Our VoiceImmigration

Fringe Groups Distort Debate Over Health Care

Jill Garvey • Dec 07, 2009

Recently, anti-immigrant groups with controversial histories have been crying fire over connections between the issues of health care and immigration in America, all in an attempt to utilize mainstream media sources as vehicles for their panic-laden volumes of shock doctrine.

Amid a rash of articles muddying the waters on whether immigrants will and should have access to health care, both documented and undocumented immigrants are being indiscriminately battered. In such times, all journalists should exercise caution while developing stories flowing from this confluence of issues; otherwise, the best interests of all Americans could be obscured.

Such patches of fog aren’t solely emanating from the blogosphere, either.

For instance, the content of a recent Washington Times article from November 30, 2009 relies exclusively on some rather fragile data from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant group founded by infamous white nationalist John Tanton. In order to assert that “health bills fail to block illegals from coverage,” the article liberally quotes CIS’s Research Director, Steven Camarota, and Iowa Representative Steve King.

Both men are prominent players in a well-documented, intricately structured web of anti-immigrant groups, known as the John Tanton Network, that actively retain ties to white nationalism and advocates of racialist eugenics. Since he joined the House of Representatives in 2003, in fact, Rep. King has maintained strong relationships with over two dozen of these controversial organizations.

In an effort to mainstream his Network’s image and message, Tanton created CIS with a few specific targets in mind: to populate panel discussions, to publish “expert” reports, and to regularly place op-ed pieces not only in conservative and right-wing periodicals but also in major-mainstream daily newspapers.

Since then, CIS has proven adept at courting journalists with their muddy flooding of reports, backgrounders, position papers, and panel outcomes, all in an effort to soften the essentially harsh nature of the John Tanton Network’s idiosyncratic brand of anti-immigrant bigotry.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a renowned civil rights organization, “CIS often manipulates data, relying on shaky statistics or faulty logic to come to the preordained conclusion that immigration is bad for this country.”

That quote in mind, the question is not whether groups like the Center for Immigration Studies do or do not hold valid opinions on the issue of health care, but rather should journalists trust groups that tinker with data just to promote an anti-immigrant agenda?

The Washington Times is not alone, either. In recent weeks Steven Camarota and CIS’s Executive Director Mark Krikorian were also quoted on issues of health care in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times. The New York Times, it seems, would have benefited from revisiting its own editorial board’s stance on anti-immigrant groups, as summed up in an op-ed the paper published on January 31, 2009, “The Nativists are Restless”:

“The country has, of course, made considerable progress since the days of Know-Nothings and the Klan. But racism has a nasty habit of never going away, no matter how much we may want it to, and thus the perpetual need for vigilance.”

Quoting and representing the spokespersons of anti-immigrant groups as experts on health care, or any other issue for that matter, especially while also overlooking their bigoted, nativist roots, is simply irresponsible. The audiences of these papers deserve not only to know whom these “experts” are but also what underpins their true agendas-anti-immigrant hysteria.

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