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Legitimizing Hate

By Heidi Beirich, Kyle A. De beausset, and Clara Long

Tomorrow, Harvard Law School’s Latino Law and Policy Conference will hold a panel on “The Future of Immigration Reform” that will address the role of guest worker programs.  Listed as one of the speakers is Mark Krikorian, head of Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant group with strong ties to hate groups.

Krikorian is an odd choice for as respected an institution as HLS. The group he heads was established by the racist founder of the modern nativist movement, John Tanton, who has worried about the “educability” of Latinos. “I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that,” Tanton wrote in 1993.

Tanton played a critical role in CIS’s creation. Not only did he dream it up, but he installed his best friend, Otis Graham, as head of the group in the 1990s. Graham, who is still a member of CIS’s board, has some unconventional views about history. In his book “Unguarded Gates,” Graham claims that a “mythistory” was created during the civil rights movement that falsely depicted America as a “nation of immigrants.” He depicts racist past policies, such as the 1924 Immigrant Act that restricted immigration mostly to Northern Europeans, as honest attempts to preserve a “working American nationality.” He praises the American Coalition of Patriotic Societies, which backed the act, but failed to mention that it was indicted for sedition in 1942 because of its pro-Nazi activities. And Graham dismisses the nearly four million-strong, angrily anti-Catholic Klan of the 1920s as “on the margins of immigration reform.”

Krikorian often falsely claims to have no “personal relationship” with Tanton. But the facts belie him. Krikorian worked at Tanton’s Federation for American Immigration Reform, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group, before landing his post at CIS. When Krikorian was given the CIS job in the mid-1990s, Tanton wrote to congratulate him. Not long after, Krikorian began participating in annual writers workshops put on by Tanton. Through the years, Tanton wrote to Krikorian about various aspects of policy.

There are other connections, too. Krikorian has written for Tanton’s hate journal, "The Social Contract." Wayne Lutton, a board member of the white nationalist Charles Martel Society who has been published by a Holocaust-denying publication, edits the journal. Its most notorious venture was a special issue devoted to the theme of “Europhobia: The Hostility Toward European-Descended Americans” that featured a lead article from John Vinson, a member of the white supremacist League of the South, arguing that multiculturalism was replacing “successful Euro-American culture” with “dysfunctional Third World cultures.”

But it’s not just Krikorian’s affiliations or his organization’s genesis and leaders that are problematic. Krikorian is on record making bigoted and callous statements about minorities. For example, in response to the recent earthquake tragedy in Haiti, Krikorian wrote on the conservative National Review Online, “…Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.” Krikorian also suggested that the solution for Haiti “would be to resume colonialism.”

In 2008, shortly after the failure of Washington Mutual Bank, Mark Krikorian found a press release issued months earlier by the bank that celebrated its inclusion on a list of “Business Diversity Elites” compiled by Hispanic Business magazine. On NRO, Krikorian posted the release with the sneering headline, “Cause and Effect?”, implying that the bank failed because of its minority employees.

It’s not just Krikorian’s words that are a problem—his actions are too. In 2007, he accepted an invitation to speak at the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. It apparently didn’t bother him that MSU-YAF had been widely covered in the media for a series of nasty stunts—attempting to stage a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,” holding a “Koran Desecration” competition, and posting “Gays Spread AIDS” fliers across campus. He also didn’t seem to mind being part of the same speakers series that included Nick Griffin, a Holocaust denier who heads the racist British National Party, and Jared Taylor, who says blacks are incapable of civilization.

But the list of CIS’s  execrable connections goes on even further. The group regularly circulates articles to its membership produced by the white nationalist website VDARE. VDARE is named after Virginia Dare, allegedly the first white child born in North America. Some of its board members also serve in leadership posts at the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform.

The Latino Law and Policy Conference lists as part of its mission that it seeks to “encourage a forward-thinking dialogue” and “inspire the next generation of Latino leaders.” Does giving a platform to Krikorian, with his nasty views and even nastier connections, further that mission? Perhaps next time the conference should choose a different “expert” to address this complex and important topic.

Kyle A. De Beausset ’08-’11, a Crimson editorial writer, is a religion concentrator who is affiliated with Leverett House. Clara Long is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Harvard Immigration Project. Heidi Beirich is Director of Research at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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