Conservative radio host Mark Levin blamed undocumented immigrants for the United States' poor ranking in a global education survey of high school students, claiming that "one of the reasons" for the mediocre showing on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is because "a lot of these children only speak Spanish and a certain percentage of them are illiterate in Spanish because they're poor when they come over the border."
PISA, which is administered every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in math at 26th and average in reading (17th) and science (21st). PISA found that even among the U.S.' strongest performers, students in Massachusetts, the top student performers in math, 15-year-olds in Shanghai, showed that they had the equivalent of more than two years of formal schooling over their American counterparts.
But immigration is not to blame for the U.S.' second-rate results. Indeed, according to the results, immigrant students in the United States performed better than the average of member countries in math.
As the Christian Science Monitor further reported:
More than 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries and other education programs took part in the 2012 PISA test. Students from Shanghai-China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea scored highest in all three subjects. Switzerland and the Netherlands also ranked near the top.
Set against that backdrop, the US performance in mathematics drew the most handwringing by far. Among 65 nations and jurisdictions where the PISA test was administered, 29 countries and provinces outperformed the US in math in 2012, compared with 23 in 2009, the last time the test was given.
The list of those racing past the US included not only perennially strong competitors like Singapore and South Korea, but also Latvia, Australia, and Vietnam when compared with test results from three years earlier.
In reading, US scores were flat. But students in 19 countries scored higher than the US in 2012, compared with just nine countries three years before. Steady gains by Poland and Germany leapfrogged them past the US along with Estonia, Ireland, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
In science, meanwhile, some 22 countries' educational systems beat out the US average, compared with 18 in 2009.
Overall, the US had a "flat line" performance as other nations surged, said Secretary Duncan.
Discussing the PISA results on his radio show, Levin attributed the mediocre results to undocumented children:
After complaining about the Supreme Court decision that guaranteed all students, regardless of immigration status, a public education in the United States, and lamenting House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) recent move on immigration reform, Levin stated: "I mean, it just shows you how a culture deteriorates -- and not because it's Latino or whatever, it's because it's legal versus illegal. You either have a rule of law or you don't. And apparently we don't."
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.
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.
Fox News hosted discredited documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch to attack an immigration rally that took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C, accusing non-English speaking participants of being undocumented and attacking participants for "climbing on some of the statues."
On October 8, several thousand demonstrators gathered on the Mall to call on lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants:
[T]housands of activists -- from young children wearing white T-shirts that read "Don't Deport My Dad" to activists cheering and waving signs that proclaimed: "No Human is Illegal" -- gathered on the Mall on a cool October afternoon. More than a dozen congressional Democrats and four House Republicans came before the crowd to push for a reform bill in the House.
Fox News reported on the rally by hosting filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch, who characterized the protest as an "illegal immigrant rally." On the October 9 edition of America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer spoke to Lynch who likened the protest to a "rock concert" and said, "I felt like I was back down in Texas along the border where there's no fence and you say, 'come on in!' I mean, they were welcomed."
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, a media advocacy and civil rights organization, is calling on Fox News to apologize for a derogatory segment demonizing the children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." In an open letter addressed to Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, NHMC president Alex Nogales called the segment "unacceptable," writing: "It is one thing for Fox News to routinely spread hate towards Latino and immigrant adults. It is quite another to demonize innocent children."
In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace discussed the findings from Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid" in the county. The total aid is projected to cost about $650 million by year's end.
During the segment, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. Text accompanying the graphic read "Children of the Corn" and "Alien Nation."
In the letter, Nogales wrote that the phrase "Children of the Corn" "likens immigrant children to the murderous cult of fictional children depicted in Stephen King's horror story and its universally-familiar film adaptations. It covertly insinuates that Latino and immigrant children are to be feared." He continued:
NHMC urges that Fox News and Chris Wallace immediately issue an apology to Latino children, and that you send a formal memo to all Fox News staff, urging refrain from all anti-Latino and anti-immigrant smears, especially those directed at innocent children.
Nogales went on to note that studies show that such negative rhetoric "may breed hate and impact the health of not only members of the targeted group, but anyone that hears these messages." Indeed, a September 2012 NHMC report found that Fox News viewers and conservative radio listeners are more likely to have negative views of Latinos and immigrants than those who watch more mainstream outlets.
The NHMC study stated that Fox News audiences were "more likely to agree that Latinos are on welfare (56%), take jobs from Americans (43%) and have too many children (42%)" -- all myths Fox News has repeatedly advanced.
Nogales concluded by saying that "Fox News must do better," adding, "At a time when Fox News' parent company is trying to attract Latino eyeballs, Fox News must understand that Latinos will not embrace the brand that hates them."
NHMC, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1986 with the mission of increasing Hispanic representation in the news, now boasts nine chapters nationwide and seeks to "eradicate the negative Latino stereotypes depicted in all forms of media." In February, it honored actor Michael Peña, comedian John Leguizamo, and host Mario Lopez for "helping erase negative Latino stereotypes in Hollywood."
The Special Report segment has also been criticized by Latino news sites and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In a post that called the segment "disappointing," NAHJ president Hugo Balta condemned Fox for airing it, saying it was "riddled with basic misinformation and disdainful images."
Fox News is continuing its practice of appealing to conservative viewers while also pandering to the growing Latino influence in the United States.
In a report on American children in Los Angeles County whose parents are undocumented, Fox News used phrases such as "Alien Nation" and "Children of the Corn" to illustrate the story. In another report, the cable channel celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month -- a month-long tribute to Hispanic Americans starting on September 15 -- with a feature on the immigrant roots of Goya Foods.
On the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report guest-hosted by Chris Wallace, the program used several inflammatory graphics during a segment called "The Grapevine" to highlight a new analysis by Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." According to the data, the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
On Special Report, Wallace stated that the LA County data is "more proof of the economic impact of the immigration debate." As he cited the numbers, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. One read: "Children of the Corn":
"Children of the Corn" is the name of a 1977 short horror story by Stephen King, which tells of a murderous cult of children in a remote town who kill everyone over the age of 18. The story was adapted for film in 1984; at least eight other movies followed.
Wallace nor Special Report explained or referred to the graphics during the segment, which also featured one reading: "Alien Nation":
From the September 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Right-wing media have seized on a report noting that American children in Los Angeles County with undocumented parents are receiving millions in benefits to revive the spurious smear that undocumented immigrants come to this country only to receive welfare. However, these outlets are missing the facts surrounding the data, including that studies show immigration reform could raise these children's standard of living.
In a September 16 article, the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles reported that according to a new analysis by county officials, an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." The article added that the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
County supervisor Michael D. Antonovich was quoted as saying that the total cost to taxpayers could exceed $1.6 billion per year after factoring in health care and public safety costs, adding, "These costs do not even include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually for education."
Right-wing media outlets, including the Daily Caller, The Blaze, and Breitbart.com, highlighted the report, with the Power Line blog using it to accuse undocumented immigrants of putting a "burden" on "the nation's welfare system, along with driving down wages for working Americans." American Thinker commented: "To open borders crowd: Please make your donations here to cover the cost of allowing destitute, jobless, skilless, poorly educated people to cross the border. We can't bill the Mexican government so you're the next best target."
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham read the news on her radio show and used it to call for the end of birthright citizenship -- which, under the 14th Amendment, makes anyone born in this country an American citizen. She also argued that the news should end all talk of immigration reform.
But these reports leave out key facts. In 2012, according to Antonovich's office, the total cost of food stamp benefits and Cal WORKs -- a welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families -- to Los Angeles County was a little over $3 billion. Families headed by an undocumented parent received about $636.5 million or a little more than 20 percent of the total.
Fox News accused the government of willfully endangering Americans by releasing undocumented immigrants who commit sex crimes instead of trying and deporting them. In fact, immigrants who commit crimes are arrested and tried in a criminal court before potentially going through deportation proceedings in immigration court.
On the September 17 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly brought on Fox's legal analysts Kimberly Guilfoyle and Lis Whiel to discuss a recent GAO report that found that 2,837 undocumented immigrants who were convicted of a sex offense were released under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) supervision as of September 2012. O'Reilly called the release a "frightening situation" and asked why the government couldn't "get these people tried or deport them in six months." Guilfoyle blamed the government's "inefficiency" in administering justice and "releasing these predators back into the street." They all agreed immigrants should be subject to tougher standards for criminal conduct than Americans.
But immigrants who commit crimes still face criminal repercussions. Undocumented immigrants who are arrested for a crime must go through the criminal justice system -- similar to when an American is arrested for a crime -- and can serve jail time or pay fines for those crimes. ICE then holds a separate hearing to determine whether the immigrant should be subject to removal following jail time.
One of the most repeated claims against immigration reform from conservative media is that legalizing immigrants would negatively impact the U.S. economy. Another is that immigrants take jobs from American workers. And that the economy should take precedence over immigration reform, despite the fact that immigration is an economic issue.
A new study that examined government data over a 40-year period has punctured all of these myths, finding that immigration -- vital to hard-hit communities across the nation -- has a positive effect on the country and the economy, especially in the manufacturing sector.
As CBS News reported, a study by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants "are boosting job growth, raising home prices and more broadly helping to revive thousands of economically distressed communities." Many of those communities, CBS News pointed out, are in rural areas with a heavy manufacturing focus.
The study, prepared by Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey to assess the impact of immigration on "the number of middle-class manufacturing jobs," "the health of the housing market," and "the size of the local U.S.-born population." It looked at nearly 3,100 counties within a 40-year period from 1970 to 2010.
The report highlighted three key findings:
The study found that the "arrival of high-skilled immigrants as well as workers that are part of the essential economy has also greatly contributed to the growth of the manufacturing industry in places like Los Angeles, Houston, and in southern Arizona." To illustrate, the study contrasted Los Angeles County with Cook County in Chicago and found:
A wave of new foreign-born residents moved to both areas between 1970 and 2010, but the growth was proportionately much larger in Los Angeles. There, the immigrant population nearly quintupled, compared to the doubling experienced in Cook County.
Bearing in mind that when 1,000 immigrants move to an area 46 manufacturing jobs are created or preserved, the fact that Los Angeles added 2.7 million immigrants over this time period -- rather than Cook County's 600,000 -- accounts for about half of the difference in total manufacturing jobs between the two areas in 2010. Immigrants now account for more than 35 percent of the population in Los Angeles County, a substantial share of the population.
Conservative media are turning to a 22-year-old letter signed by Coretta Scott King to accuse immigration reform activists of co-opting the civil rights movement. They deceptively argue that the letter proves Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta would have opposed the modern immigration reform movement.
In 1991, Coretta Scott King signed a letter addressed to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that urged him to reconsider a proposal to undercut penalties on companies that employed undocumented workers that were mandated by the 1986 immigration law. King, along with other members of the Black Leadership Forum -- a coalition of leaders from some of the country's preeminent African-American organizations at the time -- wrote that they wanted an opportunity to study the effects such a repeal would have on African-American and Hispanic workers. The letter stated:
We are concerned, Senator Hatch, that your proposed remedy to the employer sanctions-based discrimination, namely, the elimination of employer sanctions, will cause another problem -- the revival of the pre-1986 discrimination against black and brown U.S. and documented workers, in favor of cheap labor -- the undocumented workers. This would undoubtedly exacerbate an already severe economic crisis in communities where there are large numbers of new immigrants.
The letter added: "With roughly 7 million people unemployed, and double that number discouraged from seeking work, the removal of employer sanctions threatens to add additional U.S. workers to the rolls of the unemployed. Additionally, it would add to competition for scarce jobs and drive down wages."
The Black Leadership Forum members were clear that their concerns were centered on discrimination -- against minority workers and against immigrants. The letter said nothing about the larger illegal immigration issue. In fact, it didn't even express disagreement with the 1986 immigration law -- that law granted legal status and a pathway to citizenship to nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants -- which would have been a clear indication that members were against reform.
Instead they wrote that they were invested in "the elimination of the root causes of national origin discrimination under the Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), as well as discriminatory impact."
In a 1990 report on the law, the General Accounting Office found that "substantial" and "serious" national original discrimination was introduced as a result of the law, but that it was "not pervasive." GAO wrote that it "believes many employers discriminated because the law's verification system does not provide a simple or reliable method to verify job applicants' eligibility to work." That report formed the basis for a proposal by Hatch and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to eliminate employer sanctions.
Conservative media figures are using the Forum letter to claim that immigration reform activists are, as Breitbart.com put it, "trying to co-opt the civil rights messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to push immigration reform through Congress," which "seem[s] to be directly contradicting the wishes of the late Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King." Breitbart.com went on to claim that "Coretta Scott King and other black community leaders argued that illegal immigration would have a devastating impact on the black community."
On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham echoed that claim, suggesting that immigration rights' activists are conflating the civil rights movement with the immigration reform movement. She read from the letter to illustrate her point, adding, "So in 1991, Coretta Scott King was saying on the issue of amnesty what many of us are saying now."
Ingraham went on to criticize those who spoke in favor of immigration reform at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, accusing them of "ruining the moment."
Earlier in the show, Ingraham stated that African-Americans would be the ones who would suffer the most if Congress passed immigration reform, adding that they are "the very people who Dr. Martin Luther King struggled, and ultimately died, to protect and to elevate. That's the sad thing about all of this." She claimed immigration rights' activists were "confused" to conflate the issues of race and civil rights, even though the issues are undeniably intertwined.
Ingraham went on to say:
INGRAHAM: But to conflate the issue of equal opportunity, the desire for a fair application of existing law with the issue of allowing exceptions to the law or indeed amnesty for law breakers, and that's where you find the illegal immigration issue involved here, that's something wild right? But I think the left wants everyone to believe out there that the struggle for amnesty is equivalent to the struggle for racial equality and equal opportunity.
From the August 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham used a single anecdote about supposed undocumented immigrants living together in close quarters to denounce a study finding that immigration reform would help the housing market. In fact, the study finds that the immigration population -- including undocumented immigrants -- would benefit the housing market by driving up values, as well as generating demand in previously less desirable neighborhoods.