Talking points of the presentation of Dr. Gustavo Cano in the Foro Nacional para la Construcción de una Política Migratoria Integral y Democrática en el México del Bicentenario. Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. September 24, 2010.
* The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) defines itself as an “independent, non-partisan, non-profit, research organization,” that provides “immigration policymakers, the academic community, news media, and concerned citizens with reliable information about the social, economic, environmental, security, and fiscal consequences of legal and illegal immigration into the United States.”
* It was founded in 1985, and in the last 25 years it has gone from an average anti-immigrant organization to the most influential conservative, anti-immigrant think tanks in the United States.
* Other way to define the CIS is an anti-immigrant organization that is very well organized, well financed, and that has very well defined targets, that chooses its battles in a very smart way, that plans in a very meticulous way how to affect migration-related public policies, and most important of all: the CIS tells you “how you should think about and approach the issue.”
1.- The CIS defines very well its targets: Congressmen, members of the Senate, the academy, the donors, the media, and the people, mostly U.S. citizens.
2.- The CIS uses certain tactics and “mantras” to push over its speech all over the place, all the time:
** The CIS tends to cover their anti-immigrant aims through a persuasive pro-immigration speech.
** The CIS’ position in its writings is that of a minority taking the position of the majority.
** For the CIS the American future and present are both in danger because of immigration flows and policies. Indeed, the future can be solved in the present, with the right kind of anti-immigrant policies.
** Illegal immigration is a crime, period.
** There is a master use of the U.S. media to touch average U.S. minds about all the negative aspects of immigrant population living in the U.S.
**The CIS makes no distinction between “consequences” and “potential consequences” of the immigrant’s presence in U.S. soil.
**The CIS makes a constant emphasis about the “Mexican immigrant” component, whenever referring to illegal immigration.
3.- The following could be labeled as the CIS’ main strategic virtues in its struggle against immigration:
** The CIS is consistent about the negative aspects of immigration, all the time, all the topics, all the way up.
** It is very clear to them that everything is “about location, location.” They have their headquarters in Washington D.C., and they take advantage of that in every single way.
** They exert in a skillful way something called strategic, outcome oriented, thinking.
** They have full time personnel and researchers.
** They have full time targets.
** They have clear goals.
** They have a well established and stable flow of financial resources.
** They give follow up to everything, every issue, every actor, every news, every law initiative, every action from any major pro-immigrant group or think tank… Generally in a timely fashion.
** They are forming a school of followers among U.S. undergraduate and graduate students.
** They use the media in a masterful way to spread half-truths and half-lies about immigration in the U.S.
** They know very well how the political system and its relationship with the media work.
** They have become a XXI Century Anti-Immigrant Talking Points Machine.
4.- The CIS processes reliable information into new information that seeds the doubt about the credibility of reliable information sources. The logic is beautiful: our stuff is valid because it came up from reliable, public, sound information. This new information, which offers new perspectives on immigration issues, contradicts information that otherwise would be considered reliable information. The doubt is born. Naïve migration scholars, mostly the young and even the foreign, take the new information as is, without further verification, and consider it as a 100% reliable information. The job is done.
5.- The CIS has a very complete agenda of immigration issues, practically nothing escapes to the black hole: they defend the Arizona’s anti-immigrant law; they label immigration as a security threat to the U.S.; they also assert that immigration is a threat to U.S. national identity; they state that the struggle against immigration is the equivalent to a Second U.S. Civil War; they are against giving U.S. citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants (“illegal immigrants”); they use frequently all-inclusive remarks to expose their arguments: “Everyone agrees that Arizona has a huge illegal immigration problem;” they assert that immigrants steal jobs to the youth and low-skilled workers; immigration costs are more expensive than benefits to the government and society, in the present and in the future; immigration is not sustainable in fiscal terms; the Mexican consular ID is a shield that protects criminal activity in the United States; etc.
Indeed, very successful the compadres from the CIS.
* CIS flow of half-truth/half-lies information shows strong progress in dividing the academic community in the U.S. regarding the discussion about the true advantages and disadvantages of legal and illegal immigration. It’s like creating two sets of truths, that of the CIS and that of real, scientific work in the Social Sciences.
* I have the impression that the CIS is little by little making significant progress in the media battle with other serious research centers or think tanks, like the Pew Hispanic Center, the Migration Policy Institute, the National Immigration Forum, or the American Civil Liberties Union.
* CIS’ information circulates among influential decision makers in Washington D.C. The mission is two folded: first, the CIS offers “bold” data for anti-immigration conservatives to make their points in the legislative work in the U.S. government and, second, the CIS seeds the doubt among the center-liberal/conservative group in the legislative branch. Center-Republicans and Conservative Democrats are the main target here. Every Congressman or Senator that pays attention to whatever the CIS has to say is touched in a meaningful way. The Directors of the CIS also testify at House hearings, by the way.
* The results of the CIS work are amazing if we consider that what they offer, at the end of the day, is nothing more and nothing less than half-truths and half-lies. They just master the media and have a very clear and efficient strategy to spread their stuff in the minds of the average politician, the average scholar, and the average citizen of the United States.
What can Mexican immigrant organizations learn from all this?
* Everything, with exception of making their point through a strategy of half-truths/half-lies. Here what matters is precisely the “how.”
* It is important for organized Mexican immigrants to understand that, in order to survive in this information war and to deal with a growing anti-immigration wave in the U.S., they have to create full time organizations, with well defined targets, stable funding resources, and have a well defined media strategy.
* I personally think that all that immigrant coming and going among local, state and federal Mexican authorities bring poor political results to the Mexican community that lives in the United States; in the sense that if the community wants to do progress in the U.S. (to live the Mexican Dream in the United States, and certainly not the American Dream), they need to address their problems in the United States, they need to solve their problems with all the set of tools that are available to them in the United States, they need to understand how the political system and society work, they need to take the bull by the horns in U.S. soil. Nobody can deal better with the issues of Mexican undocumented immigrants than organizations of undocumented immigrants, not even Mexican American or Chicano organizations. Certainly these organizations should be part of the effort (as well as other non profit pro-immigrant American organizations), but the solution and the strategy must come from the Mexicans themselves, the ones who live and work in the United States.
* Yes we can.
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