Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Vernon Briggs’ Little White Anti-Immigrant Lies


Eric Ward • May 29, 2009

Vernon Briggs

I’ve always detested early mornings. There’s something so unnatural about rising before the sun. I always feel like I’m lacking key pieces of data that will crucially inform my day, which is exactly how I felt 4:30 AM this past Thursday morning.

On Wednesday I’d received a call from National Public Radio (NPR), asking if I would be a participant on  Tell Me More with Michel Martin, one of their daily news programs. I love the opportunity to dialogue, even at 6:30 AM, especially about their proposed focus, African Americans and immigration.

I eagerly agreed.

I soon learned that the other scheduled guest would be Vernon Briggs, a professor at Cornell University. However, what neither I nor NPR realized at the time was that Briggs had committed a sin of omission, as he had decided not to disclose his status as an active leader of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant organization that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, earnestly maintains ties to hate groups.

Briggs, who is in fact a current board member of the Center for Immigration Studies, has worked with the controversial John Tanton Network of anti-immigrant organizations since 1984.

“…in the minds of most, being a bigot completely destroys one’s credibility as an “expert” on issues such as race and immigration.”

John Tanton himself, who perpetually defends Holocaust Deniers while also dabbling in the pseudo-science of racist eugenics, raised over $25,000 to support Briggs’s work back in 1995. That in mind, there’s vast relevance in relaying that until 1994 John Tanton had identified himself as the figurehead of CIS.

Briggs, surprising as it now may be to learn, also served on the board of John Tanton’s Social Contract Press, which publishes the writings of many individuals associated with the reconstituted 1960s White Citizens’ Councils, which is now self-rebranded as the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC).

As it is, Briggs’s “sin of omission” is more akin to pleading the 5th, really, as he certainly recognizes that his damning résumé of ties to CIS, Social Contract Press, and John Tanton might, just perhaps, influence how listeners regard the rhetoric he and his comrades have so carefully crafted.

Which is to say, in the minds of most, being a bigot completely destroys one’s credibility as an “expert” on issues such as race and immigration.

Briggs, let’s say, opted to play down his controversial background to both NPR and its listeners.

When I mentioned this on-air, however, Briggs became severely agitated and defensive, and when I highlighted that the Center for Immigration Studies continually manufactures numerous assertions without substantiating them, Briggs rather desperately began shouting out names of black leaders, as if his mention of them would somehow shield his reputation from CIS’s practice of data manipulation.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, at 4:30 AM this morning I felt as if something was missing, but by 7:15 AM I’d discovered the source of that sense of lacking: it was simply a reminder that requesting  any sort of “fair and balanced” data from Briggs, CIS, or any of their cohorts is like asking David Duke and the Klan to weigh in on human rights issues.

That said, in the true spirit of full disclosure, here’s an opportunity to listen for yourself:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104652090

I feel much better now. Time for bed.

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