Fox News host Bill O'Reilly typified conservative media's absurd arguments on border enforcement, claiming that President Obama is not committed to addressing the issue because he can't stop immigrants from coming into the United States illegally in the first place. O'Reilly also dismissed the Senate immigration bill's border surge provisions, arguing that "money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling."
Discussing President Obama's November 25 immigration speech, O'Reilly speculated about the chances of passing immigration legislation, saying: "The problem here is that nobody believes President Obama will secure the border. They believe he'll give the pathway to citizenship but nobody believes he's gonna stop more people from coming in to follow the same pathway."
When contributor Juan Williams noted that the Senate-passed immigration bill includes substantial funding for border enforcement measures, O'Reilly replied:
O'REILLY: Money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling. You've got to have the will to do it and that will has to be imparted and you've got to put commanders down there, people who are really, really committed to stopping the chaos on the Southern border, and nobody, Juan, nobody believes the president of the United States is committed to do that.
O'Reilly went on to repeat Fox News' talking point that Obama's speech was an attempt to "deflect" from the problems with the Affordable Care Act's rollout. Guest Mary Katharine Ham agreed, saying that "the timing is interesting." She went on to promote the discredited conservative myth that Obama could have passed comprehensive immigration reform early in his first term if he had "made it a first priority" when "he had 60 senators." She continued: "But he put it off because he liked using it as a cudgel before the 2012 elections."
O'Reilly's point that Obama isn't serious about border enforcement because he's unable to prevent immigrants from crossing into the U.S. illegally or from overstaying their visas is absurd. There are a host of reasons that prompt illegal crossings, which can range from economic to family reunification.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) debunked the Fox News claim that Mexicans are taking advantage of a "loophole" in asking for asylum at the border to gain entry into the United States. DHS reportedly called Fox's reporting "overstated" and said the increase in asylum requests at Southwestern border crossings have been "modest."
On August 12, Fox News repeatedly promoted the flawed narrative that immigrants at Southwestern border crossings were using a "loophole" to enter and stay in the United States illegally by saying key phrases, namely that they have a "credible fear" of the drug cartels. Fox News' reporting throughout the day and week accused Mexicans of gaming the immigration system this way, even though petitioning for asylum based on "credible fear" of persecution is a legitimate and long-standing policy in immigration law.
But Fox continued to advance the myth that "hundreds of illegal aliens are taking advantage of a loophole to cross the border and get asylum here in the U.S.," even using anti-immigrant nativists to add that it was an "orchestrated" scam.
In an August 17 article, however, the Associated Press reported that a DHS report on asylum numbers showed that Fox News' reporting was "overstated":
Requests for asylum in the United States along the border with Mexico have more than doubled over the last three years as immigrants seeking legal entry into the country claim a fear of persecution back home, according to a federal government report.
The so-called credible fear claims reached 14,610 by the end of June, with three months left in the fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security reported. For the entire 2011 fiscal year, there were 6,824 such claims. The department's report notes, however, that those numbers are a tiny portion of the millions of travelers who legally enter the country each year.
The data was released on Friday, in part, to dispute claims first reported by Fox News that large numbers of Mexican citizens had been showing up at San Diego ports of entry recently to seek asylum, citing the drug violence in their country. Homeland Security Department officials said the news reports had been overstated and called the increase in asylum requests at those ports "modest."
Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, the agency said, an average of 30 people per day have arrived at San Diego ports seeking asylum, out of about 170,000 travelers who cross the border there legally each day.
The AP went on to report that DHS "officials say there has been no marked increase in the numbers of such asylum requests from Mexican citizens," and included DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard saying that border activity is "cyclical in nature" and that claims "of credible fear along the Southwest border vary month to month and year to year."
Fox News is turning to anti-immigrant and nativist organizations to further its failed narrative that Mexicans are gaming the immigration system by seeking asylum in the United States.
On August 12, Fox News repeatedly accused Mexicans coming into the United States from the U.S.-Mexico border of "taking advantage of a loophole" to enter the country, by invoking certain phrases like "credible fear" of drug cartels. In fact, petitioning for asylum based on "credible fear" of persecution is a legitimate and long-standing policy in immigration law.
Throughout the day, Fox News hosts and guests continued to push the narrative that immigrants were using these "bogus" asylum claims only to eventually disappear into the country after failing to attend their immigration hearings. As correspondent William LaJeunesse put it: "It's about overwhelming the system and getting released, getting a court date for which no one shows up."
To back up these assertions, Fox News relied on Pete Nunez, whom it identified simply as a former U.S. attorney for Southern California, to reinforce this last point. In numerous segments, Nunez claimed:
NUNEZ: Hundreds of thousands of people have never returned and the list of people for whom warrants are outstanding is phenomenal. So, yeah, we have a long history of people absconding from immigration hearings of one sort or another, they just blend back into the community.
According to the Department of Justice, only 11 percent of immigrants fail to appear for their immigration hearings.
None of the hosts pointed out, however, that while Nunez is indeed a former U.S. attorney for Southern California, he is also the chairman of the Board of Directors at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and a member of the National Board of Advisors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). CIS is an anti-immigrant and nativist organization whose affiliation with hate groups has been thoroughly documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. FAIR has similarly been designated a hate group by SPLC.
CIS has a long history of smears and inflammatory rhetoric against immigrants. It has also been exposed as a group that misrepresents evidence and data to substantiate dubious conclusions about immigrants. Frankly, in the words of the Center for the New Community, CIS "has proven not to be a credible voice in the debate on immigration." The American Prospect has charged that "convoluted logic and paranoia is typical of the research" CIS produces.
As to FAIR, SPLC has noted that its "leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements" and that one of the group's "main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans." FAIR has reportedly received funding from white supremacist groups.
Fox News repeatedly trumpeted a report from a local Fox affiliate claiming that immigrants crossing at the U.S.-Mexico border are using a "loophole" to enter and stay in the United States illegally by saying key phrases, namely that they have a "credible fear" of the drug cartels. But as even its own reporting admitted, this so-called "loophole" is long-established asylum policy of allowing foreigners who fear persecution in their own country to state their case in immigration court. Moreover, the evidence doesn't support Fox's claims that these immigrants are using the tactic to ultimately skip out on their asylum hearings.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham has repeatedly attacked and mocked the undocumented immigrants known as the "Dream 9," who in July staged a protest at the U.S.-Mexico border to highlight what they feel are unjust immigration laws. Ingraham has accused the activists of not respecting the laws of the United States, saying that "when you come into our home and make it your home, then you've got to follow the rules."
But far from respecting her nation's laws, Ingraham has hypocritically advocated for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even going so far as to seemingly agree that shutting down the government over the law wouldn't be the end of world.
Discussing the Dream 9 movement in an interview with undocumented activist Cesar Vargas on Fox News, Ingraham criticized the activists for "flout[ing] the law" and mocked their protest as a "stunt" that was "disrespecting our laws." When Vargas explained that the activists are trying to show that their home's immigration laws are "outdated" and that the immigration system is "broken," Ingraham attacked them as opportunists intent on taking advantage of the Obama administration's deferred action program.
She also told Vargas that if the Dream 9 really consider the United States their home, then they should "respect" their home's law, adding: "When I go into someone else's home, I try to follow their rules. So when you come into our home and make it your home, then you've got to follow the rules."
But contrary to Ingraham's accusations, the Dream 9 have broken no immigration laws with their protest. As she herself admitted, all were brought into the country as children. They did not willingly come into the country illegally.
As the Los Angeles Times further explained, the Dream 9 are a group of undocumented immigrants who "staged an unconventional and risky protest last month at the U.S.-Mexico border to spotlight the thousands of people deported under the Obama administration."
The Wall Street Journal's news section has repeatedly parroted the Republican narrative on border security without pointing out that enforcement, not only along the border but in most areas of immigration law, is greater than ever. This uncritical coverage has allowed congressional Republicans to set the terms of the debate on immigration reform even though the Journal's editorial page has charged that these "border security first" arguments amount to obstructionism.
In an August 4 article highlighting an immigration reform proposal that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is reportedly working on, the Journal gave weight to Goodlatte's statement that "[n]o illegal immigrant would gain legal status before efforts were in place to secure the border with Mexico," and Rep. Cory Gardner's (R-CO) argument that "he didn't want to consider" a plan that included a path to citizenship "until the issue of border security had been resolved."
The article did not explain the facts of border enforcement, much less point out that the Republican narrative on the matter "has become a ruse to kill reform." That's the way the Journal described "the real story" behind Republicans "once again demanding more enforcement as the price of their support" in a June 19 editorial titled, "The Border Security Ruse."
In a May 2 editorial that offered a "border security reality check," the Journal mocked the "porous border" argument and noted that "[c]ontrary to Republican claims that President Obama has turned a blind eye to illegal aliens, the official data indicate the opposite." It continued:
One lesson is that we can continue to militarize the border, but at some point it becomes overkill. The Republicans who claim we must "secure the border first" ignore the progress already made because their real goal isn't border security. It is to use border security as an excuse to kill immigration reform.
The editorial went on to cite relevant data to show that fewer immigrants will come illegally if you "[g]ive people more legal ways to enter and exit America."
A July 9 editorial asking whether the GOP would prove to be a "party of opportunity or closed borders," added: "Too often Americans hear the shrillest anti-immigration Republicans whose only argument is 'secure the border,' as if that is a sensible policy for the 21st century. House Speaker John Boehner's job is to make sure those voices don't carry the day."
Right-wing media are using a new government report showing that there are a million visitors in the United States who have overstayed their visas to argue that the news will negatively impact immigration reform. However, what these media outlets are missing is that passing a comprehensive immigration bill, like the one that recently cleared the Senate, would largely fix the problem of such overstays as the bill mandates the implementation of a biometric entry-exit data system.
On July 30, the Government Accountability Office released a study reporting that as of June 2013, more than one million visitors in the United States have overstayed their visas -- thus the term overstays. GAO defines an overstay as a "nonimmigrant who is legally admitted to the United States for an authorized period but remains in the country illegally after that period expired without obtaining an extension of stay or a change of status or meeting other specific conditions, such as claiming asylum."
In a segment highlighting the report, Fox News host Heather Nauert claimed that the "news could hurt the debate over that sweeping immigration bill that we've heard so much about."
A July 30 Washington Times article similarly asserted that "the report could hurt immigration deal" and falsely claimed that the Senate immigration bill "waters down" requirements for a biometric system. The Times wrote that the bill "say[s] only that there must be a biographic-based system, which means using a photo, and that it be limited to air and sea ports."
While the number of immigrants who overstay their visas has reportedly sharply declined in the last decade, passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill would greatly alleviate the problem. According to a February 2013 study, overstays declined by 73 percent between 2000 and 2009, thanks to enhanced security measures by DHS in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The immigration bill that passed the Senate on June 27 mandates the implementation of an exit system that will monitor when foreigners leave the country. It also mandates establishing a mandatory biometric exit data system that would require that all foreigners be fingerprinted when exiting the country." The system would have to be implemented at the 10 United States airports that support the highest volume of international air travel" within two years of the bill's passage. Such a system would then be expanded to 30 airports and major sea and land entry and exit points within six years.
A fact sheet of the bill by Sen. Bob Corker's (R-TN) office stated that the "underlying bill improves the identification of overstays through a fully implemented entry/exit system," and that Corker's amendment "goes a step further by mandating the initiation of removal proceedings for at least 90% of visa overstays - holding DHS accountable for failing to enforce the law and targeting an issue that is at the core of a policy of de facto amnesty."
According to an analysis of the bill as passed by the Senate, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would not only reduce the flow of illegal immigration, it would also greatly impact overstays. CBO concluded that the security measures in the bill would cut illegal immigration and overstays by "between one-third and one-half compared with the projected net inflow under current law."
CBS' Face the Nation reinforced conservative arguments that the Senate immigration bill doesn't strenghten the border, but ignored the Congressional Budget Office report's finding that the Senate bill could cut illegal immigration in half as a result of the bill's border surge amendment.
Fox News used a dishonest graph to distort the Obama administration's record on border enforcement and claim that the border is less secure. Fox's chart painted a misleading picture of Southwest border apprehensions by using an arbitrary time period and an improper scale -- even as illegal border crossings under President Obama are at historic lows.
In several segments on Fox News, correspondent William La Jeunesse highlighted the graph to claim that the Southwest border "is actually less secure," pointing to what he called the "double-digit surge" in border apprehensions from 2011 to 2013 to make his point:
La Jeunesse reported that the numbers for October-April 2013 were released exclusively to Fox News from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In a report on Happening Now, La Jeunesse touted the graph and highlighted the fact that apprehensions of Central American nationals have risen 13 percent -- leading him to claim that by this standard more people are getting into the United States illegally.
La Jeunesse gave a similar report on Your World using the same graph.
However, the graph La Jeunesse used suffers from several misleading characteristics. First, it depicts an arbitrary time period: October through April, though we're only a few days into the month, for the years 2011 to 2013 -- which takes into account only half of Obama's first term. Moreover, the graph has a skewed scale -- making the 27,000 jump from 2011 to 2013 seem more dramatic than it actually is.
Fox News hosts speculated that uniforms made in Mexico for the U.S. Border Patrol could end up in the wrong hands and ultimately fuel situations similar to those in Afghanistan -- where Taliban fighters wearing Afghan security or coalition uniforms have launched attacks on U.S. soldiers. In fact, no such attack related to Border Patrol uniforms has yet to be reported. Moreover, these uniforms have been manufactured in Mexican factories by an American company for nearly a decade.
In six different instances over two hours, Fox & Friends hosts suggested that Mexicans would be able to use the uniforms to cross the border illegally without notice. Though Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham acknowledged that factories in Mexico manufacture a host of uniforms for American companies, she went on to say of the Border Patrol uniforms:
INGRAHAM: If they're made down there, presumably they could be stolen down there. And we know what happens in insider attacks in Afghanistan where we've lost incredible men who have donated and served this country so proudly.
But as a June 2004 Washington Times report explained, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) contract allowed VF Solutions, an American company now known as VF Imagewear, to subcontract its work to Mexico, Canada and the Dominican Republic:
The new uniforms were supplied through a contract with VF Solutions of Nashville, Tenn., which agreed to produce 30,000 shirts and pants for CBP agents and inspectors for the 2003-04 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. But the contract allows the company to subcontract its work to other facilities in the United States, Mexico, Canada and the Dominican Republic.
During their significant coverage of his stand against the Obama administration's drone policy, the media have failed to examine Republican Sen. Rand Paul's support for surveillance drones in border states. Now that Paul has come out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, media outlets have an opportunity to highlight this dichotomy -- especially in light of the fact that his immigration framework requires that drones be used to target immigrants.
In a February 11 Washington Times op-ed announcing his support for immigration reform, Paul wrote:
As a matter of both national security and immigration policy, though, it is absolutely essential that we both secure our border and modernize our visa system so we know who comes and who goes on travel, student and other temporary visas. It is vital all other reforms be conditioned on this goal being met.
Border security, including drones, satellite and physical barriers, vigilant deportation of criminals and increased patrols would begin immediately and would be assessed at the end of one year by an investigator general from the Government Accountability Office.
During an interview on Sean Hannity's radio show, Paul similarly stated that border enforcement should include "a combination of a lot of things," such as satellite imagery and drones. He then went on to dismiss his earlier stance against drones, adding that "for border security, you can use drones for surveillance. That's protecting our country." Hannity did not question Paul over the disconnect between these positions.
Similarly, media have largely ignored Paul's comments calling for drones to target immigrants, even though his stance is not new.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the January 30 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the January 29 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News contributor Monica Crowley attacked an immigration reform proposal by claiming the federal government has failed to protect the U.S.-Mexico border. However, recent reports show that undocumented migration from Mexico has come to a halt, and border security is at an all-time high.
After a bipartisan group of senators announced a proposal to overhaul the U.S. immigration system that will focus on -- among other initiatives -- border security and opening a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the country, Crowley blasted the federal government for failing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, causing states like Arizona to take matters of border security into their own hands. Crowley said drastic measures are needed because "the federal government either has not or will not enforce [the U.S.-Mexico] border."
However, Crowley's suggestion that current border security is not capable of enforcing our laws is wrong. An April 2012 report by the Pew Hispanic Center explained that net migration flow from Mexico to the U.S. has been reduced to zero and may be headed in the other direction:
After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants--most of whom came illegally--the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed, according to a new analysis of government data from both countries by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
Among the causes for lower undocumented immigration, the report points to heightened border enforcement, increased amount of deportations, and the growing danger of illegal border crossings.