On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham blamed immigrants, specifically Latino and Asian immigrants, for California's high alternative poverty rate, claiming that passing immigration reform would translate into more poor people nationwide. In fact, California's high cost of living and narrowed access to anti-poverty benefits are the real reasons behind the state's high alternative poverty rate.
On November 6, the Census Bureau released a report showing that under an alternative method of measuring poverty -- one that takes into account the value of anti-poverty programs and living expenses such as rent and mortgage payments, work-related transportation costs, and child and health care spending -- California's poverty rate jumps to 23.8 percent from the official government figure of 16.5 percent.
Discussing the findings on her radio show, Ingraham stated that California is where "most newly amnestied people initially settled after the '86 amnesty" and that "it has the largest percentage of Latino voters in the United States and Latino residents, new immigrants, also Asian residents." She added: "I say we keep going down this road of immigration, quote, reform and we can all look forward to having a poverty rate as high as -- at least under this alternative measure, which looks like a better measure of poverty."
In fact, according to experts, the alternative poverty rate in California "is really driven by the cost of housing."
As the San Jose Mercury News reported:
The alternative yardstick, known as the supplemental poverty measure, found nearly 2.8 million more people are struggling across the country than the traditional benchmark shows.
That makes a big difference in California, where the broader measure counts more than 8.9 million people living in poverty between 2010 and 2012 -- a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows -- far higher than the 6.2 million living in poverty tallied the official way.
"Anyone who has moved to California from somewhere else knows the dramatic increase of the cost of living," said Ann Stevens, director for the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis. "It's not more surprising that California looks more impoverished. It is really driven by the cost of housing. California is a very expensive place to live."
Using the alternative measure, California had the highest poverty in the country between 2010 and 2012 -- 23.8 percent -- followed by the District of Columbia and Nevada. The official measure ranked Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico at the top during that period.
In rural parts of North Dakota, Kentucky and West Virginia, the poverty level is around $18,000 for a family of four without a mortgage. In the San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland metropolitan areas, the Census Bureau says, it's $35,500 for a family of four with a mortgage.
That $35,500 "may look pretty good to someone in a rural area," Stevens said. "I don't think too many people in San Francisco would think that."
Hill reporter Elise Viebeck shot down Fox News' continued attempt to scapegoat undocumented immigrants for improper Medicare payments, disputing the claim that undocumented immigrants were willingly involved in defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars.
On October 30, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services released a report finding that from 2009 through 2011, Medicare inappropriately paid out $29 million in drug benefits for undocumented immigrants.
The report explained that the payments were made erroneously because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services does not have a policy in place to screen undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits under its drug prescription plan, Medicare Part D.
But Fox News seized on the report to pile false attacks on undocumented immigrants and smear them, using dehumanizing terms like "illegal aliens."
Discussing the OIG report on Fox News' On The Record, Viebeck refuted host Greta Van Susteren's suggestion that CMS was "knowingly" paying insurance companies for Medicare drug benefits to undocumented immigrants. Viebeck noted that CMS "didn't have policies in place that would have caught" undocumented immigrants and "vetted them one by one in terms of their immigration status."
VIEBECK: The way Medicare Part D works is, people have their plans offered through a private insurance company, and then those insurance companies bill the federal government. And so, the federal government was effectively paying insurance companies on behalf of patients that apparently the insurance companies hadn't vetted extensively enough. They thought they might have been eligible for Medicare, but they weren't because they're illegal immigrants.
Viebeck went on to say that "these are not individual immigrants who are trying to defraud the federal government. This all happens through insurance companies. It's basically one gigantic error."
Fox News cherry-picked from reports by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to single out undocumented immigrants for improperly benefitting from Medicare drug benefits, taking the opportunity to smear them as "illegal aliens." However, undocumented immigrants are partially responsible for keeping Medicare solvent.
On October 30, the OIG released reports showing that Medicare inappropriately paid out millions in benefits for dead patients and drug benefits for undocumented immigrants. But in highlighting the reports, Fox News reported only on the Medicare drug benefits data in an apparent attempt to demonize undocumented immigrants.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased the segment by saying, "Many Americans can't even get prescriptions they need but illegal immigrants are getting them for free. Who's paying for that?" Co-host Steve Doocy followed with a short report noting that $29 million is "how much the federal government spent on prescription drugs for illegal aliens as part of the federal Medicare Part D program." He added: "Great."
But Fox News' reporting on the OIG reports ignored important facts -- the first being that undocumented immigrants are indeed paying some of the payroll taxes that sustain Medicare.
In fact, a Harvard study released in May found that undocumented immigrants are keeping the federal health care program partially solvent to the tune of $14 billion a year -- even as native-born Americans accounted for a $31 billion deficit to the program. As Bloomberg News reported:
Immigrants to the U.S. contributed $115.2 billion more to the Medicare Trust Fund during the past decade than they withdrew, casting doubt on criticism they overburden the health plan, Harvard University researchers said.
The data, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggest immigrants, mainly those without U.S. citizenship, help subsidize the nation's health program for the elderly and disabled. While American-born citizens took $30.9 billion out of Medicare in 2009 alone, immigrants provided a surplus of $13.8 billion that year. The study looked at data from 2002 to 2009.
The findings undermine the belief that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. health-care system, a key issue in the debate about immigration reform, the researchers said. In 2009, payments from immigrants and their employers accounted for 14.7 percent of payments to Medicare, while their expenses represented 7.9 percent of its costs, the study found.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham continues to make outlandish allegations about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) applies to immigrants, including falsely claiming that the law allows undocumented immigrants to purchase subsidized health insurance and that their enrollment in the individual Marketplace will be used to inflate the overall numbers of those who sign up.
Contrary to what Ingraham has been saying on her radio show, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to apply for subsidized health insurance under the ACA. On the October 3 broadcast of her show, Ingraham advanced that falsehood, asking, "First of all, how many of you think that illegal immigrants aren't signing up on these Obamacare exchanges?" She added: "I mean, they're probably the only ones getting through to sign up on the exchanges."
Ingraham was referring to the difficulty those seeking insurance have had in accessing the federal health care website.
In reality, as the National Immigration Law Center has noted, undocumented immigrants cannot get subsidized health care coverage under the ACA and are not even allowed to purchase private insurance through the individual health insurance Marketplace at full cost. They are also not eligible for subsidized health care or Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
As the federal health care website explains:
Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for federal public benefits through the Affordable Care Act. For example, undocumented immigrants can't buy coverage through the Marketplace. Premium tax credits aren't available for undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants may continue to buy coverage on their own outside the Marketplace and can get limited services for an emergency medical condition through Medicaid, if they are otherwise eligible for Medicaid in the state. Undocumented immigrants aren't subject to the individual shared responsibility requirement.
Immigrants who have been granted deferred action through the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are also ineligible for Medicaid, CHIP or ACA benefits.
While undocumented immigrants are barred from applying for subsidized health care, their American children do qualify.
Naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and legal immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years and don't have health care coverage through their jobs are also able to apply for subsidized health care and other benefit programs under the ACA.
Legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years whose incomes fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $46,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four -- will be eligible for subsidized coverage in the health insurance exchange. Those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $15,800 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four -- will not be eligible for Medicaid coverage (except for pregnant women depending on the state) but can qualify for exchange subsidies if they pay 2 percent of income.
Laura Ingraham used her radio show to push the falsehood that President Obama could waive deportations of all undocumented immigrants except for serious criminals, even though he has explicitly stated that such a move would be a violation of federal law. Legal experts also agree that it would be "problematic" for Obama to waive deportations of all undocumented immigrants.
Discussing immigration reform with Chris Crane -- the president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and a frequent critic of the Obama administration, which has made him popular among right-wing media -- Ingraham let Crane accuse the Obama administration of not enforcing immigration law, saying that this "administration is ordering us not to enforce the law." Crane continued with a series of whoppers about immigration enforcement:
CRANE: It is no longer illegal in the United States of America to be in this country illegally. You know, even if you have been convicted of multiple criminal convictions, we often cannot even put you into removal proceedings, into deportation proceedings, because you are protected by this president. And it's basically an open-borders policy that once you make it past the border and you're in the interior of the United States, you're free.
In reality, any undocumented immigrant who is arrested and convicted of a crime goes through deportation proceedings after they have been tried in criminal court. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement routinely holds hearings to determine whether an immigrant who has been convicted of a crime should be subject to removal following jail time.
As of May 2013, ICE had deported about 31,500 immigrants through the Secure Communities program since the beginning of the year, which flags immigrants in law enforcement custody for ICE removal.
In fiscal year 2012, the Obama administration deported a record number 409,849 immigrants, 55 percent of whom fell into ICE's high-priority categories. It is estimated that the administration deports at least 1,000 immigrants a day at this current pace.
Fox is baselessly accusing President Obama of deliberately trying to distract the public and shift media attention away from problems with the health care rollout by continuing to push Congress to act on immigration reform. However, in the week leading up to his speech, Obama repeatedly urged Congress to refocus attention on immigration reform, which he has made one of the most pressing issues of his administration.
Fox News is using falsehoods to discredit an immigration reform rally that took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., claiming that activists were given preferential treatment by the Obama administration to stage their protest while parks remain closed. In fact, the National Park Service made it clear a week before the protest that First Amendment activities on the Mall and at Memorial Parks would be exempt from closures.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, a media advocacy and civil rights organization, is calling on Fox News to apologize for a derogatory segment demonizing the children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." In an open letter addressed to Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, NHMC president Alex Nogales called the segment "unacceptable," writing: "It is one thing for Fox News to routinely spread hate towards Latino and immigrant adults. It is quite another to demonize innocent children."
In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace discussed the findings from Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid" in the county. The total aid is projected to cost about $650 million by year's end.
During the segment, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. Text accompanying the graphic read "Children of the Corn" and "Alien Nation."
In the letter, Nogales wrote that the phrase "Children of the Corn" "likens immigrant children to the murderous cult of fictional children depicted in Stephen King's horror story and its universally-familiar film adaptations. It covertly insinuates that Latino and immigrant children are to be feared." He continued:
NHMC urges that Fox News and Chris Wallace immediately issue an apology to Latino children, and that you send a formal memo to all Fox News staff, urging refrain from all anti-Latino and anti-immigrant smears, especially those directed at innocent children.
Nogales went on to note that studies show that such negative rhetoric "may breed hate and impact the health of not only members of the targeted group, but anyone that hears these messages." Indeed, a September 2012 NHMC report found that Fox News viewers and conservative radio listeners are more likely to have negative views of Latinos and immigrants than those who watch more mainstream outlets.
The NHMC study stated that Fox News audiences were "more likely to agree that Latinos are on welfare (56%), take jobs from Americans (43%) and have too many children (42%)" -- all myths Fox News has repeatedly advanced.
Nogales concluded by saying that "Fox News must do better," adding, "At a time when Fox News' parent company is trying to attract Latino eyeballs, Fox News must understand that Latinos will not embrace the brand that hates them."
NHMC, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1986 with the mission of increasing Hispanic representation in the news, now boasts nine chapters nationwide and seeks to "eradicate the negative Latino stereotypes depicted in all forms of media." In February, it honored actor Michael Peña, comedian John Leguizamo, and host Mario Lopez for "helping erase negative Latino stereotypes in Hollywood."
The Special Report segment has also been criticized by Latino news sites and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In a post that called the segment "disappointing," NAHJ president Hugo Balta condemned Fox for airing it, saying it was "riddled with basic misinformation and disdainful images."
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has condemned Fox News for smearing the American children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." In a post on the association's website, NAHJ president Hugo Balta wrote that the segment was not only "disappointing" but that there "were many things wrong" with it.
In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace discussed new data from Los Angeles County officials showing that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid" in the county. The total aid is projected to cost about $650 million by year's end.
During the segment, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. Text accompanying the graphic read "Children of the Corn" and "Alien Nation."
In his post criticizing the segment, Balta stated:
There were many things wrong with this segment, beginning with the use of the derogatory term "illegal immigrant" and undocumented in the same breath as if these terms are interchangeable -- of course they're not. That inaccuracy was compounded by the use of a graphic that read "Children of the Corn". There have been many speculations as to what this meant -- but one thing is certain it invoked a negative image.
Balta further stated that NAHJ has reached out to Fox "in an effort to get a better understanding of how this segment, riddled with basic misinformation and disdainful images made air." He then asked which journalists had allowed such a derogatory segment to appear on air, writing, "Experience has shown that most likely none were representative of the Latino community."
After noting the economic impact of the Latino community, Balta concluded: "Stick to the facts."
As The Huffington Post noted, NAHJ has campaigned against the media's use of the term "illegal immigrant" for years. In an October 2012 op-ed for Fox News Latino arguing that "human beings are not illegal," Balta wrote that the term, along with "illegal aliens" and "illegals," are "demeaning titles" that "are not only inaccurate and disrespectful, but a propaganda tool used to dehumanize a group of people and instill fear in the general population in order to establish policy."
Fox News has a long history of inflammatory attacks on immigrants. In fact, a Media Matters analysis of Fox News prime-time coverage found that, between November 2012 and February 2013, hosts and guests repeatedly used anti-immigrant terms to discuss immigrants.
In May 2012, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera called on media to stop using dehumanizing terms for undocumented immigrants. He told Media Matters at the time that he had made his opposition to such phrases "very, very clear" to Fox employees "from top to bottom," but stopped short of any further direct criticism of the network.
Fox News misrepresented the TRUST Act, a California immigration bill that would limit law enforcement's ability to detain undocumented immigrants for deportation, claiming the legislation will allow criminals to go free. In fact, the bill is aimed at shielding undocumented victims and witnesses to crimes, as well as those who have committed only minor offenses, from deportation. It also seeks to stop criminalizing undocumented immigrants for the sole civil offense of being in the country illegally.
The bill, formally known as Assembly Bill 4, was passed by the California state legislature on September 10. Gov. Jerry Brown has until October 17 to sign it into law. The bill states:
This bill would prohibit a law enforcement official, as defined, from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless, at the time that the individual becomes eligible for release from custody, certain conditions are met, including, among other things, that the individual has been convicted of specified crimes.
The bill lists some of the crimes that would prompt law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants for the 48-hour immigration hold, including violent and serious felonies such as rape, assault, robbery, and selling drugs.
The bill also argues that Secure Communities (S-Comm) -- the controversial and widely criticized program under which law enforcement can detain undocumented immigrants for deportation -- "and immigration detainers harm community policing efforts because immigrant residents who are victims of or witnesses to crime, including domestic violence, are less likely to report crime or cooperate with law enforcement when any contact with law enforcement could result in deportation." The text continues:
The program can result in a person being held and transferred into immigration detention without regard to whether the arrest is the result of a mistake, or merely a routine practice of questioning individuals involved in a dispute without pressing charges. Victims or witnesses to crimes may otherwise have recourse to lawful status (such as U-visas or T-visas) that detention resulting from the Secure Communities program obstructs.
In an article on the S-Comm program, California's KPBS reported that in the city of Escondido, "collaboration between the city's police and federal immigration activists has caused tension in the city's Latino communities for years." The article continued:
Agents have been present at the police department's driver's license and sobriety checkpoints, and in the city's jails.
Activists say this kind collaboration diminishes public safety because immigrants are less likely to trust police or report crime if they fear that interacting with police could get them deported.
But in a segment on the TRUST Act for Fox News' Special Report, correspondent William La Jeunesse suggested the bill would allow violent criminals to go free and avoid deportation if they are in the country illegally. His report included Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle saying, "If you or I were victimized by someone stealing our identity, or selling drugs in our community, or burglarizing our homes or embezzling our money, that that's OK. That's a minor crime."