Fox News hosted an anti-immigration Arizona sheriff to push the myths that the Obama administration has released violent undocumented immigrants and is refusing to deport convicted criminals. In reality, deportations of undocumented immigrants with criminal records have nearly doubled since 2008, and the claim that the Obama administration is releasing violent undocumented immigrants is based on a flawed report.
On the April 9 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto and guest Paul Babeu -- an Arizona police sheriff, Fox News darling, and anti-immigrant activist -- pushed one of Fox's favorite immigration myths, claiming that the Obama administration is not deporting criminals, "the dangerous folks, or the folks you would think more urgently should be deported." Babeu accused the administration of releasing convicted criminals, stoking fears that those released were "convicted of child molestation, aggravated assault against police officers" and manslaughter:
Contrary to Cavuto and Babeu's claims, the Obama administration has consistently increased the number of convicted criminals that are deported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data shows that the number of immigrants with Level 1 offenses who were deported has gone from about 3,400 in 2009 to nearly 29,000 in 2013. Since 2008, ICE deportations of immigrants with criminal convictions have increased by 87 percent:
Babeu went on to misrepresent the administration's record on deportations, concluding that the administration has misled on their immigration enforcement in order to secure their political agenda of immigration reform and intimating that such reform will grant "permanent legal status for 11 million to 20 million illegals who are here, which of course I and most Americans are against." But Babeu's analysis of American opinion is outdated: a number of polls affirm that a majority of Americans overwhelmingly support granting legalization or a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country.
Much of Babeu's claims relied on a report from the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, which has been heavily criticized for its misleading data. The American Immigration Council's executive Director, Benjamin Johnson, denounced the CIS report in a March 31 press release:
A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) makes a range of false claims about deportation data. First their claim that out of 722,000 "potentially deportable aliens" encountered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement only 195,000 were charged is completely misleading. As a result of dragnet programs like Secure Communities, any foreign-born individual that that comes into contact with law-enforcement likely falls into 722,000 number cited by CIS. Thus, this number includes immigrants (including long time permanent residents) whose interaction with law enforcement was so minor that they are not even legally subject to removal. In fact, that data likely includes U.S. citizens as well.
Furthermore, the report claims ICE "released" 68,000 "criminal aliens" yet fails to explain that being released is not the equivalent of being set-free. Being released from ICE custody often means being issued a notice to appear in court, released with an ankle bracelet or released under an order of supervision. These details were conveniently left out of the CIS analysis.
Understanding deportation data is important in the current debate over immigration reform. However, reports full of false and misleading data do nothing to move the discussion forward and pave the way for further polarization and inaction.