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:
Al Jazeera America is set to debut a new original series called "Borderland" that will attempt to take viewers beyond the debate on illegal immigration and tell the stories of the undocumented immigrants who attempt to cross illegally into the United States and the residents on the border.
Al Jazeera America's focus on the human side of the border story is in sharp contrast to the way Fox News and other right-wing media outlets discuss illegal immigration and undocumented immigrants.
In a press release announcing the series, which is set to begin on April 13, Al Jazeera America stated that "Borderland" "reflect[s] the channel's commitment to outstanding investigative journalism focusing on the human side of important, underreported stories, arising out of such national issues as immigration." Al Jazeera America president Kate O'Brian went on to say:
"Immigration is one of the most divisive topics in our country, and it is easy for the real issues to get lost in the noise of politics. ... Borderland looks at the issue in an entirely fresh and compelling way -- allowing the viewer to become immersed in the experiences of actual border runners."
In "Borderland," six Americans of all ideological stripes are tasked with retracing the journey of three migrants who died while attempting to cross illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border. "To make the story relatable," Al Jazeera America stated, "the filmmakers said participants on the trip faced the same dangers as the migrants whose stories they were charged with retelling." Filmmaker Ivan O'Mahoney explained:
"We wanted to expose them and immerse them with the families and the people that lived on the other side [of the border], including relatives and friends, and include random interaction on the way. ... If you manage to make a personal connection to a migrant, it becomes a meaningful part of your world."
Filmmaker Darren Foster added: "If you can get to the humanity of any story, people will see beyond their personal viewpoints." Referring to the participants, he continued: "They certainly understood we are talking about human beings and lives, not statistics."
After Mitt Romney's loss in the 2012 presidential election, the GOP acknowledged it needed to change its stance on immigration and Hispanic outreach. But conservative media figures lashed out at Jeb Bush after he expressed compassion for undocumented immigrants.
Fox News and Fox News Latino are reporting on the Obama administration's enforcement record differently in a perceived effort to cater to their respective audience. At Fox News, the emphasis is on hosting extreme voices to discredit the Obama administration's record. At Fox News Latino, however, there is no equivocation that the Obama administration is nearing its 2 million deportation threshold.
The most recent example of this divide between Fox News and Fox News Latino includes how they treated a flawed report by the Center for Immigration Studies that cast doubt on President Obama's deportation record. Fox News used it to attack Obama and push the narrative that the administration isn't deporting enough immigrants that warrant deportation. This followed weeks in which the network repeatedly tried to discredit the administration's deportation record, claiming that administration officials are "fudging" the numbers on deportations.
The network misled its audience, telling them that the Obama administration was "destabilizing the nation" with its enforcement policies by releasing undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes. It led to one contributor calling Obama the "releaser-in-chief." Hosts on Fox News' daytime programming went even further, accusing the administration of releasing immigrants who had committed rape and murder. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy commented after one segment: "That's crazy."
This sentiment continued at FoxNews.com. One story about the administration's immigration enforcement policies included this image with a headline asking: "Are America's Streets Threatened by a Criminal Alien 'Crisis'?":
Though Fox Business host Lou Dobbs was the only Fox host to question the accuracy of CIS' report, he nevertheless agreed that "some" of the immigrants not deported by the Obama administration were convicted of rape and murder.
In stark contrast to other Fox News outlets, Fox News Latino provided far more balance in its reporting on the Obama administration's enforcement policies -- and without any of the alarmist or derogatory language that is popular on Fox News.
Fox News used a misleading report from an anti-immigrant organization to baselessly claim the Obama administration is now releasing immigrants who have been convicted of rape and murder. In fact, those crimes, classified as Level 1 offenses by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), are automatically subject to deportation.
On March 31, the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies reported that in 2013, ICE released nearly 68,000 immigrants who had been convicted of some type of crime. According to CIS, that number represented 35 percent of all immigrants convicted of a crime that CIS had come into contact with in 2013. CIS did not describe the specific crimes these immigrants had been convicted of but nevertheless concluded that the "release of so many convicted criminals back into U.S. communities, when they could be removed to their home countries, is a large-scale abuse of authority that inevitably leads to public harm."
Fox News seized on the report to repeatedly argue that the Obama administration "is destabilizing the nation by allowing hordes of dangerous illegal aliens to invade the country," as Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes put it.
Fox hosts have since escalated those claims, asserting that immigrants who were released were those convicted of rape and murder, even though the CIS report makes no such claim.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy stated: "That's kind of scary that we released close to 70,000 people who had criminal convictions. I know some of them were drunk driving, but they did include murder in some cases and rape as well. That's not the way it's supposed to work." Guest Jessica Vaughan, CIS' director of policy studies, replied: "Well, ICE has not released all the details on the exact crimes that these people are associated with, but it is concerning that interior immigration enforcement has deteriorated."
Later on America's Newsroom, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs noted that CIS is a "restrictionist advocacy group" "and therefore you have to take their numbers with a grain of salt." But Dobbs went on to push the same wild claim, saying that "some" of the immigrants released were found to be guilty of crimes "running up to rape, murder and far down as taking off."
In fact, any immigrant -- legal or undocumented -- who has been convicted of an aggravated felony such as rape or murder is automatically subject to deportation, without the benefit of a court hearing.
As the Washington Post explained:
Immigrants convicted of such crimes are automatically required to be detained by federal immigration authorities after they're released from criminal custody and can then be summarily deported without a hearing before a judge. Aggravated felons are also ineligible for asylum or reprieve from deportation by a change due to family hardship, and they're prohibited from ever returning to the United States without special permission from the government. (Permanent residents are granted a hearing, but the judge still has limited authority to prevent deportation.)
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
Loading the player reg...
Fox News used a misleading report from the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to accuse the Obama administration of "destabilizing the nation" by releasing undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds. In fact, data show that the Obama administration has met its enforcement mandate to prioritize the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions, which has resulted in a substantial increase of such deportations.
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
Loading the player reg...
Conservative media outlets are attacking Vice President Joe Biden over his recent statement that he believes undocumented immigrants are "already Americans" and they "are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully." This sentiment is hardly controversial since, as the Pew Research Center notes, nearly two-thirds of undocumented immigrants have lived in the country for at least a decade, and for many, the United States is the only home they have ever known.
During a speech at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Summit on March 27, Biden argued that "if you really want a game-changer, the single most important thing we can do for our economy, for America's future, is pass immigration reform now," and stated:
BIDEN: Eleven million people living in the shadows I believed are already American citizens. Teddy Roosevelt said it better. He said Americanism is not a question of birthplace or creed, or a line of descent. It's a question of principles, idealism and character.
These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully, and by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans in my view. All they want -- they just want a decent life for their kids, a chance to contribute to a free society, a chance to put down roots and help build the next great American century. I really believe that. That's what they're fighting for.
He went on to laud immigrants, noting: "It takes a whole hell of a lot of courage" to move and go to America to chase a better life.
The remarks were highlighted by a number of conservative outlets, including Breitbart News, Fox Nation, and Townhall.com, which claimed that this was proof of Biden's "indifference to legal proceedings" which the outlet stated "shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the unlawful actions and factual errors made by his boss." Townhall added that "trivializing the laws of the United States is no way to foster law-abiding citizens."
In an article on the remarks, The Washington Times wrote that Biden, who is "already known as a habitual blurter of the near-nonsensical and politically befuddling -- may have one-upped himself this week with a somewhat shocking statement on illegal immigrants."
After airing an edited clip of Biden's remarks, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed the vice president's staff would have to engage in some type of "damage control," with co-host Steve Doocy saying that undocumented immigrants would then "go out and vote."
Right-wing media outlets including Fox News falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was only able to reach the benchmark of 6 million enrollees by signing up undocumented immigrants and "Mexican nationals" at Mexican consulates. In fact, Mexican nationals -- like all American citizens and legal immigrants -- are mandated by the law to sign up for insurance, and outreach efforts at Mexican consulates that work to educate Mexicans legally living in the United States about government programs are nothing new.
Right-wing media are trumpeting a report from Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions claiming that the Obama administration has failed on border enforcement because nearly all of the immigrants the federal government deported last year were criminals, while undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions did not face high rates of removal. Indeed, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 98 percent of immigrants removed in fiscal year 2013 were classified as "convicted criminals, recent border crossers, illegal re-entrants or those previously removed," which is "in line with [the] agency's enforcement priorities."
The fact that conservative media see outrage over the news that the administration met its stated enforcement goals shows that the only action they will accept on border enforcement is really the mass deportation of all undocumented immigrants, regardless of their ties to the United States. But that is an impractical policy that has been derided even by Republican lawmakers.
On March 26, Sessions released a report condemning the Obama administration's record on border enforcement, claiming that the ICE record is evidence that "the Administration has carried out a dramatic nullification of federal law."
The Daily Caller seized on the Sessions report to blast Obama administration immigration policies that it claimed "have provided a de facto amnesty for most of the illegal immigrants living in the United States." It went on to complain that "99.92 percent of illegal immigrants and visa overstays without serious crime convictions or repeat immigration offenses did not face deportation."
National Review Online added that the administration is "shielding most illegal immigrants without separate criminal convictions from deportation" and uncritically quoted Sessions' claim that these priorities are "an open invitation for a future immigrant to overstay a visa, or enter the U.S. illegally, knowing that they will be immune from enforcement."
A Breitbart News article with the headline, "Sessions Report Demolishes Obama 'Deporter In Chief' Myth," stoked national security fears, stating that "Sessions' staff notes that ICE officers who communicate with his office say that there is likely some other serious security risk for allowing them to stay in the country that is cause for their removal." The article went on to highlight several instances in which undocumented immigrants were released from federal custody because they represented no threat to public safety.
On his radio show, Mark Levin used the report to make the point that "those terrorists on 9-11, they overstayed their visas."
The Department of Homeland Security has always maintained that ICE "must prioritize which individuals to pursue" because the agency "receives an annual appropriation from Congress sufficient to remove a limited number of the more than 10 million individuals estimated to unlawfully be in the United States."
This discretion has been widely applied by immigration officials for more than 30 years. And as the Immigration Policy Center has noted, the Supreme Court has made it clear that "an agency's decision not to prosecute or enforce, whether through civil or criminal process, is a decision generally committed to an agency's absolute discretion."
Fox News accused President Obama of a "constitutional violation" by claiming he enacted the DREAM Act in 2012 even though the legislation had not passed Congress. In fact, Obama has not enacted the DREAM Act. The deferred action program for undocumented youth he announced in 2012 was an exercise in prosecutorial discretion and is only a temporary measure that does not allow recipients to become legal residents or begin a path to citizenship as the congressionally proposed DREAM Act would have done.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which President Obama announced in 2012, exempts eligible undocumented immigrants under 31 from deportation on a renewable two-year period. Those who qualify are eligible to apply for work permits and Social Security cards. However, DACA recipients do not have legal status nor are they eligible under the program to apply for legal status let alone a path to citizenship, as the previously proposed DREAM Act would have done, but they are considered to be lawfully present in the United States as long as they maintain their eligibility.
The absence of meaningful congressional action on immigration reform and in particular a legislative remedy for young undocumented immigrants has, as the Los Angeles Times reported, pushed many undocumented youths to "the limits of the president's program, saying it has not transformed their lives as much as they had hoped."
The Times went on to note that while the program "has made it easier" for some immigrants to apply for jobs that were previously out of reach, "obstacles remain to actually getting them." The Times added that "since the program started, more than 40% of participants have failed to land new jobs after receiving work permits, and only 45% reported getting pay increases, according to early results from a 2013 survey of 2,381 participants, conducted by Roberto G. Gonzales, an assistant professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education."
But on Fox News, the difference between the DACA program and the DREAM Act was lost on contributor Peter Johnson Jr. who conflated the two, claiming Obama enacted the DREAM Act "by executive fiat" in 2012, saying that "by the stroke of the president's pen and whispers in the night to various agencies, they said we're gonna enact it anyway, even though Congress hasn't done it, and provide benefits to children of illegal immigrants."
Fox News responded to the announcement that President Obama has ordered a review of his administration's deportation policies by casting doubt on his enforcement efforts, claiming the nearly 2 million deportations number is inflated because it includes both removals and returns. In fact, whether undocumented immigrants apprehended at or near the border are removed or returned, both methods result in their expulsion from the country; moreover, data show the Obama administration has removed a record number of immigrants.
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace praised Donald Graham as the show's "power player of the week" for his efforts to give financial aid to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children -- known as DREAMers. But Wallace's positive coverage of Graham's TheDream.US program stands in stark contrast to how Fox News has covered access to an affordable college education for undocumented students in the past several years.
Fox has exhaustively attacked laws that allow undocumented immigrants who meet certain conditions to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. In November 2010, the network attacked a court ruling upholding a California law permitting this, asking whether "illegal immigrants" should get what it called an "[i]llegal discount." In June 2011, Fox further attacked the law as "flawed" and complained that the Supreme Court declined to hear a case about the law. An O'Reilly Factor segment that same month falsely claimed that these students were getting "free tuition" and stated that 35 percent of students paying in-state tuition in California were undocumented, when in fact undocumented students made up only 0.34 percent of the population. In March 2011, Fox's Steve Doocy made up a story to argue against a New Jersey college allowing undocumented immigrants to attend classes and pay in-county tuition rates. And in October 2011, Fox & Friends promoted the efforts of two conservative Texas A&M students who wanted to repeal a law granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.
In early December 2012, Fox News attacked a similar Massachusetts policy that would allow DREAMers to attend state colleges with the in-state tuition rate. Fox & Friends baselessly portrayed the policy as a burden on native and other immigrant students, and America's Newsroom hosted a member of a nativist extremist group to express opposition to similar policies in Oregon and Colorado.
More recently, Fox News used the falsehood that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes to claim it isn't fair for undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. When O'Reilly interviewed Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) in October 2011, the Fox News host suggested that it's "heartless" to allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition. On O'Reilly's show in June 2012, Fox contributor Laura Ingraham said that undocumented students in Colorado "should be paying an out-of-country tuition."
Watch Fox News Sunday's profile of Donald Graham and his efforts to provide college scholarships to DREAMers, which The Wall Street Journal called "a private sector analogue to states that have moved to offer in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants," below:
Right-wing media stoked fears that the English language will soon disappear based on the decision by a Texas county school board not to renew the contract of a principal who reportedly mandated an English-only policy on campus. In fact, English-only policies have been found to discriminate against Latino immigrants and they fail to take into account that the majority of Latino immigrants speak fluent English.