Post's Knight failed to identify conservative, anti-immigration sources for column on immigration

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In charging that the fiscal impact of a proposed Senate immigration reform bill would be dire, Denver Post columnist Al Knight did not mention that the sources for his figures were two conservative groups: the Heritage Foundation think tank and the Center for Immigration Studies, which "seeks fewer immigrants."

In his May 23 Denver Post column, Al Knight made dubious assertions about the likely fiscal impact of proposed federal immigration reform legislation based on studies from two organizations whose ideology or agenda he did not identify -- the conservative Heritage Foundation and the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

From Al Knight's column, "The nation is offered a false choice on immigration," in the May 23 edition of The Denver Post:

The full Senate debate on illegal immigration is still ahead of us, but the arguments that will be presented are already well-worn.

[...]

The outcome of the Senate vote may also be significantly influenced by how well opponents can focus the debate on long-term financial costs.

Typically, fiscal impacts are to be considered with every bit of legislation. In the case of the proposed immigration bill, the fiscal note might as well have read, "We don't know and we don't care."

A number of organizations, notably the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), have offered their own estimates of the fiscal impact. The former has come up with a figure of $2.4 trillion, most of it in future benefits from welfare, Medicare and Social Security. The last two of these three programs are close to bankruptcy just from the pressure put upon them by the retirement of baby boomers.

The CIS has estimated the net fiscal impact at about $7,700 per immigrant household per year. In round numbers, that works out to about $35 billion or so every year.

In fact, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) did not produce a cost estimate for Senate Bill 1348.* Unlike the Colorado Legislative Council, which produces a "fiscal note" for every bill and concurrent resolution introduced in the Colorado General Assembly, the CBO is required to publish a cost estimate only for legislation reported by a congressional committee; S. 1348 was not considered in committee and will only be considered by the full Senate.

One of Knight's sources for cost estimates was the Heritage Foundation; Knight did not note that the organization's mission "is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

Knight also cited the CIS, which notes in its mission statement that it "is animated by a pro-immigrant, low-immigration vision which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted."

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) identified CIS as part of a web of anti-immigration groups founded by activist John Tanton and noted that CIS was spun off from the Tanton-founded Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Colorado Media Matters pointed out that FAIR has faced bipartisan accusations of airing "racially inflammatory" anti-immigration ads with another group, the Coalition for the Future of the American Worker. As the SPLC noted regarding Tanton and "his anti-immigration network":

The Strategy Emerges

Tanton's strategy was to fight his war on several fronts. FAIR relied heavily on arguments about diminishing resources and jobs.

In 1982, Tanton created U.S. Inc. to raise and channel funds to his anti-immigration network. The following year, he created his second major vehicle, U.S. English, which made a cultural argument -- that the English language was in mortal danger of being made irrelevant.

And later, in 1985, FAIR would spin off yet another major Tanton organization -- the Center for Immigration Studies, which presented itself as an impartial think tank and later even sought to distance itself from the organization that had birthed it.

Today, the Center regularly dispatches experts to testify on Capitol Hill, and last year it was awarded a six-figure research contract by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the 1980s, U.S. Inc. provided millions of dollars to FAIR, U.S. English, the Center for Immigration Studies and several similar groups -- the 21st Century Fund, Population-Environment Balance, and the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is now a litigation arm of FAIR.

During the 1990s, Tanton's U.S. Inc. adopted a new tactic, creating programs called NumbersUSA, The Social Contract Press (which publishes The Camp of the Saints), and Pro English.

Although these units would often present themselves as independent, tax forms make it clear that they are merely programs of U.S. Inc.

Tanton's funding organization, U.S. Inc., also has recently given money to Barbara Coe's California Coalition for Immigration Reform and Glenn Spencer's American Patrol (also known as Voice of Citizens Together), two of the most virulently anti-Hispanic groups in Tanton's network.

*On May 23 the CBO sent a letter to Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) that contained preliminary cost estimates for Senate Amendment 1150, which is a substitute for S. 1348 that Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced on May 21. The letter was published within the entry for S. 1348 on the official congressional website subsequent to the publication of this item. According to the estimate, as a result of changes in federal direct spending and revenues, the bill would result in a net reduction in the federal deficit of $2 billion for the period 2008-2012 and a reduction of $37 billion for the period 2008-2017.

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