2 Takeaways from CIS’s Latest Report aimed at STEM Workers

Aaron Patrick Flanagan • May 20, 2014

With the public release of its report on STEM workers at a panel scheduled for today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has issued yet another missive intended to derail the reform of our broken immigration system.

Manufacturing distraction is what CIS does, though.

Since the group’s inception in 1985, a relentless stream of reports filled with rhetorically charged data have flowed from its staff, releasing forty-two reports already in 2014. In recent years, such efforts have been compounded by releasing dozens of blog articles monthly and other communications output daily, all intended to cloud the waters of reform.

Its role was envisioned and designed by John Tanton, who wrote that CIS was to win “the Battle of Ideas” within the immigration debate. Alongside the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, its two sister groups in D.C. who also owe their existences to Tanton, CIS comprises one-third of what we at the Center for New Community have nicknamed “the Beltway Big 3” of the American nativist movement.

Each plays its role, with CIS producing figures and studies that support the work and missions of its siblings, and this year the Big 3 have worked hard to twist economic and labor issues in its favor, with CIS paying close attention to the authorizing of visas.

According to internal research conducted by the Center for New Community between February 19 and April 18, 2014 – during which time we recorded a combined 1,000 communications from the websites and social media accounts of the Big 3 and its emails to respective memberships – arguments formed in-whole or significantly around the core message of “Jobs/American Worker” ranked third most-common only to those formed in-whole or significantly around two other core message categories: “Amnesty/Rule of Law” and “Enforcement/Security.” 

We also found that CIS combined economic and labor distortions with arguments for the severe restricting of or complete elimination of various visa categories, all of which presently represent authorized avenues of entry into the United States. In fact, of the thirteen categories of occasionally overlapping core messages under which we coded their output, two categories combined for nearly 30% of CIS’s communications: “Jobs/American Worker” at 14.42% and “Visa Issues” at 13.46%. Of the Big 3, CIS alone accounted for 54.9% of total communications aimed at distorting a broad spectrum of visa authorizations.

Our research tells us that which CIS will not acknowledge to its audience at today’s panel:


  1. It fears the lobbying and financial power of Mark Zuckerberg’s pro-immigration group,, which has a vested interest in visas for STEM workers. When the Big 3 held up a target regarding such core messages, the Facebook mogul and his group were most often their favorite object of disdain.
  2. More importantly, with the social-impact of DREAMers and since Obama’s signing of the DACA executive order, the Big 3 have found it taboo to attack the authorized immigration system through core messages like “Birthright Citizenship/14th Amendment.” For the moment, these groups have had to dispense with their “anchor babies” rhetoric and overt attacks on “chain migration.” Suggesting the elimination of authorized visas within the contexts of broader discussions that could seem personally applicable to more Americans — even when such discussions are not applicable — allows CIS and others to attack authorized avenues of immigration without explicitly mentioning more hot-button issues like family migration.

Last week, CIS released yet another report arguing for mass deportations. That report indulged statistical fallacies and poor methodology, leading to sharp criticism. The Daily Beast reminded its readers of the group’s lack of credibility (“Inside the Center for Immigration Studies, the False-Fact Think-Tank”). The American Immigration Council concurred.

CIS’s report on STEM workers this week is another reminder: The Big 3 are equally invested in halting or restricting all avenues of immigration while broadly criminalizing the presence of immigrants holding a variety of statuses.

Today, though, such missives in this manufactured “Battle of Ideas” only distract from the mechanisms of our broken immigration system that continue to fracture families without sympathy, which is ultimately a victory for the “Beltway Big 3” of organized nativism.


Aaron P. Flanagan is the Director of Research at the Center for New Community.

Image source: Center for New Community

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