Far-Right Anti-Immigrant Groups Are Polluting the Health Care Debate

Many nativist advocacy groups are twisting the facts about immigrants' access to health care.

Journalists should use caution when reporting on immigrants and health care.

Anti-immigrant groups with controversial histories are crying fire when it comes to health care and immigrants in an attempt to use mainstream media sources to stir up mass panic.

Amid a rash of articles muddying the waters on whether immigrants will and should have access to health care, both documented and undocumented immigrants suffer an unfair battering. And the best interests of the American public are obscured.

A Washington Times article of November 30, 2009 relied exclusively on the shaky data of Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigrant group founded by John Tanton. In order to assert that “health bills fail to block illegals from coverage”, the article liberally quotes Center for Immigration Studies’ research director, Steven Camarota, and Iowa Representative Steve King.

Both men are players in a well-documented web of anti-immigrant groups with ties to white nationalism and racial eugenics called the John Tanton Network.

Rep. King has maintained strong relationships with over two dozen of these controversial organizations since he joined the House of Representatives in 2003.

In an effort to mainstream the Network’s image, Center for Immigration Studies was created by John Tanton to populate panel discussions, publish “expert” reports, and regularly place op-ed pieces not only in conservative and right-wing periodicals, but also in major, mainstream daily newspapers.

Center for Immigration Studies has proven adept at attracting journalists with a flood of reports, backgrounders, position papers and panel outcomes in an effort to mainstream the John Tanton Network.

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

The question becomes not whether groups like Center for Immigration Studies hold valid opinions on the issue of health care, but if journalists can trust groups that tinker with data to support an anti-immigrant agenda.

The Tanton Network doesn’t just lure conservative papers. Steven Camarota and CIS’s executive director Mark Krikorian were also quoted on health care in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times in recent weeks. The NYT would have benefited from revisiting its editorial board’s stance on anti-immigrant groups as summed up in The Nativists are Restless, on January 31, 2009:

“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 anti-immigrant groups on health care, while overlooking their nativist roots, is simply irresponsible. The reading public deserves more.

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