On MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews falsely claimed that "71 percent of the country say" that illegal immigration is "their number one concern." In fact, polls have repeatedly found that less than 10 percent of Americans believe illegal immigration is the most important issue facing the country.
On the March 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews falsely claimed that "71 percent of the country say" that illegal immigration is "their number one concern." According to Matthews, "These are regular Americans. They're not right-wingers." In fact, polls have repeatedly found that less than 10 percent of Americans believe illegal immigration is the most important issue facing the country.
From a panel discussion with Democratic strategist Bob Shrum and National Review Washington editor Kate O'Beirne on the March 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Well, the fact is, Bob, it's not just -- and Kate -- it's not just Republicans who don't like illegal immigration. Seventy-one percent of the country say it's their number one concern. They want to stop illegal immigration. These are regular Americans. They're not right-wingers. And they think we ought to have a border.
Matthews was apparently distorting a March 10-13 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found that 71 percent of respondents would be "more likely ... to vote for a candidate for Congress" who "[f]avors tighter controls on illegal immigration."
In a March 9-12 CBS News poll, 4 percent of respondents identified immigration as "the most important problem facing this country today." And a January 26-29 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 9 percent of respondent thought that illegal immigration "should be the top priority for the federal government."
During the same discussion, Matthews also wrongly asserted that a bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27 would allow for "almost two million" guest workers "a year" to come to the United States:
SHRUM: No, if you're going to let 1.9 million people come in, 1.5 million farm workers --
MATTHEWS: A year.
SHRUM: -- and 400,000, you're going to take a lot of the pressure off, because those folks are going to come one way or another. So it's better if they're legalized. It's better if we know that they are here. It's better if there are rules that can be followed.
MATTHEWS: And you believe America can absorb almost two million new entrants a year from the southern border into our society?
At the time of this writing, the bill approved by the Judiciary Committee was apparently not publicly available. The bill reportedly contains two guest worker provisions -- a general program and one for agricultural workers. Knight Ridder reported on March 28 that the general program would "allow up to 400,000 foreign workers each year to fill low-skilled jobs."
But contrary to Matthews's assertion, the agricultural workers provision -- sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) -- would not admit 1.5 million new immigrants per year. According to a press release Feinstein issued on March 27, the program would let a total of 1.5 million illegal immigrants over five years legalize their status by obtaining "blue cards." According to the release, "This program will be capped at 1.5 million blue cards in five years (without a per year cap) and sunset after five years."