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.
From the March 19 edition of Fox News' The Real Story:
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From the March 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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From the March 11 broadcast of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Fox News attacked the Obama administration's decision to formally normalize longstanding U.S. immigration policy that limits deportation and makes it easier for the undocumented family members of current and former service members to attain legal status.
As the Christian Science Monitor noted, "the Department of Homeland Security has long had the authority to halt the deportation of people related to military personnel, and it is this function that the department clarified with specific guidelines to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a Nov. 15 memorandum."
In that November 2013 memo, DHS stressed that it was clarifying the directive to "ensure consistent adjudication of parole requests made on behalf of aliens who are present without admission or parole and who are spouses, children and parents of those serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve or who previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve."
Indeed, according to the Arizona Republic:
In 2010, former Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano began an informal policy granting so called "parole-in-place" to undocumented parents, spouses, and children of active-duty military personnel.
But the informal policy was not being followed consistently in immigration field offices across the country.
As a result, many military personnel who applied for immigration parole for their undocumented parents, spouses and children still were having their cases denied even though they qualified, [immigration attorney Margaret] Stock said.
But in teasing a report about the memo on America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer asked: "Is that compassion or is that amnesty?" Co-host Martha MacCallum went on to introduce the report by claiming that the Obama administration was "bypassing Congress again to expand immigration reform."
Though Fox News' report, which was narrated by correspondent William La Jeunesse, included the story of a U.S. Marine veteran and his undocumented wife, it also featured Dan Cadman, a fellow from the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, who claimed the policy was helping a "whole class of aliens with no right to be in the United States."
A purported debate between conservative pundit Ann Coulter and the Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus at the Conservative Political Action Committee highlighted the ugly rhetoric conservative media have used to discuss immigration and showed how far right conservative media have shifted compared to a Republican Party that has maintained that immigration reform is necessary and important.
In what was billed as a "debate" between a liberal and a conservative on the last day of CPAC, Coulter sat down with Kaus to discuss various issues but ended up talking mainly about immigration reform or as they call it, "amnesty." After repeating the debunked claim that President Obama was selectively enforcing immigration laws, Coulter and Kaus, both well-known opponents of immigration reform, launched into an attack on reform that touched on many of the conservative media's favorite discredited myths, including:
Interspersed within these myths was language that has found favor among nativist and anti-immigrant fringe groups such as the term "anchor baby," a derogatory phrase for the American children of undocumented immigrants.
At one point, Kaus stated that immigration reform represented "the triumph of ethnic politics over economic politics." Coulter for her part bizarrely accused immigrants of trashing national parks while arguing for stigmatizing illegal border crossers and unwed mothers:
COULTER: Now at all these national parks in California where the littering is coming from recent immigrants -- oh, we can't suggest any one group is doing it. Let's just shut the park. And that's what they're doing. This is always the solution now. We don't want to stigmatize anyone. No sometimes stigma is good. They've stigmatized smoking out of existence, how about stigmatizing unwed motherhood, littering, running across the border illegally. How about stigmatizing it? Can we just do that?
She also complained about the "browning of America" and claimed that "if you don't celebrate it, you're a racist." She concluded the discussion by threatening Republicans who support reform with "death squads."
As Right Wing Watch reported, during another event before her discussion at CPAC, Coulter likened the country's changing demographics to being raped because "demographics are changing by force."
Coulter and Kaus' rhetoric on immigration is typical of what passes for discourse on the issue in right-wing media circles. Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham has been especially inflammatory, routinely using racially tinged speech while talking about immigrants. Conservative radio host Mark Levin has accused undocumented students of lowering U.S. education rankings and has said that reform represents the "suicide of the nation." Rush Limbaugh has used talking points from nativist groups to argue against immigration reform. Fox News has traded on fears of undocumented immigrants to advance absurd claims, including that photo ID cards will allow them to vote (even though legal and undocumented immigrants constitutionally cannot) and that allowing undocumented immigrants to drive legally with a state-issued driver's license will endanger American lives.
National Review Online contributor Mark Krikorian claimed that liberals and Democrats are engaged in a "strategy" through immigration to increase the size of government programs. He stated that Democratic support of immigration reform is a way to "import voters" and "exacerbate social problems," namely poverty and the lack of health insurance, to make it more palatable for Americans to support big government programs like the health care law.
Krikorian floated his new conspiracy theory during an address to the National Security Action Conference's "Uninvited II," an event hosted by Breitbart News on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that featured many speakers who "were not invited to CPAC."
As highlighted by the Right Wing Watch blog, Krikorian stated that the Democrats and the left have promoted immigration "for explicitly political purposes," including as "a way of importing voters." He continued:
KRIKORIAN: Not just that, but also, they create the conditions such as increased poverty, increased lack of health insurance that lead even non-immigrant voters to be more receptive to big government solutions because liberals will often say, look at the size of the uninsured, we have to have a solution to this.
One third of all the people without health insurance are in immigrant households, 80 percent of the growth in the uninsured population over the past decade is driven by immigration.
So the fact is that the left is not just importing voters, but they're trying to create -- they're successfully exacerbating social problems through immigration that they then point to as the reason for big government solutions, and are listened to more openly. The solutions seem more plausible to just ordinary middle of the road voters precisely because those social problems have been made worse by immigration.
Krikorian added: "The left doesn't say that they have made these problems worse through their own policies but that is part of their strategy."
Breitbart News also highlighted Krikorian's comments.
Krikorian, the executive director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies is often quoted in the media as an expert on immigration issues, despite his group's anti-immigrant nativist designation and its penchant for pushing false or misleading information about immigrants.
Conservative radio host Mark Levin is receiving the "inaugural" Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award at noon today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual conference for right-wing activists.
The award, named after the conservative media entrepreneur who passed away in 2012, will be presented by top executives at Breitbart News, the website he founded, and by Citizens United President David Bossie.
Levin has a long history of pushing conservative lies and hateful rhetoric, including recently comparing marriage equality to incest, polygamy, and drug use, comparing supporters of the new health care law to Nazi "brown shirts," claiming "middle class" is a "Marxist term," supporting racial profiling, and likening immigration reform to the "destruction" and "unraveling" of society.
According to Breitbart News, Levin is winning the award because he "fearlessly and passionately stands up for conservatives and everyday Americans whose voices the mainstream press often tries to marginalize or silence."
A Fox News-endorsed executive order issued by Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer that bars young undocumented immigrants with lawful presence from obtaining driver's licenses from the state has also made it harder for American citizens moving to Arizona to obtain driver's licenses. Fox personalities repeatedly defended and praised the measure, arguing that granting these licenses would potentially lead to terrorist attacks.
In June 2012, the Obama administration announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which exempted eligible undocumented immigrants under 31 from deportation on a renewable two-year period. Those who qualify are eligible to obtain work permits and Social Security cards. Though they do not have legal status, they are considered to be lawfully present in the United States under the program.
In August 2012, Brewer issued an executive order barring these immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses and photo IDs, claiming that state law barred Arizona from making these immigrants eligible for such state benefits.
While Brewer's order did indeed prevent DACA recipients in Arizona from qualifying for driver's licenses, a recent investigation conducted by the Arizona Republic found that it "also made it more difficult for people relocating to Arizona to get licenses by making them produce a passport, birth certificate or other document proving they are in the U.S. legally."
Describing the case of how Arizona refused to grant a new driver's license to a Kansas resident unless he could prove he was lawfully in the country, the Republic reported:
Before Brewer's order, new residents could use out-of-state driver's licenses as primary identification to get a license in Arizona.
That's because, like Arizona, most other states require applicants to prove that their presence in the U.S. is authorized in order to get a license.
But after the order, state transportation officials were forced to stop accepting out-of-state licenses as primary identification because most other states are allowing deferred-action recipients to get driver's licenses.
Documents obtained by The Arizona Republic through a public-records request show that state transportation officials had to scramble to create new identification requirements, which also made it more difficult for people relocating to Arizona to get licenses by making them produce a passport, birth certificate or other document proving they are in the U.S. legally, the documents show.
In Arizona, out-of-state licenses now are acceptable only as secondary documents.
To get a license, residents must show a primary identification that establishes legal presence and secondary identification that helps prove their identity.
Only "enhanced" driver's licenses remain acceptable as primary identification, but only five states issue them: New York, Michigan, Vermont, Washington and Minnesota, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and media reports. Enhanced licenses are issued only to U.S. citizens. As a result, residents relocating from other states without enhanced licenses have had to use other forms of identification.
The article further noted that, according to the state's Motor Vehicle Division, "each month, about 12,000 new residents attempt to use out-of-state driver's licenses to get Arizona licenses."
Brewer's order is now being challenged on behalf of DACA recipients by a number of civil and immigrants' rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, saying the order is discriminatory and unconstitutional.