Immigration

Issues ››› Immigration
  • Study Finds Right-Wing Media Routinely Criminalize Immigrants In Coverage

    Skewed Portrayals Have Dangerous Effects In Politics

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The nonprofit Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) surveyed coverage of immigration detention -- or stories about immigrants detained by the U.S. government -- in “a variety of media outlets” from 2009 to 2016 and found evidence that right-wing outlets routinely criminalize immigrants in their coverage. The study also found that the nativist Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is cited more than other data sources.

    CIVIC’s report demonstrates that while issues surrounding immigration detention are increasingly visible in the media, coverage in right-wing media outlets like Breitbart.com, The Washington Times, and FoxNews.com is more likely than reports in mainstream media to focus on immigrant criminality.

    The survey also found that Breitbart.com reports on immigration detentions at a higher rate than other “new media” outlets do.

    While it’s positive that immigration stories are now more visible in the press, the routine criminalization of immigrants in right-wing media narratives has long been a problem and has dangerous consequences. As a paper from Harvard University’s Kennedy School demonstrated, conservative media portrayals of immigrants have had a profound impact on Republican politics, leaving no room for "compassionate conservatism" and creating a space in which anti-immigrant sentiment can be exploited for political gain.

    Additionally, the study showed that the nativist group CIS outpaces other immigration data sources in terms of press citations, which is problematic given its perspective. CIS, which has been categorized a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), was founded by John Tanton, whose record includes advocating for a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” CIS has pushed white-nationalist literature, and, according to the SPLC, in 2016 “the group hit a new low” by commissioning Jason Richwine, whose doctoral dissertation “endorses the idea of IQ differences between the races,” to write reports and blog pieces. The reliance on CIS shows that media are helping to sanitize the group by elevating its voice and providing its leaders with platforms to spew anti-immigrant narratives based on shoddy research

    The study’s authors also pointed out to a “lack of first-hand migrant accounts in media narratives,” an issue Media Matters has documented in the past.

    Find a press release with the CIVIC survey results here, and the full report here.

  • The Nativist Group That Is Going All Out To Sell Trump's Border Wall Proposal

    Right-Wing Media And CIS Are Behind A Major Push For The Wall

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Nativist group Center for Immigration Studies and right-wing media outlets touted a deeply flawed and misleading study in order to corroborate top Trump adviser Stephen Miller’s claim that President Donald Trump’s proposal for the construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border would “pay for itself.” Right-wing media's promotion of the flawed study was an attempt to legitimize the Trump administration’s misinformation about undocumented immigrants while also lifting up an anti-immigrant nativist group.

  • Nativists And White Supremacists Love Trump’s New Immigration Executive Orders

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    The Department of Homeland Security on February 21 rolled out a pair of memos meant to set internal guidelines for the implementation of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant executive orders. The flagship policies of those executive orders are unpopular with a majority of Americans, but they have been a cause for celebration among nativists and white supremacists. 

  • On CNN, Hate Group Leader Praises Efforts To “Reclaim Our Schools” With Mass Deportations

    FAIR President: “If You Enforce These Laws, We Can Reclaim Our Schools, Our Hospitals, And Our Communities”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s New Day hosted Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigrant hate group the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), to discuss President Donald Trump’s planned mass deportations, which he characterized as a move to “reclaim our schools, our hospitals, and our communities once again for the American people.” Co-host Alisyn Camerota introduced Stein simply as “the president of the Federation for Immigration Reform” and as someone who supports Mr. Trump’s moves on immigration,” without mentioning FAIR’s track record of nativist bigotry. 

    FAIR, which helped influence Trump’s approach to immigration, including his planned mass deportations and Muslim registry, has ties to white supremacy through its founder, who also founded the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). FAIR has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its “ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists.” FAIR uses a veneer of impartiality to inject absurd myths into the immigration debate, assisted in large part by the media outlets that regularly cite them without mentioning their extremism. In the Trump era, it is more important than ever for media to properly label these hate groups and not afford them presumed respectability. From the February 22 edition of CNN’s New Day, which also featured Andre Segura of the American Civil Liberties Union:

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): What is your biggest concern about the new guidelines as Mr. Trump has laid them out?

    ANDRE SEGURA: Where do we start? This is bringing to life President Trump's worst and most divisive campaign rhetoric. Like I’ve said before on this program, we have to take the president at his word, and he's going to bring these things to life. 10,000 new ICE agents throughout the interior. I think people have a misconception that this is not going to affect them in their daily lives. But when you have more ICE agents throughout the country, when you have more state and local officers doing immigration enforcement, you're going to see an uptick in racial profiling. Communities are going to become less safe. 

    CAMEROTA: Dan, what do you like about it? 

    DAN STEIN: Look, people come here illegally, that doesn't mean they just have the right to stay. You take a look at all of these orders, if you're here illegally, you need to be thinking about going out and buying some luggage. Because as Spicer made it clear, Trump administration says if you're here illegally you remain deportable with the exception of the so-called DACA group, and that's a dramatic change. Look, nobody ever decided in this country that immigration was unlimited, that you can break the immigration law and then demand to stay. That you could jump in front of the line, in front of millions of people who respect our laws all over the world and just come in and say, “OK, I'm here, I don't have to go.” If we -- if you enforce these laws, we can reclaim our schools, our hospitals, and our communities once again for the American people. 

  • Do’s And Don'ts Of Covering Immigration Under Trump

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    President Donald Trump is turning his anti-immigrant campaign promises into policies by signing an executive order advancing his plans to build a wall across the southern border and expanding the definition of individuals who constitute deportation priorities. Journalists covering immigration policy should keep in mind that a significant segment of the U.S. population views immigration coverage as indispensable in planning their future.

    There are 42.4 million immigrants in the United States, with various immigration statuses. Many depend on news to navigate the uncertainty of the current environment on immigration, which makes accurate coverage of immigration policy crucial. Inaccurate coverage, and reports that focus on the politics of the issue or fail to highlight the human cost of these policies, do audiences a disservice.

    Following are some elements that media covering the enforcement of Trump’s deportation-focused executive order need to take into account to be accurate and provide clear information to audiences that need it most.

    Do: Explain How Trump's Executive Order On Immigration Changes Deportation Priorities

    In an executive order signed on January 25, Trump significantly changed deportation priorities to include “convicted criminals, immigrants who had been arrested for any criminal offense, those who committed fraud, and anyone who may have committed a crime.” As The New York Times pointed out, the order “expands the definition of ‘criminal,’” to include anyone who has crossed the border without authorization -- a criminal misdemeanor -- in the priority category for deportation.  According to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, under the Obama administration, 87 percent “of unauthorized immigrants now residing in the United States” were not a priority for deportation, as they had not committed serious crimes. Journalists need to emphasize that the new enforcement priorities enacted by Trump “vastly expanded the group of immigrants considered priorities for deportation, including those without criminal records,” if they are to accurately represent the plight of many undocumented immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes and who are being targeted by the administration.

    Don’t: Uncritically Parrot Administration’s Statements On Detentions

    The administration’s statement -- and Donald Trump’s tweets -- regarding recent raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seek to paint all undocumented immigrants with a wide brush by characterizing them as dangerous criminals:

    However, according to The Washington Post, “about a quarter” of the immigrants rounded up during recent ICE raids “had no prior convictions,” and immigrant rights groups are pointing out that the recent raids have been “out of the ordinary” and that “most of those swept up were not dangerous.” An immigrant without a criminal record who had benefited from President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was among those arrested, which calls into question the administration’s characterization of those targeted. Given the mischaracterizations by the Trump administration, it’s important that journalists pay attention to evidence that shows foreign-born residents are less likely than native-born residents to commit crimes, as demonstrated by the American Immigration Council:

    For more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.

    [...]

    In other words, the overwhelming majority of immigrants are not “criminals” by any commonly accepted definition of the term. For this reason, harsh immigration policies are not effective in fighting crime. Unfortunately, immigration policy is frequently shaped more by fear and stereotype than by empirical evidence. As a result, immigrants have the stigma of “criminality” ascribed to them by an ever-evolving assortment of laws and immigration enforcement mechanisms.

    Do: Provide A Platform For Immigration Experts

    It’s easy for journalists to overlook the complicated nuances and crucial distinctions of immigration policy and to unintentionally misrepresent the situations of many immigrants and thus misinform the general public. Because immigration law is complicated and difficult to navigate, audiences are better served by hearing the insights of experts -- rather than political pundits -- who can thread the needle through the most nuanced aspects of immigration policy. Spanish-language networks do admirable work in providing a platform for individuals familiar with immigration policy, including immigrant rights advocates and immigration attorneys who can answer common questions.

    Media Matters spoke to Maria Fernanda Durand, communications manager at the Latino and immigration advocacy/assistance organization Casa de Maryland, who said there are “very few voices, especially in cable news, that actually represent the people that this [policy] is harming.”

    Durand remarked on the importance of turning to  experts, rather than pundits, to discuss immigration issues, noting that “a lot of people really don’t understand the process -- of how people come over, and the fact that there are very few benefits you’re allowed as an undocumented immigrant -- basically food for your children if you qualify.” Durand added that audiences in general don’t necessarily know that when it comes to fixing the irregularities of their status, “there is no line” for undocumented immigrants to get in -- “there is no path to citizenship.”

    Cable news outlets, specifically, still have to make a priority of including Latino and other immigrant voices in the stories they cover. Regarding the representation of Latinos specifically, Durand said: “They're talking about us, not with us. These are issues that affect us all, but we are at the center of it.”

    Don't: Lend Your Platform To Nativist Groups

    Media appearances by members of nativist groups that promote the work of white nationalists are an ongoing problem. Groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has described as part of the “nativist lobby” -- the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an SPLC-designated hate group, NumbersUSA, and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- do not deserve to have their images sanitized, but that’s just what happens when media outlets repeatedly reference them and cite their work without accurately describing their focus.

    Characterizing these groups as “conservative” organizations that call “for added immigration restrictions” or that favor “stricter control on immigration” without disclosing that their founder, John Tanton, advocates for a “European-American majority, and a clear one at that,” is inaccurate. Doing so omits the full picture of their intentions and helps them access a seat at the immigration policy discussion table, where bigotry should not have a place.

    Do: Mention The Real-Life Consequences Of Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Policies

    Journalists should keep in mind that the subjects of their stories are people whose real lives are deeply affected by immigration policy. They owe it to these residents -- and their children, parents, and other relatives -- to present their stories in a substantive way, capturing their unique experiences and putting them in context.

    Don't: Perpetuate The Use Of Politically Charged Anti-Immigrant Slurs

    While multiple institutions and journalistic style guides recommend avoiding the use of the word “illegal” to describe people because it is “grammatically incorrect” and simply dehumanizing, many networks continue perpetuating the anti-immigrant slur. The words media use when they discuss a significant segment of the U.S. population have consequences in molding audience images of these communities. By referring to immigrants in a dehumanizing way, media help reduce them to statistics and deportation targets, instead of presenting them as human beings.

  • How The Media Covered A Day Without Immigrants

    Analysis From Morning Cable Shows: Fox Performed The Worst

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    On February 16, businesses around the country closed and many immigrants vowed to not spend any money in a demonstration known as “A Day Without Immigrants” to highlight the vital contributions immigrants make to the U.S. economy and culture. The demonstration was a response to anti-immigrant sentiment and policies enacted by President Donald Trump and his team. During their morning coverage -- from 6 a.m. and noon -- MSNBC and CNN both sent reporters to cover the protest, while Fox News dedicated less than a minute to the story during a series of headlines.

    The New York Times reported that “what began as a grass-roots movement quickly reached the highest levels of federal government,” noting that the effort spread from places like construction sites in New York City all the way to federal government offices including in the Pentagon. The Washington Post wrote that the strike is a response “to a new administration that has taken a hard-line stance on immigration policies.” According to NPR, the protest also comes “after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents alarmed immigrant rights advocates by arresting some 680 people in raids across the U.S. last week.”

    On morning cable news, MSNBC and CNN both sent reporters to cover the boycott, with MSNBC providing the only original interview related to the strike among the cable news channels. In the span of the 6 hours analyzed by Media Matters, MSNBC dedicated only close to 4 minutes to the story, while CNN dedicated just over 1 minute and 30 seconds. Fox News’ Heather Nauert reported on the story twice for a total of 40 seconds, both in news headline reads during Fox & Friends. MSNBC was the only network to feature the story in more than one show, mentioning it in three.

    Fox News’ coverage dismissed the movement as immigrants “giving themselves a day off work,” and FoxNews.com quoted anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) as one of the protest’s “several detractors.”

    On the other hand, MSNBC’s Gadi Schwartz interviewed immigrant business owner Lorena Cantarovici in Denver, CO, who shut down her restaurant as part of the protest. Cantarovici recounted her story of coming to the country with “just a backpack, less than $300,” and described how she is in the process of opening her third restaurant. Her interview illustrated the job opportunities immigrants create for others and highlighted the real life consequences of Trump’s policies, with Cantarovici adding that she is “part of the model of the small business economy here”:

    LORENA CANTAROVICI: Maria Empanada is an American business, and it's a dream that came through an immigrant that came to this country trying to look for a better life. So this is not something that is made only by me. I have a team. And all those people have the same ethic, and they want to work hard, and they want to be part of this dream also. So, I don't want to forget that I'm an immigrant. And that's why I'm supporting this day.

    GADI SCHWARTZ: And you were saying that an immigrant started this. That's you. You came here with a backpack on. Tell me a little bit about that.

    CANTAROVICI: Just with a backpack, less than $300, and now I'm opening my third location very soon. I am giving job opportunities to people. I’m trying to motivate them every single day, and I'm part of the model of the small business economy here. So yeah, that's what we are doing.

    SCHWARTZ: And what does this mean to the people that work here? What have they told you?

    CANTAROVICI: Well, the decision was made by all of us, and it was very important for me to hear my people, right? So this is a very specific way to demonstrate that immigrants here are very important, and a day without immigrants can create a very big impact. So this is a country that is made by immigrants. Imagine all of us making just a silence for a day? I decided to make a silence.

    Right-wing media figures, however, took to Twitter to criticize the protest. Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza asked, “Will illegals guarantee not to rob or murder any US citizens today? #DayWithoutIllegals.” Right-wing radio host Steve Deace tweeted that “we are not a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of citizens. #DayWithoutImmigrants.” Radio host Wayne Dupree wrote that “anyone falling for this stupid day should be deported”:

    As of 2013, “more than 41 million immigrants lived in the U.S.,” which makes coverage of immigration of crucial interest to a significant segment of the total population. Meanwhile, news outlets elevated nativist hate groups and their xenophobic sentiments throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and afterwards. Trump started his candidacy by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals, and harassment against immigrants was the “top type of harassment reported” in a spike after Election Day. Despite reporting on “A Day Without Immigrants” for only 4 minutes, MSNBC set the bar for the protest’s cable coverage by highlighting an immigrant voice and covering the story throughout the day.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Snapstream’s CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News transcripts between 6 a.m. and 12 p.m. on February 16 for mentions of the word “immigrant” or the phrase “day without.”