The Most Absurd Anti-Immigrant Myths Of 2014

››› ››› JESSICA TORRES & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

In 2014, right-wing media attacked immigrants and immigration reform by pushing baseless claims, relying on debunked research, and using misleading statistics about immigrants and the impact of immigration on the United States. Here is a look back at the most absurd anti-immigrant myths of 2014.

MYTH: Obama Is Letting "Hordes Of Dangerous Illegals Onto American Streets"

Center For Immigration Studies Claimed ICE Released Nearly 68,000 Immigrants Previously Convicted Of Crimes. In a March study, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) claimed that 68,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions were released by ICE. These findings, CIS, asserted, "raise further alarm over the Obama administration's pending review of deportation practices":

A review of internal ICE metrics for 2013 reveals that hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens who were identified in the interior of the country were released instead of removed under the administration's sweeping "prosecutorial discretion" guidelines.

[...]

Many of the aliens ignored by ICE were convicted criminals. In 2013, ICE agents released 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions, or 35 percent of all criminal aliens they reported encountering. The criminal alien releases typically occur without formal notice to local law enforcement agencies and victims.

These findings raise further alarm over the Obama administration's pending review of deportation practices, which reportedly may further expand the administration's abuse of "prosecutorial discretion". Interior enforcement activity has already declined 40 percent since the imposition of "prosecutorial discretion" policies in 2011. Rather than accelerating this decline, there is an urgent need to review and reverse the public safety and fiscal harm cause by the president's policies. [Center for Immigration Studies, March 2014]

CIS Mapped The Locations Of Undocumented "Convicted Murderers" Hyping Fears That Criminals Released In "A Town Near You." In August, CIS published a blog post mapping the locations of undocumented "convicted murderers," stoking fears that immigrants are being released all over the U.S. [Center for Immigration Studies, 8/22/14]

Fox's Starnes: "Obama Unleashes Hordes Of Dangerous Illegals Onto American Streets." In a March 31 article for FoxNews.com, Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes accused the Obama administration of "destabilizing the nation by allowing hordes of dangerous illegal aliens to invade the country":

This is not a time to be politically correct so here's the cold hard reality - the United States is being invaded. And the Obama administration has been complicit in the invasion. Instead of repelling the invasion, the Obama administration is welcoming the invaders with open arms and providing them food stamps, driver's licenses and health insurance.

[...]

It's beyond frightening to imagine that our own government as unleashed this kind of evil on our streets. And heaven forbid, these illegals harm our wives and children. Should that happen, their blood is on the Obama Administration's hands. [FoxNews.com, 3/31/14]

FACT:  Immigrants Released Are Being Monitored And Supervised By ICE

American Immigration Council:  Releasing Immigrants Is "Not The Equivalent Of Being Set-Free."  In a March 31 press release, the American Immigration Council's executive Director Benjamin Johnson denounced CIS' "catch and release" report:

A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) makes a range of false claims about deportation data. First their claim that out of 722,000 "potentially deportable aliens" encountered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement only 195,000 were charged is completely misleading.  As a result of dragnet programs like Secure Communities, any foreign-born individual that that comes into contact with law-enforcement likely falls into 722,000 number cited by CIS.  Thus, this number includes immigrants (including long time permanent residents) whose interaction with law enforcement was so minor that they are not even legally subject to removal.  In fact, that data likely includes U.S. citizens as well.  

[...]

Furthermore, the report claims ICE "released" 68,000 "criminal aliens" yet fails to explain that being released is not the equivalent of being set-free. Being released from ICE custody often means being issued a notice to appear in court, released with an ankle bracelet or released under an order of supervision. These details were conveniently left out of the CIS analysis.

Understanding deportation data is important in the current debate over immigration reform. However, reports full of false and misleading data do nothing to move the discussion forward and pave the way for further polarization and inaction. [American Immigration Council, 3/31/14]

MYTH: Undocumented Immigrants Are Spreading Infectious Diseases

Laura Ingraham: Migrant Children May Spread Drug "Resistant Forms of TB" To "Public School Kids Across This Country." On the September 18 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham suggested that migrant children may spread drug "resistant forms of TB" to "public school kids across this country."  [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show9/18/14]

Fox Guest Stokes Fears Of "Uninspected" Immigrants Spreading Ebola. During the July 29 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, former Immigration and Naturalization Service agent Michael Cutler stoked Ebola fears during a discussion on undocumented immigrants, saying "it's not that they're undocumented, it's that they're uninspected." [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto7/29/14]

Breitbart: Individuals From Ebola-Stricken Nations Are "Exploiting Open US Border." An August 3 Breitbart.com article claimed that "a leaked intelligence analysis from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP)" proved that "at least 71 individuals from the three nations affected by the current Ebola outbreak" had been "caught attempting to illegally enter the U.S." [Breitbart.com, 8/3/14]

FACT: There Is "Zero Evidence" To Support Claims Of Disease-Carrying Immigrants Crossing The Southern Border

CDC And Independent Epidemiologists Say There Is "Zero Evidence" That Migrants Are Carrying Ebola Across The Southern Border. According to experts from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, "given how the disease develops, the likelihood of children from Central America bringing it to the U.S. border is almost nonexistent":

Indeed, the prior, scattered examples of exotic and deadly diseases reaching the United States suggest that "the likelihood of an illegal migrant getting infected and introducing the disease to the U.S. is probably less than that of a 'legal' traveler," said Daniel G. Bausch, head of the virology and emerging infections department at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No.6 in Lima, Peru.

Another problem: If you had such an infection, the chances are good that you would die on the journey to the United States, said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "You would be too sick to make it to the border by foot," he said. [PolitiFact.com, 7/7/14]

MYTH: Obama Caused Influx Of Unaccompanied Minors This Summer

Wall Street Journal: Obama "Let The Crisis On The Border Build" To Pressure Republicans Into Passing "His Idea Of Good Immigration Reform." In a July 11 Wall Street Journal column, Peggy Noonan wrote about Obama's handling of the child migrant crisis, claiming that "[t]here is every sign he let the crisis on the border build to put heat on Republicans and make them pass his idea of good immigration reform." She also asserted that immigration reform efforts would "no doubt benefit the Democratic Party in the long term." [The Wall Street Journal7/11/14]

Rush Limbaugh Speculates Obama Administration Orchestrated Influx Of Undocumented Children. On the June 24 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh speculated that the Obama administration planned the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Limbaugh claimed that "six months ago the Obama regime began planning how to transport tens of thousands of undocumented children from the border." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show6/24/14]

Laura Ingraham Describes Humanitarian Border Crisis As Human Trafficking "By Our Own Government." Fox News and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham claimed the government is "trafficking illegal immigrants from one part of the country to another part of the country." [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show6/3/14]

FACT: The Influx Of Child Migrants At The Border Was Due To Increased Gang Violence In Their Home Countries

The Influx Of Child Immigrants Is Due To Increased Violence And Lack Of Economic Opportunity. Experts cited gang violence in Central America as main reason for increased border crossings. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Most of the children who HHS cares for are attempting to cross through the Rio Grande Valley and coming from Central America, driven by the dire economic conditions and sustained violence at home, experts say. HHS then keeps the children, typically for 30 to 45 days, until officials can place them with a parent or sponsor, often inside the U.S. The children are then put into deportation proceedings; some are deported but others ultimately are able to stay. [Wall Street Journal6/2/14]

MYTH: Immigration Is A Threat To American Jobs

Laura Ingraham: "We Have To Take Care Of American Workers And Legal Immigrants First." On the November 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Laura Ingraham called the push for comprehensive immigration reform "fanatical," suggesting that undocumented immigrants were a threat to American jobs:

INGRAHAM: Right now, Bill, I think the fanatical position is when we have stagnating wages, right, and we have 92 million Americans operating outside of the workforce, the fanatical position is to say we need more cheap labor, we need doubling the number of guest workers, as it says so in the Senate bill, and we need to work with Obama on an immigration solution. The mainstream position is to say, look, we are a nation of immigrants, absolutely. We should have legal immigration when it works for the country. But we have to take care of American workers and legal immigrants first. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor11/12/14]

Fox's Tucker Carlson: Authorizing Undocumented Workers To Work Legally Would "Depress Wages For Working Americans." During a November 14 appearance on America's Newsroom, Daily Caller editor-in-chief and Fox News co-host Tucker Carlson said that allowing more low-wage workers to work legally would "depress wages for working Americans." [Fox News, America's Newsroom11/14/14]

FACT: Immigration Boosts American Wages And Is Not Connected To Unemployment

Immigration Policy Center: There Is "Little Apparent Relationship" Between Immigration and Unemployment Statistics. According to the Immigration Policy Center, there is "little apparent relationship" between immigration and unemployment statistics (emphasis original):

An IPC analysis of 2011 data from the American Community Survey found that, at the county level, there is no statistically significant relationship between the unemployment rate and the presence of recent immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later. [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]

Brookings Institution: "Many Immigrants Complement The Work Of U.S. Employees And Increase Their Productivity." The Brookings Institution reported that immigrants tend to "not compete for the same jobs" as U.S. workers:

The most recent academic research suggests that, on average, immigrants raise the overall standard of living of American workers by boosting wages and lowering prices. One reason is that immigrants and U.S.-born workers generally do not compete for the same jobs; instead many immigrants complement the work of U.S. employees and increase their productivity. For example, low-skill immigrant laborers allow U.S.-born farmers, contractors, or craftsmen to expand agricultural production or to build more homes -- thereby expanding employment possibilities and incomes for U.S. workers. [Media Matters11/21/14] 

MYTH: The Southern Border Is A Gateway For Terrorists

Fox News Latino's Nelson Balido: "There Are Various Scenarios With ISIL That Could Play Out South Of The Border." In a December 11 Fox News Latino op-ed, Nelson Balido suggested that members of the Islamic State would take advantage of the "gaping holes in the U.S.' border security strategy," Balido claimed "the same smuggling networks that were used to shuttle the Central American kids north could easily be adapted to help facilitate the passage of individuals who are hell bent on bringing their brand of destruction to the U.S." [FoxNews.com, 12/11/14]

NRO: "The Obama Administration's Non-Enforcement Of Immigration Laws" Create "A Jihadist Threat And National-Security Vulnerability." On the August 29 National Review Online's Andrew McCarthy reprinted a Judicial Watch press release describing an alleged "threat of imminent terrorist attack on southern border," adding that Obama's immigration policies create a "jihadist threat."  [National Review Online, 8/29/14]

Fox Guest: "I Would Guarantee You" ISIS Is "Already Here." On the August 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, guest Dennis Michael Lynch claimed to have "caught" ISIS-affiliated individuals who have crossed the southern border. Lynch also noted, "I would guarantee you, they're already here." [Fox News Channel, Fox & Friends,8/13/2014]

FACT: DHS Calls Right-Wing ISIS Border Theory "Categorically False"

Department Of Homeland Security: There Is No "Credible Intelligence" To Prove ISIS Has Been Crossing The Southern Border. On October 8, DHS spokesperson Marsha Catron told The New Republic:

"The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground," said DHS spokesperson Marsha Catron. "DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border." [The New Republic10/8/14]

MYTH: Flood Of Immigrant Children Straining American Schools and Taxpayers

Fox Business' Brenda Buttner Suggests Taxpayers Should Be Worried About Surge Of Immigrant Children In Schools. On the August 8 edition of Fox Business Network's Bulls and Bears, host Brenda Buttner suggested that parents should be concerned with "a surge of up to 60,000 illegal kids in their classrooms."  [Fox Business, Bulls and Bears8/10/14]

Tucker Carlson: "But What About The Kids Who Are Born Here?" On the August 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Tucker Carlson asked "about the rights of the kids who are born here, the American citizens who presumably have the right to a decent education and aren't getting one because of this?" when guest Francisco Negrone pointed out the legal obligation of the US to educate all children.  [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/11/14]

FACT: Unaccompanied Minors Account For "Just Over One-Tenth Of 1% Of All Public School Children"

Center For American Progress: In 2013, Refugee Children Accounted For "Just Over One-Tenth of 1% Of All Public School Children." According to a study by the Center for American Progress, if every unaccompanied child who crossed the border enrolled in the school system, the 50.1 million public school student population would only increase by 0.13%.

[Center for American Progress, 8/8/14]

Ally Boguhn contributed research to this piece.

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