Mark Krikorian

Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies

Mark Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a think tank that seeks to provide “reliable information” regarding the “consequences of legal and illegal immigration.” The grandson of an Armenian genocide survivor, Krikorian, who as a young child spoke only Armenian, often argues that immigration was more helpful to the U.S. in the past than it is now. In a 2013 interview he declared that “America has outgrown mass immigration.”

Before joining CIS, Krikorian worked at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), another organization dedicated to reducing immigration. CIS, FAIR, and a third organization, NumbersUSA, share early ties with John Tanton, the co-founder of CIS who helped form the country’s modern immigration reduction movement and led a visceral defense of Euro-American ethnicity as the defining characteristic of America.

Under Krikorian’s leadership, CIS has played a central role in stopping several major legislative proposals, including the package put forward by George W. Bush in 2007 (increased southern border security counterbalanced with a pathway to citizenship) and the 2011 attempt to pass the DREAM Act.

More recently, CIS played a major consulting role for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and remained a central influence on the Trump administration. White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller and Acting Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli used CIS talking points in national policy. Many others in the Trump administration — including the analyst Jon Feere, who worked for ICE, and Ronald Mortensen, who was nominated to be the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration — have worked for Krikorian in the past.

As a frequent guest columnist for national publications and a regular talking head on cable news programs, Krikorian is a leading voice for reducing all immigration, arguing that immigration at present levels hurts American workers. In a 2019 essay for National Review he wrote, “The idea that we’re running out of potential workers, even in today’s good economy, is comical. It may well be that those American workers who don’t already have a job are harder to employ — ex-cons, maybe, or recovering addicts or what have you. But importing foreign workers to fill entry-level jobs not only does nothing to address their employability problems; instead, it’s a crutch that enables us to ignore the problems of our own workers.”

Krikorian has a bedrock belief in assimilation as a key element in a successful immigration policy. “It’s more than just learning English, getting a job, and driving on the right side of the road; it’s actually adopting America and Americans as your people,” he recently told C-Span’s Washington Journal. Two factors, he believes, create peril here. Cheap transportation and cheap communication have made it easier for an immigrant to maintain a life in two countries, while the American elite doesn’t value assimilation the way it used to. “The problem is not the immigrants, it’s us. We need to make clear that we welcome you but you need to become part of the American people and we want to help you do that.”


Krikorian’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    Krikorian supports increased funding for border security. “It’s essential,” he said in a C-Span interview, emphasizing that resources should go not just to Border Patrol but also for more rigorous inspections of customs at ports of entry.

  • Border Wall

    In a 2017 interview with Newsweek, Krikorian said that “expanded border barriers — whether you call them walls or something else — are not priority.” He did not support the use of an emergency declaration to secure more funding, arguing that such a move could empower a Democratic president to use a similar declaration on other, liberal issues.

  • Detention

    Krikorian believes strongly in increasing the country’s capacity to detain more immigrants, including families and children. “The ability to detain more illegal immigrants is more important than an extra 50 miles of fencing,” he said in a C-Span interview.

  • Immigration Courts

    Krikorian criticized the Obama administration for dismissing deportation cases against suspected undocumented immigrants without serious criminal records. He advocates for relieving the backlog of cases by creating stricter standards at the beginning of the asylum process so that fewer individuals enter the court immigration system.

  • Undocumented Population

    Krikorian has been critical of birthright citizenship, arguing that the 14th Amendment has been largely misinterpreted and was never meant to grant citizenship to everyone who is born within the country’s borders. In an Op-Ed for The Hill, Krikorian suggested that the president curtail birthright citizenship by instructing “the Department of State and the Social Security Administration not to issue passports or Social Security numbers to babies born after a certain date in the future unless at least one parent is a citizen or green-card-holder.” Krikorian has stated that he is open to an amnesty program for the law-abiding undocumented population that is already in the country, but only after an enforcement system has been put in place to end mass migration.

  • ICE

    Krikorian supports increasing the agency’s capacity to carry out EROs, especially in places of work, saying that enforcing “the ban on hiring illegal aliens has been laughably flaccid.”

  • DACA

    Krikorian advocates for abolishing DACA, calling it a “rogue program.” He has written that some DACA enrollees could be given legal status but only after the program is ended and a comprehensive national immigration enforcement plan is put in place to end mass migration. “There are two major problems with any illegal-alien amnesty,” he wrote in National Review. “It serves as an incentive for future illegal immigration, and it has downstream legal-immigration consequences.”

  • Asylum

    In an effort to reduce the number of asylum applicants permitted into the U.S., Krikorian has advocated making the “credible fear” interview — the first step in the asylum process — more rigorous. He argues that the vast majority of claims are not legitimate. “The majority of arrests at the Mexican border,” he wrote in National Review in 2019, “are now Central American minors and families using asylum claims as a strategy for illegally immigrating.”

  • Central America Policy

    Krikorian supported the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires Central Americans, and others, to file their asylum claims from their home country or from Mexico.

  • Visas

    Krikorian has argued against legal immigration, writing in National Review that mass legal immigration would end U.S. conservatism because immigrants, in his view, tend to have more liberal views on issues like gun rights. He supports mandating the E-Verify system for all employers.

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