The motives of Lee Cissna, the director of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), is better understood knowing that he was invited to give a speech on Aug. 15, 2018 at the think tank Center for Immigration Studies (CIS, founded in 1985), described as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an association that monitors the far-right and associations promoting hatred and exclusion.
Associated with CIS is the Federation for the Reform of American Immigration (FAIR, founded in 1979), which specializes in lobbying, also a hate group. A third group completes the picture: NumbersUSA (founded in 1997), which mobilizes anti-immigration supporters.
All three promote white nationalism, i.e. that the white race must remain a majority in the countries where it is – thus multicultural and multiracial immigration is their main enemy. Their common founder, John Tanton, an ophthalmologist from Michigan, is a follower of eugenics, the “science” that aims to improve humans’ genetic quality by encouraging selective breeding and sometimes advocating the sterilization of genetically “undesirable” groups. This was a key policy of Germany’s Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945.
EUGENICS AND THE GAS CHAMBERS CAME FROM CALIFORNIA
Note that “the concept of a white, blond-haired, blue-eyed master Nordic race didn’t originate with Hitler,” explains author Edwin Black. “The idea was created in the United States, and cultivated in California, decades before Hitler came to power.”
“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.”
The same for the gas chambers that the Nazis subsequently adopted. In 1907, Indiana, then Washington state and California in 1909, followed by 30 other states, passed laws imposing the forced sterilization and segregation of individuals deemed “unfit” – physical or mental but sometimes just women too sexually active, rebellious, or having too big a clitoris. There were some 60,000 victims.
Proponents of this eugenics theory were scientists from the largest universities – Stanford, Yale, Harvard, Princeton – and “reputable” organizations such as the Carnegie Institution or the Rockefeller Foundation that funded Josef Mengele, the Nazi SS officer who became the physician of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Even the U.S. Supreme Court made this decision in 1927, written by Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” President Theodore Roosevelt himself, strongly influenced by eugenics, remarked: “The country needs ‘good breeders and good fighters’”.
History goes back further, inevitable in a nation built by successive waves of immigrants of different origins, the old ones repelling the new ones. (Donald Trump, Lee Cissna, Stephen Miller all repudiate their recent past as immigrants – wives, parents, or grandparents.) In 1882, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act, “a form of social engineering that separated humanity into desirable and undesirable groups. Anglo-Saxons were placed atop the ranking of groups considered desirable, while the bottom rankings were occupied by Eastern and Southern Europeans, Asians, Africans, and Native Americans.”
Then it was the turn of the 1924 Immigration Act to exclude many Jews and Italians and almost all Africans and Asians. But even the Irish had been stigmatized when they massively arrived in the 1850s. It was said that “they would never become real Americans, they would ruin everything that was great in America,” according to George Washington University history professor Tyler Anbinder, author of the recent City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York.
Even after the trauma of the Holocaust, the Eisenhower administration set up Operation Wetback to expel undocumented Mexicans from California in the 1950s. And states like Oregon continued with forced sterilization until 1983, when the law was abolished!
In 1993, eugenics-adherent ophthalmologist Tanton adapted these ideas to today’s tastes: “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.” For his part, CIS director Mark Krikorian said that “My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough.”
As for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), it is among a list of 79 wishes that the CIS published in April 2016: “use [the law] sparingly and appropriately, if at all,” reaffirming its temporary nature. The more general solution for immigration, according to the Tanton Network, is “to make life in the United States so intolerable for people fleeing murder, rape, and kidnapping that they return from whence they came.”
Former Republican Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania is associated with many extremist groups.
The groundwork was therefore laid and put into execution by the Trump administration as soon as it came to power in 2017, thoroughly by his staff, superficially by him. In a July 2017 interview with the New York Times, Trump praised the “good, smart genes” of his granddaughter Arabella, while his own father often repeated: “I’m proud to have that German blood. Great stuff.”
It should be noted that FAIR’s biggest financial supporter is another billionaire and arch-conservative family, the Mellons ($ 12 billion vs. $ 3.1 billion for Trump), bankers and politicians, including Cordelia Scaife May, “the most charitable person in the United States” but essentially for anti-immigration and racist causes. Incidentally, a more open family member, William Larimer “Larry” Mellon, created the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles in the Artibonite in 1956.
KEY PLAYERS: ALL NATIVISTS
Fulfilled was Tanton’s “long term goal to get ‘like-minded’ officials to be appointed to the immigration committees in Congress,” and his own soldiers in the White House. “We’ve worked closely with lots of people, who are now very well placed in [Trump’s] administration, for a long time,” said Dan Stein, FAIR’s president.
James McHenry, director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Department of Justice (EOIR), and Thomas Homan, former director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), were invited to speak at CIS – just like Cissna – on Apr. 19 and Jun. 5, 2018 respectively.
Other senior Trump administration officials have done more than give interviews to CIS/FAIR and were recruited from this nativist organization. Most likely by Jeff Sessions, Trump’s former attorney general who had contacts with Tanton since the 1990s, and by his alter ego Stephen Miller who, as early as 2015, was the main speaker at a CIS event where he declared that a conversation with CIS ‘s director of research was “one of the great pleasures of my professional life.”
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, was polling for FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA. Julie Kirchner was FAIR’s executive director until 2015 when she became an immigration advisor to the Trump campaign, then Chief of Staff at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and finally the ombudsman for USCIS. Imagine this: an enemy of immigration whose job is to help immigrants!
Ronald Mortensen, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration, which oversees the U.S. response to refugees, has written for CIS since 2009. Jon Feere, a long time legal policy analyst at CIS, was hired as a special adviser to aforementioned Thomas D. Homan, ICE’s acting director. While at CIS, Feere had sent more than 13,000 Twitter messages in less than three years. His last post on Jan. 20, 2017 read: “It’s time to make immigration policy great again,” a slogan along his boss’ MAGA line. Feere advocated tough policies such as ending the automatic citizenship for children of illegal immigrants born in the United States.
Former Republican Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania was a member of the steering committee of Trump’s transition team. He is associated with so many extremist groups that we cannot list them here, and he refuses to resign from FAIR’s board of directors. When he was mayor of Hazleton, PA in 2006, he introduced a law making English the official language and fines for those who employed illegal immigrants or rented them housing, a law that was abolished by the courts. He also proposed to collect a 2% fee on remittances from immigrants to Latin America to pay for the wall on the southern border.
Attorney Kris Kobach, Kansas’s former secretary of state, is an even more shocking case. He has been representing for decades FAIR before the courts, as well as several cities and states that adopted anti-immigration laws, including the city of Hazleton of aforementioned Barletta. One of his schemes was to write anti-immigration ordinances for cities or states, which he then had to defend when they were sued by the immigrant protection associations. A double profit for him but which cost, for example to the city of Hazleton, in 2011, $ 6.6 million and to Arizona County Maricopa more than $ 140 million in legal fees.
Kobach conspired to arrest and deport Arizona immigrants (33,000 in two years, 2007 to 2009) rounded up by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of that Maricopa County for 24 years (1993-2017), self-proclaimed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” famous for investigating the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate! Following these arrests of immigrants, Arpaio was sentenced in dozens of lawsuits for racial profiling – considered by Obama’s Justice Department as the worst in U.S. history. When he persisted, he was convicted in 2017, but then … pardoned by Trump.
In the aftermath of the World Trade Center attack in New York, Kobach helped set up “a program that mandated that men from 24 predominantly Muslim countries and North Korea be fingerprinted, photographed, and questioned at government offices.” During Trump’s 2016 election campaign, he proposed to stop annual remittances of $ 23 billion from Mexican nationals illegally living in the United States, unless Mexico paid $5 to $10 billion for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Finally he was vice-chairman of the Trump commission on electoral fraud, another fiasco that lasted only from May 2017 to January 2018. As with the census, it was in fact a false pretext for restricting votes, and a decision strongly contested in court.
HOW THEY ENDED THE HAITIAN TPS
We will conclude the Trump-FAIR connection with Robert Law, who was FAIR’s lobbying director, and became Senior Policy Advisor at USCIS. But let’s start at the bottom of the chain.
Jeffrey Chase is an immigration lawyer in New York, a former immigration judge, senior legal advisor at the Board of Immigration Appeals, a volunteer attorney at Human Rights First, and the recipient of the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual pro bono award.
With this long experience, he is well acquainted with the director of USCIS’s Country Conditions Unit, LeRoy Potts, who, along with his senior staff, are “knowledgeable, fair-minded, and in my experience, issued accurate reports free of political influence. The Country Conditions Unit is generally consulted in TPS decisions. As it had in the past, the Unit again drafted a report finding serious problems in Haiti that would call for an extension of TPS”.
Their famous RAIO report landed in the hands of Brandon Prelogar, the Head of International & Humanitarian Affairs of the DHS/USCIS Office on Policy & Strategy, already mentioned in Parts 2 and 4 of this series. He used it to prepare – with his colleague Kathryn Anderson – a draft decision memorandum for Haiti’s TPS which he sent on Oct. 12, 2017 to his superior, Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, stating: “In short, based on our review of country conditions we’ve written it so that it could support either extension or termination, but left the recommendation blank, pending further discussion.” They were already leaving the door open for those who would make the recommendation to continue or terminate the TPS.
Ten days later, on Oct. 22, a Sunday afternoon, Kovarik, the head of the USCIS Office of Policy and Strategy, which we now know well, sent an email asking Robert Law to review the draft. He answered at 6:28 pm: “The draft is overwhelmingly weighted for extension which I do not think is the conclusion we are looking for.” He offered to fix it either the same evening or the next day. Kovarik replied a few minutes later, at 6:35 pm: “Edit away!”
At 7:04 pm, Law replied: “Edits attached. I made the document fully support termination and provided comment boxes where additional data should be provided to back up this decision.”
It had taken less than half an hour for the former lobbying director of the FAIR nativist association to kill Haiti’s TPS, and come up with a “complete fiction” as described by the researchers and writers of the report from the USCIS itself. What additional data could he have found, anyway, in so short a time ?! The plaintiffs’ lawyers interviewed Brandon Prelogar, Kathryn Anderson, Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, Gene Hamilton, Robert Law and Lee Cissna, and all confirmed these emails and the fact that they only responded to instructions from above.
“The puzzle of Cissna’s transformation, from a Foggy Bottom policy wonk to string-puller in the president’s broader immigration agenda, is a window into how the Trump administration’s defining obsession has spread into even the most workaday parts of the immigration bureaucracy—and rendered it into something utterly unrecognizable to many veterans of the system, and utterly fearsome to those suddenly caught in its net.”
We can see that the wave even reached Prelogar, a career civil servant, human rights specialist, whose wife – Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar – had sided with workers who had been cheated by big corporations, black voters who had been cheated by the Republicans , and others before the U.S. Supreme Court as an assistant to the Justice Department’s Solicitor General, and she is now one of 18 lawyers on the Mueller Special Prosecutor’s Team charged with investigating Trump! One wonders how her husband justifies his actions that go completely against the values defended by his wife. But one can always find a justification for any villainy.
In addition to fear of authority and submission, a good dose of selfishness and a total absence of empathy in some cases is necessary. Take the case of Gene Hamilton, the young legal counselor who wrote the memorandum to end DACA. At the end of October 2017, he was 33 years old and had a baby face. Lawyers representing young DACA holders deposed him in a lawsuit suing the government. Towards the end of her testimony, chief attorney Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center asked these questions and obtained these answers.
KT “Do you consider the decision [to end DACA] a significant decision by the Department of Homeland Security?”
GH “What do you mean by ‘a significant decision?’”
KT “A decision with a large impact on the country?”
GH “What do you mean by a ‘large impact?’ I don’t know that I can give you an answer on that.”
KT “How would the cancellation of DACA affect the educational prospects of current recipients”
GH “That would require me to know the laws of every educational institute of the United States, all of the policies and procedures”
“I have no idea”.
Antonio Alarcon, 22, one of two DACA recipients in the room, was incensed. “This is the person who changed my life ?!” he later told a New Yorker reporter. “I felt like my blood was coming out of my body.”
This is reminiscent of Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, who told his boss a few days after the bloody Chilean coup of Sep. 11, 1973 that killed and imprisoned tens of thousands and changed a whole country’s fate: “it was nothing of great consequence.”
One could say that Hamilton is a believer. During his deposition, he acknowledged that he had found DACA to be illegal, and discussed it with Stephen Miller and other senior officials prior to Trump’s inauguration. As well as with his boss: “I had a tremendous working relationship with then Senator Sessions, and we spoke on a nearly daily basis, if not multiple times a day.”
Hamilton left the DHS as soon as DACA fell and TPS was being terminated, to join Sessions at the Justice Department. And when he had volunteered to work for Trump’s transition team, one of his tasks had been to recommend appointees for agencies including DHS, ICE, and the Justice Department.
(To be continued)