Jessica Vaughan

Director of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies

As director of policy studies for CIS, Vaughan is one of the key figures leading the anti-immigrant movement’s assault on so-called sanctuary cities. In 2015, Stephen Miller praised Vaughan by saying, “There is no one in America who knows more about immigration enforcement…” In 2012 Vaughan spoke at The Social Contract Press’ annual Writers’ Workshop event. The year Vaughan spoke to the workshop, one of her fellow speakers was white nationalist Peter Brimelow, the founder and editor of the racist  website VDARE, a hub for white nationalists and anti-Semites. The Social Contract Press (TSCP) was founded in 1990 by John Tanton, who served as editor for its journal, known for featuring white nationalist writers, and most infamously in 1994 republished an English translation of the openly racist novel The Camp of the Saints.

  • As the director of policy studies for CIS, Vaughan authors and promotes reports filled with blatant anti-immigrant animus and misinformation. Vaughan joined CIS in 1992 and worked alongside a number of longtime CIS staffers and those who have left to join the Trump Administration or other anti-immigrant groups, including, Mark Krikorian, Andrew Arthur, Steven Camarota, Rosemary Jenks, John Miano, Jon Feere and Ronald Mortensen.
  • Vaughan and CIS have an unprecedented amount of power and influence over the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, and have provided the framework for the President’s harsh and unpopular immigration measures. Additionally, former CIS staff members have moved into government agencies responsible for implementing immigration policy and several Administration officials have participated in CIS events.
  • In an NPR piece on President Trump’s renewed threats of mass deportation, Vaughan was described as being “in regular discussions with the administration.”
  • On August 15, 2018, then USCIS head Lee Francis Cissna addressed CIS at their “Immigration Newsmaker” event. Cissna was the third Trump Administration official to participate in this series. EOIR’s James McHenry and former ICE Director Thomas Homan were previous speakers. Vaughan was the moderator for two out of three of the events.
  • Vaughan’s group has circulated white nationalist content including VDARE posts thousands of times and has refused to stop doing so. In fact, the group’s executive director, Mark Krikorian has defended sending around articles published by VDARE by comparing it to the New York Times, and counting it as an “important” site for immigration news.
  • Vaughan’s opinion is regularly sought by anti-immigrant members of Congress, and she often provides testimony at immigration related hearings in front of both the Senate and House of Representatives.
  • Vaughan has cited unverifiable facts from government agencies that go unchecked because they are not available to the public, such as in the case of this 2015 report on Central American minors fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle, in which Vaughan claimed, “According to the DHS statistics, which have not been released to the public, but were obtained by the Center, about ninety-nine percent of all the illegal alien minors taken into ICE custody since the beginning of the fiscal year were apprehended by the Border Patrol.”
  • In 2017, Vaughan traveled to Oregon to address the anti-immigrant group Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR).
  • In January 2017, Vaughan praised Bristol County, Massachusetts Sheriff Thomas Hodgson’s offer to send individuals who were incarcerated to the border to build President Trump’s wall, saying that the plan would put any immigrants in detention “that much closer for deportation.” Vaughan said to the Washington Examiner “Not only that, they can use their new skills to support themselves in their home country.”
  • Vaughan once wrote that the TPS program has contributed to “the burgeoning street gang problem in the United States.”
  • Vaughan has defended Miller from critiques of his anti-immigrant policies.
  • Vaughan has also granted an interview to the anti-Semitic tabloid American Free Press, founded by Willis Carto, a man who spent five decades on the hate circuit in the United States.
  • Vaughan and CIS have spread false and misleading information about the DACA program, and long advocated for its repeal which they continued under President Trump. After the Trump Administration rescinded DACA in September of 2017, Vaughan and other CIS spokespeople suggested using the preservation of the DACA program as a trade-off for severely restricting existing legal immigration channels:
  • Vaughan who has sounded the unnecessary alarm over high DACA application approval rates, blamed DACA recipients on processing delays at USCIS during a House Judiciary hearing in July 2019.
  • In CIS’ A Pen and a Phone: 79 immigration actions the next president can take paper, published in April 2016, the group laid out proposals which included calls to track down DACA recipients and require DNA samples for immigration applications.
  • In July 2018, the group filed a lawsuit against USCIS, requesting DACA application data, which the U.S. government promised would not be used for enforcement actions against the program’s recipients.
  • In July 2019, Vaughan penned a fact sheet on H.R. 1044, in which she stated that the bill would “reward” employers who “literally replaced American workers.”
  • In 2008, Vaughan blamed the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for allegedly contributing to “the burgeoning street gang problem in the United States,” and in a 2018 op-ed in USA Today, she called for the program to be terminated, “Despite this, some are clamoring for amnesty for TPS grantees. Instead, Congress should let those who qualify adjust to permanent status, and then end the TPS program altogether, so future presidents will have to find less permanent ways to postpone deportations.”
  • Further, in CIS’s “Pen and a Phone” the group called on the next President to terminate “TPS designations that have been in effect for years for several nations, such as El Salvador…” and to issue an “EO directing that no TPS designation may stay in effect longer than one year unless vetted and approved through the National Security Council prior to being extended, and only in a one-year increment.”
  • Vaughan’s colleagues at CIS including Mark Krikorian and Andrew Arthur are supporters of the  “zero-tolerance” policy which when implemented by the Trump Administration, separated thousands of children from their parents. CIS Fellow Andrew Arthur called family separation an “absolutely crucial” step to “reducing the flow of parents and their children,” saying “there really is no other choice.”
  • The group has called for numerous changes to the asylum system such as doing away with protections for children and their families arriving at the border, expanding immigration detention, expedited removal, refusing to release unaccompanied minors to family members who are undocumented unless they surrender themselves for removal proceedings, and restrictions on work authorization for individuals with pending asylum cases.
  • In 2013, Vaughan teamed up with Jeff Sessions and Congressmen including Mo Brooks and Lou Barletta for a teleconference in opposition to the Gang of Eight SB-744 legislation.
  • In recent years, Vaughan has been one of the leading anti-sanctuary activists, producing a map of so-called sanctuary areas but omitting key information on legal issues regarding detainer requests. Vaughan has worked directly with law enforcement and elected officials, including Thomas Hodgson in her home state of Massachusetts in opposing sanctuary legislation.
  • On February 8, 2020, Vaughan attended a Dustin Inman Society event titled “Honoring Immigrants: An Expert, Pro-Enforcement Conversation on Immigration.” Former Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan was a featured speaker.