Our VoiceImmigration

CIS tries to have it both ways on population control, immigration

Lindsay Schubiner • Mar 18, 2015

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a self-styled think tank that promotes nativist policies, published a study last week arguing that the birth rates of immigrants are declining at a faster rate than the birth rates of people born in the U.S.  The study argues that because immigrant birth rates have declined, immigration is unlikely to have a significant on the aging of the U.S. population.

This new report is a shot across the bow at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his failure to adopt the extremist anti-immigrant positions supported by CIS.

You might be wondering if CIS is the same organization that is known for raising the alarm over claims that high immigrant birth rates are a danger to this country. The same one that in 2012 published a blog opining, “[The] grim and unreported news is that the country’s population is increasing at unsustainable levels, and that one of the major reasons for that is the high birth rates of foreign-born women.” The same one that was founded by John Tanton, notorious anti-immigrant advocate of population control and eugenics.

It is, in fact, the very same.

It turns out that CIS staffers are twisting themselves into knots to maintain their anti-immigrant and pro-population control arguments while attempting to discredit those who disagree with them.

Here is what the study has to say:

“There is no question that America is aging. Many advocates of immigration like Jeb Bush argue that immigrants can fundamentally change this fact, partly because of their higher fertility. It is true that immigrants have more children on average than natives. But the impact on the nation’s overall fertility rate is quite modest no matter how fertility is measured. Therefore it would be incorrect to argue that the fertility of immigrants “rebuilds the demographic pyramid.” Further, immigrant fertility is falling, so the impact of immigration on aging is falling as well.”

Attacks directed at Bush

This new report is a shot across the bow at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for his failure to adopt the extremist anti-immigrant positions supported by CIS and the rest of the anti-immigrant Tanton network.

Bush, known to have a softer position on immigration, said in 2013, “Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity.” Bush referred to the need to “rebuild the demographic pyramid” of America’s aging society, and the economic benefits of doing so, as part of his argument for immigration reform.

As the 2016 presidential campaign gets underway and Bush remains a viable and active potential candidate, CIS appears to be worried. With Bush’s statement on immigrant fertility featured in the very first sentence of CIS’s report, it is hard to interpret the report as anything other than an attempt to control the immigration conversation moving into the Republican presidential primary.

CIS has a vested interest in ensuring that the Republican Party remains the party of so-called self-deportation and that dissenting voices within the GOP are marginalized. In fact, the Tanton network invented self-deportation as a policy prescription for their anti-immigrant goals, and CIS has been promoting it for years. With self-deportation losing ground nationally in public opinion, CIS wants to undercut pro-immigration arguments-especially those within the GOP-as much as possible. Not surprisingly, CIS is willing to mislead its readers about the facts in order to do so, omitting any mention in their study of the contribution the economic recession has made to lower birth rates among immigrant women.

CIS staff members have certainly not abandoned their concern about population control in the U.S., nor have they disavowed the organization’s roots in eugenics and white supremacy. They are simply trying to have it both ways. By undermining Jeb Bush’s economic argument about the positive impacts of immigration, they can easily pivot to making their usual racist, disingenuous case against immigration. At the same time, they can still oppose immigration based on overall population numbers.

With the presidential campaign still in front of us, rest assured this won’t be the last we see of CIS trying to have it both ways.

Lindsay Schubiner is the Senior Program Manager at the Center for New Community.

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