Fox News highlighted a new law in Washington, D.C., that will allow the city's undocumented residents to obtain limited driver's licenses, airing segments that were laden with anti-immigrant language but little other information. The context missing from the Fox broadcasts is that nearly half of the country has enacted or is thinking of enacting similar laws, which law enforcement officials argue promote road safety and offer other benefits.
On November 18, Mayor Vincent Gray signed the measure passed by the D.C. Council, which will go into effect in May 2014. As The Washington Post reported, the licenses will be stamped as "not valid for official federal purposes," meaning undocumented immigrants will not be able to use them for federal identification purposes like entering federal buildings or for boarding planes.
In two segments on the law, Fox & Friends First co-host Heather Childers used inflammatory language to refer to undocumented immigrants, saying: "Illegal aliens living in Washington, D.C., will be able to get driver's licenses." She went on to note that the law will go into effect "unless Congress intervenes."
Childers repeated her report later during the show, as a graphic read: "Licenses For Illegals."
What Fox News ignored, however, is that these licenses are hardly uncommon and they provide real benefits to law enforcement.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, 11 states and Puerto Rico have passed measures that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. In Minnesota, a measure has passed one chamber of its legislature, and 10 other states have introduced similar proposals this session.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham mocked an Obama administration memo clarifying existing U.S. immigration policy meant to alleviate stress and anxiety among active duty service members and veterans. She dismissed the directive as "a pathway to voting" and claimed the administration was "using veterans to push through an amnesty."
In a November 15 memo, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new directive formally normalizing the "parole in place" policy for undocumented family members of active and retired U.S. service members, which allows undocumented immigrants in cases of "urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit" to legally stay in the country while they apply for legal status.
"Parole in place" has been recognized by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service dating back to at least 1998, according to USCIS and was available on a case-by-case basis under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
As the New York Times reported:
Immigrants without papers generally have to leave the country to collect visas they applied for through marriage to an American citizen or some other family tie. But, in a notorious Catch-22, once those immigrants leave they are barred from returning for years. Under the new policy, those immigrants who are in military families will not have to leave to complete their visa applications.
Faced with the legal quandary, many service members chose not to apply for papers for immigrant spouses and relatives, often keeping their immigration status secret. As a result, there is no way of knowing how many immigrants will be affected by the new policy, but it could be tens of thousands.
Immigrants involved will have work permits and will have to renew their documents yearly.
Discussing the Obama administration memo, Ingraham dismissed it as "yet another amnesty for still another group of illegal aliens," adding that this time it was done "under the guise of relieving quote, stress and anxiety of our troops." She continued: "They're either hiding behind the children -- it's the children, sob stories about family unification, now it's the veterans."
Media are engaging in revisionist history to absolve Republicans of blame for failing to pass immigration reform this year, repeating the right-wing lie that President Obama and the Democrats had "two years" to pass immigration reform legislation in 2010 when they had control of both chambers. In fact, Republicans -- then and now -- are the reason immigration reform continues to fail.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, editorial writer Sandra Hernandez asserted that "Republicans shouldn't shoulder all the blame for the failure to fix the nation's dysfunctional immigration system." Hernandez continued: "After all, we wouldn't be having this debate if Democrats had passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2010, when they controlled both the House and the Senate."
Similarly, in a Los Angeles Daily News op-ed titled, "Both parties to blame for failure to reform immigration," San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders claimed that "Obama did not deliver on his 2008 promise to push an immigration bill during his first year in office, even though Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House during the first two years of his presidency." She added:
Only after Democrats lost the House in 2010 did that lame-duck body pass the DREAM Act to offer citizenship to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Because supporters couldn't deliver the 60 votes needed in the Senate -- five Democrats voted no -- it tanked.
Unfortunately, history can't be so easily airbrushed. As numerous fact-checks have noted, while the Democrats did control a majority of votes in the House for two years from 2009 to 2011, the same is not true of the Senate.
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum explained:
Until Al Franken was sworn in on July 7, the Democratic caucus in the Senate stood at 59. After that it was technically up to 60, but Ted Kennedy hadn't cast a vote in months and was housebound due to illness. He died a few weeks later and was replaced by Paul Kirk on September 24, finally bringing the Democratic majority up to 60 in practice as well as theory. After that the Senate was in session for 11 weeks before taking its winter recess, followed by three weeks until Scott Brown won Kennedy's seat in the Massachusetts special election.
So that means Democrats had an effective filibuster-proof majority for about 14 weeks. Did they squander it? I guess you can make that case, but there's a very limited amount you can do in the Senate in 14 weeks. Given the reality of what it takes to move legislation through committee and onto the floor (keeping in mind that the filibuster isn't the minority party's only way to slow things down), I think you might make the case, at most, that a single additional piece of legislation could have been forced through during that period. But probably not much more than that. Democrats basically had a filibuster-proof majority for about three months. That's just not very long.
Conservative media are applauding House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) decision to refuse negotiations on immigration reform between the House and Senate, which likely means the end of comprehensive immigration reform this year. This decision comes after months of right-wing media telling Republicans to obstruct any and all action to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.
On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham blamed immigrants, specifically Latino and Asian immigrants, for California's high alternative poverty rate, claiming that passing immigration reform would translate into more poor people nationwide. In fact, California's high cost of living and narrowed access to anti-poverty benefits are the real reasons behind the state's high alternative poverty rate.
On November 6, the Census Bureau released a report showing that under an alternative method of measuring poverty -- one that takes into account the value of anti-poverty programs and living expenses such as rent and mortgage payments, work-related transportation costs, and child and health care spending -- California's poverty rate jumps to 23.8 percent from the official government figure of 16.5 percent.
Discussing the findings on her radio show, Ingraham stated that California is where "most newly amnestied people initially settled after the '86 amnesty" and that "it has the largest percentage of Latino voters in the United States and Latino residents, new immigrants, also Asian residents." She added: "I say we keep going down this road of immigration, quote, reform and we can all look forward to having a poverty rate as high as -- at least under this alternative measure, which looks like a better measure of poverty."
In fact, according to experts, the alternative poverty rate in California "is really driven by the cost of housing."
As the San Jose Mercury News reported:
The alternative yardstick, known as the supplemental poverty measure, found nearly 2.8 million more people are struggling across the country than the traditional benchmark shows.
That makes a big difference in California, where the broader measure counts more than 8.9 million people living in poverty between 2010 and 2012 -- a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows -- far higher than the 6.2 million living in poverty tallied the official way.
"Anyone who has moved to California from somewhere else knows the dramatic increase of the cost of living," said Ann Stevens, director for the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis. "It's not more surprising that California looks more impoverished. It is really driven by the cost of housing. California is a very expensive place to live."
Using the alternative measure, California had the highest poverty in the country between 2010 and 2012 -- 23.8 percent -- followed by the District of Columbia and Nevada. The official measure ranked Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico at the top during that period.
In rural parts of North Dakota, Kentucky and West Virginia, the poverty level is around $18,000 for a family of four without a mortgage. In the San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland metropolitan areas, the Census Bureau says, it's $35,500 for a family of four with a mortgage.
That $35,500 "may look pretty good to someone in a rural area," Stevens said. "I don't think too many people in San Francisco would think that."
Hill reporter Elise Viebeck shot down Fox News' continued attempt to scapegoat undocumented immigrants for improper Medicare payments, disputing the claim that undocumented immigrants were willingly involved in defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars.
On October 30, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services released a report finding that from 2009 through 2011, Medicare inappropriately paid out $29 million in drug benefits for undocumented immigrants.
The report explained that the payments were made erroneously because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services does not have a policy in place to screen undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits under its drug prescription plan, Medicare Part D.
But Fox News seized on the report to pile false attacks on undocumented immigrants and smear them, using dehumanizing terms like "illegal aliens."
Discussing the OIG report on Fox News' On The Record, Viebeck refuted host Greta Van Susteren's suggestion that CMS was "knowingly" paying insurance companies for Medicare drug benefits to undocumented immigrants. Viebeck noted that CMS "didn't have policies in place that would have caught" undocumented immigrants and "vetted them one by one in terms of their immigration status."
VIEBECK: The way Medicare Part D works is, people have their plans offered through a private insurance company, and then those insurance companies bill the federal government. And so, the federal government was effectively paying insurance companies on behalf of patients that apparently the insurance companies hadn't vetted extensively enough. They thought they might have been eligible for Medicare, but they weren't because they're illegal immigrants.
Viebeck went on to say that "these are not individual immigrants who are trying to defraud the federal government. This all happens through insurance companies. It's basically one gigantic error."
Fox News cherry-picked from reports by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to single out undocumented immigrants for improperly benefitting from Medicare drug benefits, taking the opportunity to smear them as "illegal aliens." However, undocumented immigrants are partially responsible for keeping Medicare solvent.
On October 30, the OIG released reports showing that Medicare inappropriately paid out millions in benefits for dead patients and drug benefits for undocumented immigrants. But in highlighting the reports, Fox News reported only on the Medicare drug benefits data in an apparent attempt to demonize undocumented immigrants.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased the segment by saying, "Many Americans can't even get prescriptions they need but illegal immigrants are getting them for free. Who's paying for that?" Co-host Steve Doocy followed with a short report noting that $29 million is "how much the federal government spent on prescription drugs for illegal aliens as part of the federal Medicare Part D program." He added: "Great."
But Fox News' reporting on the OIG reports ignored important facts -- the first being that undocumented immigrants are indeed paying some of the payroll taxes that sustain Medicare.
In fact, a Harvard study released in May found that undocumented immigrants are keeping the federal health care program partially solvent to the tune of $14 billion a year -- even as native-born Americans accounted for a $31 billion deficit to the program. As Bloomberg News reported:
Immigrants to the U.S. contributed $115.2 billion more to the Medicare Trust Fund during the past decade than they withdrew, casting doubt on criticism they overburden the health plan, Harvard University researchers said.
The data, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggest immigrants, mainly those without U.S. citizenship, help subsidize the nation's health program for the elderly and disabled. While American-born citizens took $30.9 billion out of Medicare in 2009 alone, immigrants provided a surplus of $13.8 billion that year. The study looked at data from 2002 to 2009.
The findings undermine the belief that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. health-care system, a key issue in the debate about immigration reform, the researchers said. In 2009, payments from immigrants and their employers accounted for 14.7 percent of payments to Medicare, while their expenses represented 7.9 percent of its costs, the study found.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham continues to make outlandish allegations about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) applies to immigrants, including falsely claiming that the law allows undocumented immigrants to purchase subsidized health insurance and that their enrollment in the individual Marketplace will be used to inflate the overall numbers of those who sign up.
Contrary to what Ingraham has been saying on her radio show, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to apply for subsidized health insurance under the ACA. On the October 3 broadcast of her show, Ingraham advanced that falsehood, asking, "First of all, how many of you think that illegal immigrants aren't signing up on these Obamacare exchanges?" She added: "I mean, they're probably the only ones getting through to sign up on the exchanges."
Ingraham was referring to the difficulty those seeking insurance have had in accessing the federal health care website.
In reality, as the National Immigration Law Center has noted, undocumented immigrants cannot get subsidized health care coverage under the ACA and are not even allowed to purchase private insurance through the individual health insurance Marketplace at full cost. They are also not eligible for subsidized health care or Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
As the federal health care website explains:
Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for federal public benefits through the Affordable Care Act. For example, undocumented immigrants can't buy coverage through the Marketplace. Premium tax credits aren't available for undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants may continue to buy coverage on their own outside the Marketplace and can get limited services for an emergency medical condition through Medicaid, if they are otherwise eligible for Medicaid in the state. Undocumented immigrants aren't subject to the individual shared responsibility requirement.
Immigrants who have been granted deferred action through the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are also ineligible for Medicaid, CHIP or ACA benefits.
While undocumented immigrants are barred from applying for subsidized health care, their American children do qualify.
Naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and legal immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years and don't have health care coverage through their jobs are also able to apply for subsidized health care and other benefit programs under the ACA.
Legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years whose incomes fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $46,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four -- will be eligible for subsidized coverage in the health insurance exchange. Those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $15,800 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four -- will not be eligible for Medicaid coverage (except for pregnant women depending on the state) but can qualify for exchange subsidies if they pay 2 percent of income.
Laura Ingraham used her radio show to push the falsehood that President Obama could waive deportations of all undocumented immigrants except for serious criminals, even though he has explicitly stated that such a move would be a violation of federal law. Legal experts also agree that it would be "problematic" for Obama to waive deportations of all undocumented immigrants.
Discussing immigration reform with Chris Crane -- the president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and a frequent critic of the Obama administration, which has made him popular among right-wing media -- Ingraham let Crane accuse the Obama administration of not enforcing immigration law, saying that this "administration is ordering us not to enforce the law." Crane continued with a series of whoppers about immigration enforcement:
CRANE: It is no longer illegal in the United States of America to be in this country illegally. You know, even if you have been convicted of multiple criminal convictions, we often cannot even put you into removal proceedings, into deportation proceedings, because you are protected by this president. And it's basically an open-borders policy that once you make it past the border and you're in the interior of the United States, you're free.
In reality, any undocumented immigrant who is arrested and convicted of a crime goes through deportation proceedings after they have been tried in criminal court. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement routinely holds hearings to determine whether an immigrant who has been convicted of a crime should be subject to removal following jail time.
As of May 2013, ICE had deported about 31,500 immigrants through the Secure Communities program since the beginning of the year, which flags immigrants in law enforcement custody for ICE removal.
In fiscal year 2012, the Obama administration deported a record number 409,849 immigrants, 55 percent of whom fell into ICE's high-priority categories. It is estimated that the administration deports at least 1,000 immigrants a day at this current pace.
Fox is baselessly accusing President Obama of deliberately trying to distract the public and shift media attention away from problems with the health care rollout by continuing to push Congress to act on immigration reform. However, in the week leading up to his speech, Obama repeatedly urged Congress to refocus attention on immigration reform, which he has made one of the most pressing issues of his administration.