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."
Fox News is continuing its practice of appealing to conservative viewers while also pandering to the growing Latino influence in the United States.
In a report on American children in Los Angeles County whose parents are undocumented, Fox News used phrases such as "Alien Nation" and "Children of the Corn" to illustrate the story. In another report, the cable channel celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month -- a month-long tribute to Hispanic Americans starting on September 15 -- with a feature on the immigrant roots of Goya Foods.
On the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report guest-hosted by Chris Wallace, the program used several inflammatory graphics during a segment called "The Grapevine" to highlight a new analysis by Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." According to the data, the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
On Special Report, Wallace stated that the LA County data is "more proof of the economic impact of the immigration debate." As he cited the numbers, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. One read: "Children of the Corn":
"Children of the Corn" is the name of a 1977 short horror story by Stephen King, which tells of a murderous cult of children in a remote town who kill everyone over the age of 18. The story was adapted for film in 1984; at least eight other movies followed.
Wallace nor Special Report explained or referred to the graphics during the segment, which also featured one reading: "Alien Nation":
Right-wing media have seized on a report noting that American children in Los Angeles County with undocumented parents are receiving millions in benefits to revive the spurious smear that undocumented immigrants come to this country only to receive welfare. However, these outlets are missing the facts surrounding the data, including that studies show immigration reform could raise these children's standard of living.
In a September 16 article, the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles reported that according to a new analysis by county officials, an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." The article added that the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
County supervisor Michael D. Antonovich was quoted as saying that the total cost to taxpayers could exceed $1.6 billion per year after factoring in health care and public safety costs, adding, "These costs do not even include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually for education."
Right-wing media outlets, including the Daily Caller, The Blaze, and Breitbart.com, highlighted the report, with the Power Line blog using it to accuse undocumented immigrants of putting a "burden" on "the nation's welfare system, along with driving down wages for working Americans." American Thinker commented: "To open borders crowd: Please make your donations here to cover the cost of allowing destitute, jobless, skilless, poorly educated people to cross the border. We can't bill the Mexican government so you're the next best target."
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham read the news on her radio show and used it to call for the end of birthright citizenship -- which, under the 14th Amendment, makes anyone born in this country an American citizen. She also argued that the news should end all talk of immigration reform.
But these reports leave out key facts. In 2012, according to Antonovich's office, the total cost of food stamp benefits and Cal WORKs -- a welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families -- to Los Angeles County was a little over $3 billion. Families headed by an undocumented parent received about $636.5 million or a little more than 20 percent of the total.
One of the most repeated claims against immigration reform from conservative media is that legalizing immigrants would negatively impact the U.S. economy. Another is that immigrants take jobs from American workers. And that the economy should take precedence over immigration reform, despite the fact that immigration is an economic issue.
A new study that examined government data over a 40-year period has punctured all of these myths, finding that immigration -- vital to hard-hit communities across the nation -- has a positive effect on the country and the economy, especially in the manufacturing sector.
As CBS News reported, a study by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants "are boosting job growth, raising home prices and more broadly helping to revive thousands of economically distressed communities." Many of those communities, CBS News pointed out, are in rural areas with a heavy manufacturing focus.
The study, prepared by Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey to assess the impact of immigration on "the number of middle-class manufacturing jobs," "the health of the housing market," and "the size of the local U.S.-born population." It looked at nearly 3,100 counties within a 40-year period from 1970 to 2010.
The report highlighted three key findings:
The study found that the "arrival of high-skilled immigrants as well as workers that are part of the essential economy has also greatly contributed to the growth of the manufacturing industry in places like Los Angeles, Houston, and in southern Arizona." To illustrate, the study contrasted Los Angeles County with Cook County in Chicago and found:
A wave of new foreign-born residents moved to both areas between 1970 and 2010, but the growth was proportionately much larger in Los Angeles. There, the immigrant population nearly quintupled, compared to the doubling experienced in Cook County.
Bearing in mind that when 1,000 immigrants move to an area 46 manufacturing jobs are created or preserved, the fact that Los Angeles added 2.7 million immigrants over this time period -- rather than Cook County's 600,000 -- accounts for about half of the difference in total manufacturing jobs between the two areas in 2010. Immigrants now account for more than 35 percent of the population in Los Angeles County, a substantial share of the population.
Rush Limbaugh conflated the constitutional right to vote with access to health care, using undocumented immigrants and their lack of health care to attack the Obama administration and mock criticism of voter ID laws. He also falsely asserted that the Affordable Care Act covers undocumented immigrants.
On his radio show, Limbaugh attacked the Obama administration as hypocritical for requiring proof of eligibility to access health care under the ACA while suing Arizona following the state's 2010 discriminatory "show me your papers" law. The Arizona law included a provision requiring state and local police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally.
Limbaugh stated that it "is outrageous that you need a photo ID to get medical treatment," adding, "Where is the social justice? What are you trying to do, kill all the minorities?" He continued:
LIMBAUGH: You know what they're trying to do, they're trying to keep minorities from going to the doctor. This is doctor suppression. By requiring a photo ID to go to the - well if that's what they say about elections. If you need a photo ID to go vote -- Jesse Jackson says that's voter suppression. Well this is not just suppression. They're trying to keep minorities from getting treated.
He went on to falsely claim that the ACA already covers undocumented immigrants.
In fact, undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years are not covered under the ACA. As the National Immigration Law Center noted, these residents are not even allowed access to the health care exchanges to purchase private insurance at full cost. They are not eligible for subsidized health care or Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Immigrant activists and health care experts have repeatedly cited these facts as vital reasons to pass immigration reform. This population is one of the most vulnerable when it comes to health care. In fact, almost 7 million of the uninsured are undocumented immigrants, but Limbaugh chose to mock their plight to make a point about discriminatory voter ID laws.
Limbaugh has made similar statements in the past, claiming in September 2012 that requiring IDs at the Democratic National Convention meant that "apparently Democrats are trying to suppress their own delegates." This was also repeated on Fox News, where hosts complained Democrats were guilty of a "double standard" for requiring press to show ID at the DNC, a security measure to protect the president of the United States.
The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus, who headlined a tea party event in August to stoke fears of how comprehensive immigration reform "would change America irrevocably, and for the worse," has a piece out detailing how Republicans can filibuster immigration reform and show that "[a]mnesty as we know it can go away." What Kaus is advocating of course is the same level of GOP obstructionism conservative media have been calling for to kill immigration reform.
In his September 4 piece, Kaus lamented the fact that immigration reform supporters, with help from "La Raza and Mark Zuckerberg, big business lobbyists, the Catholic Church and the Media-Amnesty Complex," will continue to advocate for a path to citizenship until an immigration bill becomes law. He then went on to describe his "tentative simple, four step plan," which began with exhorting Republicans to block all immigration bills that don't first enforce the border.
Kaus is giving preference here to the "enforcement-first" approach that immigration restrictionists have long favored, which seeks to militarize the border and take other extreme steps to cut off illegal immigration. As Kaus pointed out, this approach has been rejected by supporters and Democrats who will accept nothing less than "an inclusive, immediate path to legal status for the 11 million, and an achievable and clear path to eventual citizenship," in the words of America's Voice executive director Frank Sharry.
This approach would create an impasse designed to effectively kill reform efforts. A number of conservative media figures have similarly agitated for such outright obstruction.
However, this seems to be going against the grain, as more and more congressional Republicans express support for reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. As the Miami Herald reported, tea party Rep. Steve Southerland is the most recent Republican to do so:
[W]hen asked Friday in Miami, Southerland sounded more open to the idea of a general pathway to citizenship, Still, he drew a distinction between young people brought as children and those who came when they were older and knew they were breaking the law.
Southerland said he wasn't sure about whether they should be granted a special path to citizenship or legal residency.
"If there's going to be a chance to create a legal path, there has to be a recognition of the wrong done," Southerland said, indicating they would need to pay fines and express contrition. "But I believe in reconciliation."
Conservative media are turning to a 22-year-old letter signed by Coretta Scott King to accuse immigration reform activists of co-opting the civil rights movement. They deceptively argue that the letter proves Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta would have opposed the modern immigration reform movement.
In 1991, Coretta Scott King signed a letter addressed to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that urged him to reconsider a proposal to undercut penalties on companies that employed undocumented workers that were mandated by the 1986 immigration law. King, along with other members of the Black Leadership Forum -- a coalition of leaders from some of the country's preeminent African-American organizations at the time -- wrote that they wanted an opportunity to study the effects such a repeal would have on African-American and Hispanic workers. The letter stated:
We are concerned, Senator Hatch, that your proposed remedy to the employer sanctions-based discrimination, namely, the elimination of employer sanctions, will cause another problem -- the revival of the pre-1986 discrimination against black and brown U.S. and documented workers, in favor of cheap labor -- the undocumented workers. This would undoubtedly exacerbate an already severe economic crisis in communities where there are large numbers of new immigrants.
The letter added: "With roughly 7 million people unemployed, and double that number discouraged from seeking work, the removal of employer sanctions threatens to add additional U.S. workers to the rolls of the unemployed. Additionally, it would add to competition for scarce jobs and drive down wages."
The Black Leadership Forum members were clear that their concerns were centered on discrimination -- against minority workers and against immigrants. The letter said nothing about the larger illegal immigration issue. In fact, it didn't even express disagreement with the 1986 immigration law -- that law granted legal status and a pathway to citizenship to nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants -- which would have been a clear indication that members were against reform.
Instead they wrote that they were invested in "the elimination of the root causes of national origin discrimination under the Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), as well as discriminatory impact."
In a 1990 report on the law, the General Accounting Office found that "substantial" and "serious" national original discrimination was introduced as a result of the law, but that it was "not pervasive." GAO wrote that it "believes many employers discriminated because the law's verification system does not provide a simple or reliable method to verify job applicants' eligibility to work." That report formed the basis for a proposal by Hatch and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to eliminate employer sanctions.
Conservative media figures are using the Forum letter to claim that immigration reform activists are, as Breitbart.com put it, "trying to co-opt the civil rights messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to push immigration reform through Congress," which "seem[s] to be directly contradicting the wishes of the late Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King." Breitbart.com went on to claim that "Coretta Scott King and other black community leaders argued that illegal immigration would have a devastating impact on the black community."
On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham echoed that claim, suggesting that immigration rights' activists are conflating the civil rights movement with the immigration reform movement. She read from the letter to illustrate her point, adding, "So in 1991, Coretta Scott King was saying on the issue of amnesty what many of us are saying now."
Ingraham went on to criticize those who spoke in favor of immigration reform at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, accusing them of "ruining the moment."
Earlier in the show, Ingraham stated that African-Americans would be the ones who would suffer the most if Congress passed immigration reform, adding that they are "the very people who Dr. Martin Luther King struggled, and ultimately died, to protect and to elevate. That's the sad thing about all of this." She claimed immigration rights' activists were "confused" to conflate the issues of race and civil rights, even though the issues are undeniably intertwined.
Ingraham went on to say:
INGRAHAM: But to conflate the issue of equal opportunity, the desire for a fair application of existing law with the issue of allowing exceptions to the law or indeed amnesty for law breakers, and that's where you find the illegal immigration issue involved here, that's something wild right? But I think the left wants everyone to believe out there that the struggle for amnesty is equivalent to the struggle for racial equality and equal opportunity.
Right-wing media are subverting Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' message that immigrants should have access to affordable health care, claiming her purpose is to inflate "Obamacare enrollment." But in doing so, they ignore the real human and economic costs to denying immigrants affordable health insurance.
At an event sponsored by a Latino community service group, Sebelius explained that undocumented immigrants who would be newly legalized under the Senate immigration reform bill would not be able to apply for subsidies to purchase health insurance, or have access to the health care exchanges and the expanded Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. She went on to say that this "is, frankly, why -- another very keen reason why we need comprehensive immigration reform." Sebelius added:
SEBELIUS: We won't fix the immigration system, unfortunately, through the health care bill, but I think having the immigration bill that passed the Senate, pass the House, would be a huge step. In the meantime, I would say for those undocumented residents, we have continued access to the community health centers and an expanded footprint in the community health centers.
A number of right-wing sites, including CNSNews, Breitbart.com, and HotAir, highlighted Sebelius' comments using headlines like, "Sebelius: Pass Immigration Bill to Boost Obamacare Enrollment," but ignored the core of her message.
According to an October 2012 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 48 million people under 65 were uninsured in 2011. In a 2011 study, the Urban Institute estimated that about 14.6 percent, or almost 7 million, of the uninsured are undocumented immigrants. The study warned that without policy actions, the share of that population would grow and impose extra costs on state governments and hospitals:
If the reform law leads any of these [small] firms [that employ undocumented immigrants] to drop the coverage they offer, or if the exchange does a superior job of screening based on immigration status, undocumented immigrants could see further deterioration in their already low rates of private coverage.
The exclusions in the Affordable Care Act may also serve as a barrier to members of undocumented immigrants' families who might otherwise be eligible for one of the coverage options. For example, incentives to avoid enrolling native-born children with undocumented immigrant parents in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program may also reduce coverage in the exchanges for families containing one or more undocumented immigrants.
As health reform unfolds, and undocumented immigrants emerge as an even larger share of the uninsured population, it is likely that they will become a more prominent component of safety-net health care providers' client base. This could mean that such providers will feel financial stress, especially in light of the Affordable Care Act's cuts to Medicaid and Medicare disproportionate-share hospital payments.