Rush Limbaugh slammed the Obama administration for releasing some detained undocumented immigrants, claiming the decision was a "political ploy" and an "illegal order." In fact, undocumented immigrants who pose little threat to public safety have routinely been released into a supervised program as they await deportation since at least 2002, when Congress authorized the use of such programs to facilitate the deportation process.
On February 25, citing budgetary concerns, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it had released some undocumented immigrants from detention facilities and into a supervised release program but that deportation proceedings against them would continue. As The New York Times reported, those slated for release were "non-criminals and other low-risk offenders who do not have serious criminal histories" and added:
"Under supervised release, defendants in immigration cases have to adhere to a strict reporting schedule that might include attending appointments at a regional immigration office as well as wearing electronic monitoring bracelets, officials said."
But on his radio show on Thursday, Limbaugh attacked the decision as "strictly a political ploy" by the Obama administration, claiming the administration had released "hardened criminals" into U.S. communities and that whoever had made the decision gave an "illegal order."
In reality, there is nothing unusual or illegal about supervised releases. This policy has been a regular part of Department of Homeland Security enforcement procedures since at least 2002, as this 2011 DHS report notes:
In FY 2002, Congress authorized the use of alternatives to detention programs as a mechanism to facilitate alien compliance with attendance at immigration court hearings and departure from the United States. The program allows certain aliens whose detention is not statutorily mandated to remain in their communities while their removal process is pending. ERO's Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program meets this critical need for community supervision of the non-detained alien population using technology and case specialists to actively engage aliens until a final determination of their immigration status can be made.
The ATD program releases detainees (called "participants" in the ATD program) who are not required by statute to be detained. Prior to enrollment in the program, ERO officers vet the individuals to ensure that they are eligible to participate. Those who are eligible to participate choose whether or not they want to participate in the program. Those who choose to participate sign the rules of participation indicating their willingness to comply and those who do not want to participate are housed in a detention facility.
The Columbus Dispatch is criticizing journalists for not informing readers about a liberal group's vested interests and involvement in the state's political process, even though the paper has spent years obscuring the origins of the American Legislative Exchange Council and downplaying the group's influence in the state.
In a February 27 editorial The Columbus Dispatch wrote:
The ability of various interest groups to have a say in politics is a critical to our democracy. But just as voters should be aware of who is funding political ads, they should be informed of the vested interests of those groups that are cited as sources of commentary.
Policy Matters Ohio, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus, often is quoted in news stories as a "research firm" and as a liberal or "progressive" think tank in news stories concerning tax and budget issues. That description, though, doesn't give a full picture of an organization that has a direct interest in steering public money to labor groups, which in turn are big-money supporters of Democratic politicians.
The Dispatch's argument is disingenuous however, since the paper has failed to cover and conduct the same research for organizations heavily involved in state policy such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
From January to October 2011, the shadowy right-wing organization had its hand in 33 bills in the state, nine of which became law. ALEC's ties in Ohio run deeper than merely crafting bills. According to ALEC's internal talking points, Gov. John Kasich, who was actively involved in ALEC in multiple capacities before becoming governor, "helped mold ALEC in its formative years" and was photographed at an ALEC event in 2010.
In 2012, ALEC was responsible for several pieces of legislation in Ohio, including a bill that weakened protections for victims of asbestos exposure, a bill which attempted to loosen firearms laws, and a bill seeking to prevent disclosure of certain ingredients in fracking fluids to the public.
ALEC also has a role in pushing big business' influence with legislators in Ohio. According to the Center for Media and Democracy's ALEC Exposed project, 41 legislators in Ohio are ALEC members. The money ALEC receives from businesses and conservative organizations goes to bringing these legislators to ALEC conventions where they can "rub elbows with rich, out-of state potential donors ... and to build similar relationships with ALEC's state corporate members."
Despite ALEC's influence and major ties to the state, The Columbus Dispatch only discussed ALEC in 7 news stories since January 1, 2011, according to a Media Matters search. When they did cover ALEC, the organization was either not identified or described as a "conservative" or "a conservative think tank that raises money from corporate and other interests to pay for legislators to meet with businesses" -- monikers that barely scratch the surface of what the organization really does.
While it's important for newspapers to disclose the ties behind organizations that have an influence on policy in the state, The Columbus Dispatch editorial board is picking and choosing which organizations should receive such scrutiny -- apparently aiming to disclose information only about the ones it disagrees with.
The New Hampshire Union Leader downplayed the effects of the impending sequestration cuts despite the devastating impact they would have on necessary programs in New Hampshire.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial on February 25 attacked the premise that sequestration would have devastating effects by claiming that it's "NOT the end of the world as we know it" and that it just means "government must start managing its money":
First, sequester is NOT the end of the world as we know it. Even if those mandated budget cuts occur, it does NOT mean that government, essentially, is shut down. It does not mean the end of services. It does not mean meat or drugs, would go unexamined, and, thus, would disappear from store shelves. It need not mean the air traffic control system must shut down. It does not mean the military would not be able to defend the United States.
It DOES mean government must start managing its money - and end non-essential activities. It does mean there might be far fewer $1,000 hammers purchased by the Pentagon. It probably means there will be far fewer colonels acting as aides to far fewer generals roaming the corridors of the Pentagon. It does mean priorities must be set. It does mean some things will no longer be affordable - and it does, very likely, mean that some people, particularly those employed in government, will lose their jobs.
Despite the Union Leader's assertion, the sequestration cuts would have devastating effects beyond those employed in government. As Politifact points out, the sequestration cuts would be indiscriminate, meaning that almost all non-defense discretionary spending would be cut by 5.3 percent, and would target far more than just "non-essential activities." Using the Union Leader's example, while meat and drugs will eventually be examined, the cuts will lead to furloughs among inspectors and potential delays in processing meat.
New Hampshire specifically would feel the effects of sequestration for essential activities in education and public health funding. According to a White House fact sheet, this year alone New Hampshire could lose of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in necessary programs. The state is set to lose "approximately $1,078,000 in funding for primary and secondary education" which would mean less funding for about 1,000 students and 10 schools. The cuts to public health benefits and childhood vaccinations would also be drastic. From the White House fact sheet:
- Vaccines for Children: In New Hampshire around 680 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $46,000.
- Public Health: New Hampshire will lose approximately $126,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, New Hampshire will lose about $330,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 300 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the New Hampshire State Department of Health Statistics and Data Management will lose about $60,000 resulting in around 1,500 fewer HIV tests.
Though the Union Leader admitted that the cuts might slow economic growth initially, it failed to point out that even low-end estimates of nationwide job losses are around 750,000 with some estimating approximately one million jobs lost due to the cuts.
U.S. News & World Report highlighted the efforts of nativist group NumbersUSA in an article on immigration reform without providing any information on the history of the organization or its founder's ties to white supremacist organizations.
On February 20, U.S. News & World Report discussed the efforts of NumbersUSA, which it called a "restrictive immigration group," and Executive Director Roy Beck to organize against the recent push for immigration reform in Congress:
NumbersUSA Action, the country's largest grassroots restrictive immigration group, is just one of the organizations gearing up for a bitter battle over how to reform the country's immigration system. Executive Director Roy Beck says support has only grown since his group defeated comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Five years ago, the group had just over 300,000 members. Today its ballooned to more than 1.4 million, Beck says.
The article continued to highlight the work that NumbersUSA has done to drum up support for its extremely restrictionist immigration policy but did not go into any detail about the history of the group or its leader Roy Beck.
NumbersUSA was founded under the watchful eye of nativist and modern architect of the anti-immigration movement Dr. John Tanton. Tanton, who is well known for his anti-immigrant rhetoric and association with the white nationalist newspaper The Social Contract, is also the founder of three major anti-immigrant groups, NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies, and the Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled hate group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Roy Beck, who runs NumbersUSA and was once deemed Tanton's "heir apparent", has a similar anti-immigrant track record. Beck worked as an editor at The Social Contract alongside Wayne Lutton, an active member of "both racist and Holocaust denial circles," and helped edit a book by Tanton and Lutton. In 1996, Beck addressed a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group.
A U-T San Diego editorial claims that opposing the Keystone XL pipeline is "daft" because if President Obama were to block the construction of the pipeline, Canada would easily construct an alternate pipeline through British Columbia to export to China, ignoring that such a plan faces significant opposition.
The February 19 editorial claims that "If the president rejects the [Keystone XL] project, Canada will instead construct a pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, where it will build refineries and eventually ship most of the refined bitumen to Asia -- primarily fast-growing China."
But the route to British Columbia faces significant opposition in Canada. First Nation tribes have rejected the Northern Gateway pipeline project, which would transport tar sands oil from Alberta to British Columbia since 2006. At a series of community hearings in 16 different towns in British Columbia, the National Energy Board -- an independent federal agency that regulates pipelines and energy development -- heard 1,159 speakers opposed to the Northern Gateway project and only two in favor. In fact, Robert Campbell, a Reuters market analyst, explained in a column that a pipeline following this route is likely to face even more opposition than Keystone XL:
Despite what you may think, the delay or even cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline project from Canada to the United States does not ensure that China will become the go-to customer for Canada's vast oil sands.
Doubtless this theme will be dredged up by Keystone's backer, TransCanada and other oil industry lobbyists in Washington with an eye to fanning Americans' fears about oil supply security should the Obama Administration opt for further study of fresh routes for the pipeline.
But the simple fact is that this claim is at best a huge exaggeration. If anything a pipeline from Alberta across the mountainous province of British Colombia is likely to face more scrutiny from environmental groups than Keystone XL.
Thus it's not inevitable that the accelerated development of tar sands oil, which creates "14 to 20 percent more carbon emissions than other oil the U.S. imports," will occur. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service estimated that if the Keystone XL pipeline were approved, it could increase United States carbon emissions by the equivalent of up to four million cars annually.
The U-T San Diego editorial also cites the New York Times' Joe Nocera -- who supports construction of the pipeline -- claiming that blocking the Keystone XL pipeline would harm our energy security, benefitting "our No. 1 geopolitical rival."
However, Nocera's column was factually challenged, and Keystone XL would have little impact on U.S. oil imports or energy security. As economist Ed Dolan explained, the pipeline symbolizes one more step toward dependence on oil, when the most effective solution to our energy security problems is exactly the opposite: reducing our oil consumption.
The editorial board's misleading right-leaning stance on this issue should come as no surprise given that the paper's new owner has turned the once respected paper into a corporate shill.
Fox News continues to use offensive terms to refer to undocumented immigrants despite recent comments from CEO Roger Ailes agreeing that Fox needs a new message on immigration. A Media Matters analysis found that Fox News figures and guests have used slurs such as "illegals," "illegal aliens," and "anchor babies" at least 90 times since the 2012 election -- terms that are banned on Fox News' online site for Latinos.
The Washington Times misled its readers by claiming that African-American workers would see fewer jobs and lower pay if immigration reform were to pass. Despite the assertions made in the piece, immigrant labor does not steal jobs from American workers -- specifically African-American workers -- and often has a net positive impact on the economy by creating more jobs.
A February 12 article in The Washington Times cited two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who wrote to President Obama claiming that successful immigration reform would "likely mean fewer jobs and lower pay for black Americans" but failed to push back on their unfounded claims. From the article:
Two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights wrote to President Obama on Tuesday telling him that if he succeeds in enacting an "effective amnesty" for illegal immigrants, it will likely mean fewer jobs and lower pay for black Americans.
Pointing to hearings the commission held in 2008, the two members -- Peter Kirsanow and Abigail Thernstrom -- said the economics of the situation are clear: Low-skilled blacks compete with low-skilled illegal immigrants, depressing wages.
In fact, overwhelming evidence shows that immigration's negative effect on African-American employment is an unfounded myth. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute called the idea that low-skilled immigrants take African-American jobs a "pernicious myth" and cited a 1997 report that found no evidence that African-Americans have fewer job opportunities because of immigration.
Another study by Robert Paral & Associates for the Immigration Policy Center found similar results. From the Immigration Policy Center:
One of the most contentious issues in the debate over immigration reform is whether or not the presence of immigrants in the U.S. labor force -- especially undocumented immigrants -- has a major adverse impact on the employment prospects of African Americans. The African American community has long been plagued by high unemployment rates, and a relatively large share of African Americans lack a college education. As a result, some commentators argue that undocumented immigrants, who tend to have low levels of formal education and to work in less skilled occupations, are "taking" large numbers of jobs that might otherwise be filled by African American workers.
If this is indeed the case, one would except to find high unemployment rates among African Americans in locales with large numbers of immigrants in the labor force -- especially immigrants who are relatively recent arrivals to the United States and willing to work for lower wages than most African Americans. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that this is not the case. In fact, there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates among African Americans, or any other native born racial/ethnic group, at the state or metropolitan level.
Gerald D. Jaynes, professor of Economics and African-American Studies at Yale University, who once believed that immigration played a role in the declining African-American workforce, launched a large-scale study that concluded that "declining black unemployment is due more to other factors and events that have been restructuring our nation's labor market during the past several decades," including the elimination of many factory jobs and other blue-collar employment.
Immigrants and other low-wage workers often fill different types of jobs which require different skills. However, when they do work in the same job type, immigrants and other workers often specialize in different aspects of the job, complementing each other rather than competing with one another.
Take the case in Georgia, where a harsh immigration law forced out many of the state's farm workers, which left approximately 11,000 open farm jobs. Despite the open jobs, however, so few people applied that Gov. Nathan Deal pushed farmers to hire 2,000 unemployed criminal probationers, many of whom walked off the job soon after starting.
Wages for native-born workers also, in general, tend to increase as a result of immigration. According to an Economic Policy Institute estimate, native born African-American males experienced an average wage increase of 0.4 percent from 1994 to 1997. Native-born men with less than a high-school education were the only group to see a decrease in wages by 0.2 percent.
In reality, immigration reform would be a huge benefit to the economy. It could add billions of dollars and millions of jobs to the economy, as well as potentially $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional tax revenues.
This false claim about immigrant labor hurting African-Americans isn't new. Breitbart.com's Seaton Motley used this myth to attack President Obama's deferred action plan. The anti-immigrant nativist organization, NumbersUSA, ran ads hyping this myth during the run up to last year's referendum on the Maryland DREAM Act in an attempt to cause the measure's failure. But this effort backfired -- instead, African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for the measure.
The Chicago Tribune published an op-ed rehashing claims about undocumented immigrants that have been widely debunked, without noting that the author is a fellow at nativist organization the Center for Immigration Studies. CIS is an anti-immigrant organization whose affiliation with hate groups has been thoroughly documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the February 8 op-ed titled, "Legalizing Illegal Immigrants A Bad Idea," CIS fellow David Seminara repeated the false claims that undocumented immigrants steal jobs from hard-working Americans and that they put a strain on social services. The Tribune identified Seminara simply as a former diplomat who has "issued thousands of visas during his career at the State Department."
According to his bio on the CIS website, Seminara has been a fellow at the organization since 2009. He has written extensively for the group's blog, including writing posts that have criticized an undocumented immigrant fearful of applying for deferred action and attacked scholarships for undocumented immigrants.
Knowing Seminara's affiliation with CIS would have alerted readers that the op-ed was presenting a biased view of the immigration debate as it repeated many of CIS' and other nativist groups' talking points. Indeed, his claim that undocumented immigrants steal Americans' jobs is not new; it has been discredited by economists and immigration experts using mountains of research: Undocumented immigrants do not generally compete with Americans for labor, and in fact have been found to boost Americans' wages.
Immigrants given legal status under the immigration reform framework announced by the Senate are also unlikely to be a strain on the welfare system. Under the current framework, newly legalized immigrants would not be eligible for Medicaid or any government social benefit. In addition, immigrants are more likely to have jobs and over half have a high school degree or more.
In Illinois, consumer spending by undocumented immigrants already generates $5.45 billion in gross regional spending which accounts for 31,000 jobs in the Chicago area,according to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In fact, the Immigration Policy Center reported that in 2010, undocumented immigrants in the state paid nearly half a billion dollars in taxes.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch failed to note that Virginia's education proposal to improve failing public schools is modeled after a Louisiana program which experts found does not lead to higher academic achievement.
A January 31 article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch discussed a new education initiative which hopes to take over failing Virginia public schools and allow a statewide school panel to run the schools until they reach higher achievement levels. As the article notes, these schools would be modeled after the Recovery School District (RSD) in Louisiana. From the Times-Dispatch:
In his most dramatic K-12 education initiative of this year, Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing to create a statewide school division that would take over management of such schools.
The concept, roughly modeled after the Recovery School District in Louisiana, is a novel construct in Virginia and has the McDonnell administration at odds with education groups that have embraced other parts of the governor's public school agenda.
Supporters cast the so-called Opportunity Educational Institution as a way to remove obstacles that have led to chronically underperforming schools.
The article does note that there is opposition to the proposal on several fronts, including constitutional concerns about the law and whether local tax dollars would be diverted to an un-elected board rather than local school boards. However, the piece fails to note that the Recovery School District in Louisiana -- on which the Virginia program would be partially modeled -- has had mixed results, and any positive gains may have been the result of one time funding due to Hurricane Katrina.
The Louisiana Recovery School District was established in 2003 to provide parents with children in failing New Orleans public schools with other alternatives. After Hurricane Katrina, the RSD stepped in to take over most of New Orleans public schools, turning them into charter schools with the potential after 5 years of returning control to the public school board once they sufficiently improve. Despite teachers in some schools unanimously asking to return to the public school system, no school has been granted permission to do so.
The schools have also, so far, failed to meet the benchmarks of success established by the RSD. While supporters of the RSD program claim that the schools are making progress as charter schools, they have not performed much better than when they were public schools.
An article in the Times-Picayune from highlighted a report which found that the "district-run RSD schools are the worst performing in the city," in 2012. In addition, a Times-Picayune editorial noted that the RSD schools had the lowest percentage of students -- 11.3 percent -- score high enough on the college admissions test to earn a TOPS scholarship from Louisiana, compared to 38 percent of all students in New Orleans.
A fact sheet provided by the nonpartisan Council for a Better Louisiana shows that RSD schools are lagging well behind the rest of the state's schools. RSD schools still have a majority of students performing below Louisiana's basic grade level of skills and knowledge in reading and English and 59 percent of college freshman have had to take remedial courses after graduating from an RSD school. Meanwhile, RSD schools spend almost $12,519 per pupil compared to a state average of $10,622.
A scathing report by Research on Reforms, an organization dedicated to improving New Orleans Public Schools, found that the RSD relied spun data to make it seem that their schools were hitting their target goals. From Research on Reforms:
When the 2012 SPS/letter grades were released, the RSD-NO was quick to respond with the spin that 2012 results again supported the claim that that the LDOE's model for turning around failing schools had been extremely successful. They claimed that their schools had made incredible gains in New Orleans for 2012 in spite of the fact that the failing bar had been raised from 65 to 75. The RSD's District Performance Score (DPS) increased from an "F" (69.2) to slightly above the new "F" cutoff score of 75. Its new DPS was 76.7 which is equivalent to a "D". ROR's position is that a label of "D" hardly qualifies any school district to rejoice. While not indicating failure, it does indicate that a district is performing very poorly academically.
Did the RSD-NO's DPS gain represent significant progress in 2012? When viewed in the context of the most important annual growth indicator of the LDOE, (i.e., the SPS Growth Target), it is not. Sixty-seven percent of the 60 RSD-NO schools failed to achieve their growth target for 2012. When viewed in this context, one would hardly consider the 7.5 point DPS growth of the RSD significant considering the performance of the majority of its schools. Also note that the RSD's public relations spinners have rarely, or never, addressed the significance of this extremely crucial school indicator when assessing gains or growth.
A report by the National Education Policy Center, which was criticizing another report touting the school district's progress, highlighted what they called "historic and racially targeted neglect" which the supporters of the RSD never take into account when discussing circumstances behind failing New Orleans schools. In addition, another Research on Reforms report found that the RSD was neglecting non-charter schools under its control -- specifically Marshall Middle School -- regardless of the schools' success.
The Times-Dispatch has a duty to its readers to expose the flawed history of the RSD, given that Virginia's education plan, as the newspaper notes, is modeled after Louisiana's controversial program.
The editorial boards of two newspapers owned by oil tycoon Philip Anschutz re-endorsed the controversial Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline project days after Nebraska's Governor approved a new route for the pipeline, but neither paper acknowledged the continued environmental danger of the project and both exaggerated the project's potential for job creation and consumer benefits.
The editorial boards of the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Oklahoman claimed that the Obama administration should approve the pipeline now that TransCanada -- the corporation seeking to build the pipeline -- has rerouted the project because it won't have a negative environmental impact. But in fact, the risk of a spill over environmentally sensitive areas remains. Keystone XL will carry tar sands oil, which is potentially more corrosive and difficult to clean up than regular crude oil, according NPR. The existing Keystone pipeline has had 14 spills, and the new route will still cross a large aquifer and, according to some groups, will still cross the environmentally sensitive sandy soil around the Sandhills.
Despite these issues, The Oklahoman editorial claimed that "U.S. customers will get the benefit" if the pipeline is built. However, the pipeline will not lower gasoline prices for consumers any noticeable amount, and some experts believe it could raise gas prices for consumers in the Midwest. Much of the oil, after being transported over American soil, will be shipped overseas.
And while The Colorado Springs Gazette editorial claimed the pipeline could create "179,000 American jobs" by 2035, these numbers are wildly inflated. That figure actually represents 179,000 "person-years of employment" -- a job for one person for one year -- and comes from an analysis funded by TransCanada that independent analysts have called "dead wrong," "meaningless," and "flawed and poorly documented." According to a Washington Post article, TransCanada admitted that the project would only create around 6,500 construction jobs for two years. Independent analyses have found even less job creation, with one study by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute finding that the pipeline would create as few as fifty permanent U.S. jobs.
Editorial bias in the Gazette and Oklahoman isn't surprising -- both papers are owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz. It's hard to take Anschutz's papers seriously given their distortions of the benefits oil and gas drilling, their dismissal of the environmental impact of oil and gas extraction, and their failure to acknowledge the dangers of climate change.