented as a means to end illegal immigration. It was packaged as a compromise that combined the compassion of legal status for persons established in the U.S. with firm steps to stop future illegal immigration by denying unauthorized migrants access to American jobs. But IRCA's provisions to cut off the jobs magnet were so easy to evade that the law had the effect of facilitating the massive illegal immigration of the 1990s.
Mark Potok, the SPLC's radical guru of hate, was candid about the decision to smear FAIR as a hate group. "What we are hoping very much to accomplish is to marginalize FAIR," he said. This latest "hate group" smear, tagging the Center for Immigration Studies, comes after the election of Donald Trump. Trump's insults of Mexicans were reprehensible. But his victory was due in large part to his recognition of legitimate grievances of many Americans about the federal government's failure to enforce IRCA's worksite provisions.
A few brave Manhattan voices have acknowledged that Trump had recognized a crisis that many failed to understand. "People across America have been falling through the cracks," wrote David Brooks of the New York Times. "Trump, to his credit, made them visible." The New Yorker's George Packer credited Trump with understanding something that many other Republicans had not: "The middle-aged white working class has suffered at least as much as any demographic group because of globalization, low-wage immigrant labor, and free trade," Packer wrote.
Those concerns have long informed the work of the Center for Immigration Studies. They also animated the work of Barbara Jordan, the late civil rights icon whom President Clinton named to chair the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform.
And yet the Manhattan consensus holds to its line that opposition to unconstrained immigration is the ideological homeland of haters. It is the prevailing ideology at the New Yorker and the New York Times, David Brooks and George Packer notwithstanding. Manhattan-based charitable foundations – especially Carnegie, Ford, the Open Society Institute – finance not only groups that advocate for expansive immigration but also those who attack dissenters from the consensus. One of the most virulent attack groups is the Chicago-based Center for New Community, which your February 17 piece identifies with risibly anodyne superficiality as "a nonprofit research and advocacy group."