Conservative radio host Mark Levin blamed undocumented immigrants for the United States' poor ranking in a global education survey of high school students, claiming that "one of the reasons" for the mediocre showing on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is because "a lot of these children only speak Spanish and a certain percentage of them are illiterate in Spanish because they're poor when they come over the border."
PISA, which is administered every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in math at 26th and average in reading (17th) and science (21st). PISA found that even among the U.S.' strongest performers, students in Massachusetts, the top student performers in math, 15-year-olds in Shanghai, showed that they had the equivalent of more than two years of formal schooling over their American counterparts.
But immigration is not to blame for the U.S.' second-rate results. Indeed, according to the results, immigrant students in the United States performed better than the average of member countries in math.
As the Christian Science Monitor further reported:
More than 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries and other education programs took part in the 2012 PISA test. Students from Shanghai-China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea scored highest in all three subjects. Switzerland and the Netherlands also ranked near the top.
Set against that backdrop, the US performance in mathematics drew the most handwringing by far. Among 65 nations and jurisdictions where the PISA test was administered, 29 countries and provinces outperformed the US in math in 2012, compared with 23 in 2009, the last time the test was given.
The list of those racing past the US included not only perennially strong competitors like Singapore and South Korea, but also Latvia, Australia, and Vietnam when compared with test results from three years earlier.
In reading, US scores were flat. But students in 19 countries scored higher than the US in 2012, compared with just nine countries three years before. Steady gains by Poland and Germany leapfrogged them past the US along with Estonia, Ireland, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
In science, meanwhile, some 22 countries' educational systems beat out the US average, compared with 18 in 2009.
Overall, the US had a "flat line" performance as other nations surged, said Secretary Duncan.
Discussing the PISA results on his radio show, Levin attributed the mediocre results to undocumented children:
After complaining about the Supreme Court decision that guaranteed all students, regardless of immigration status, a public education in the United States, and lamenting House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) recent move on immigration reform, Levin stated: "I mean, it just shows you how a culture deteriorates -- and not because it's Latino or whatever, it's because it's legal versus illegal. You either have a rule of law or you don't. And apparently we don't."
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly typified conservative media's absurd arguments on border enforcement, claiming that President Obama is not committed to addressing the issue because he can't stop immigrants from coming into the United States illegally in the first place. O'Reilly also dismissed the Senate immigration bill's border surge provisions, arguing that "money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling."
Discussing President Obama's November 25 immigration speech, O'Reilly speculated about the chances of passing immigration legislation, saying: "The problem here is that nobody believes President Obama will secure the border. They believe he'll give the pathway to citizenship but nobody believes he's gonna stop more people from coming in to follow the same pathway."
When contributor Juan Williams noted that the Senate-passed immigration bill includes substantial funding for border enforcement measures, O'Reilly replied:
O'REILLY: Money doesn't stop drug smuggling or people smuggling. You've got to have the will to do it and that will has to be imparted and you've got to put commanders down there, people who are really, really committed to stopping the chaos on the Southern border, and nobody, Juan, nobody believes the president of the United States is committed to do that.
O'Reilly went on to repeat Fox News' talking point that Obama's speech was an attempt to "deflect" from the problems with the Affordable Care Act's rollout. Guest Mary Katharine Ham agreed, saying that "the timing is interesting." She went on to promote the discredited conservative myth that Obama could have passed comprehensive immigration reform early in his first term if he had "made it a first priority" when "he had 60 senators." She continued: "But he put it off because he liked using it as a cudgel before the 2012 elections."
O'Reilly's point that Obama isn't serious about border enforcement because he's unable to prevent immigrants from crossing into the U.S. illegally or from overstaying their visas is absurd. There are a host of reasons that prompt illegal crossings, which can range from economic to family reunification.
Rush Limbaugh dismissed the results of a new immigration poll showing that a majority of Americans favor an immigration process with a path to citizenship for the country's undocumented immigrants, saying that what the poll does is show only that people "do not want to be seen as bigots" or anti-immigration. He characterized it as the "Wilder Effect in reverse."
The Washington Post explained the "Wilder Effect" this way:
[T]he "Wilder effect" -- where whites overstate their support for black candidates -- merged with the "Bradley effect" -- where whites say they have no opinion when they really support a white candidate in match-ups between white and black candidates - in lore, casting doubts on the accuracy of polls in such contests.
The survey to which Limbaugh referred, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), found that throughout 2013, "there has been consistent bipartisan and cross-religious support for creating a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States." PRRI continued:
Today, 63% of Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 14% support allowing them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens, and roughly 1-in-5 (18%) favor a policy that would identify and deport all immigrants living in the United States illegally. This support for a path to citizenship has remained unchanged from earlier this year, when in both March and August 2013 an identical number (63%) supported a path to citizenship for immigrants currently living in the United States illegally.
Discussing the poll, Limbaugh argued that results were skewed because respondents were saying they favored a path to citizenship when they in fact did not. He explained that "nobody wants to be called" a racist, and that's what accounted for the high favorability. He added: "This is not something most people want and so they just lay down and they don't say what they really think." He continued:
LIMBAUGH: This is a hot-button issue and it does involve what people think is race and ethnicity and the pollsters know this but they're not using the word amnesty. If they go out and ask the question, should undocumented aliens who are here illegally be automatically granted citizenship, what do you think the poll would show? And that's what the pollsters are attempting to say is happening.
A month after claiming that President Obama's focus on immigration reform was intended to distract the American public from problems with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rollout, Fox News is at it again.
Previewing Obama's immigration reform speech in San Francisco in which Obama will reportedly urge the House to pass a reform bill before year's end, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked: "Forget Iran, forget Obamacare, President Obama wants to talk about immigration? Will changing the subject actually work, I say, with italicized work?" He added: "We report, you decide."
Later on in the broadcast, Kilmeade again asserted that Obama is "going to have a hard time changing the subject to immigration" in light of ACA problems. Anchor Bret Baier agreed, replying:
BAIER: He is, because -- listen. Every day, there is some story about Obamacare, and it's not just the website anymore, and we've gone over that. But the more and more people see the premiums, that's really the sticker shock. And I think you've got -- when you've got a White House trying to turn the page a number of different times, a number of different ways, he might have a challenge.
America's Newsroom co-host Martha MacCallum struck a similar note, suggesting that Obama is "trying to move to these other topics in an attempt to change the subject a bit and perhaps salvage his second term."
In fact, as senior political analyst Brit Hume pointed out on America's Newsroom, "it's not surprising" that Obama is focusing on immigration reform:
HUME: These are issues -- Iran, immigration -- that the president was gonna have to address anyway, whatever his standing, whatever the condition of his health insurance reform plan. So it's not surprising that he would try to do that, particularly on immigration, which it wasn't so very long ago you recall Martha, had a real head of steam behind it.
And it looked as if after the results of the 2012 election, Republicans were eager to pass something to try to get themselves in the better graces of the Hispanic community. Some of the air is out of that tire; it's understandable that the president would try to re-inflate it and get it rolling again.
Indeed, Obama has repeatedly urged Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill by year's end and his speech today is intended, as Hume noted, to inject renewed urgency into the debate. Obama has maintained since his election in 2009 that immigration reform is a priority for his administration.
Right-wing media have seized on Senate Democrats' parliamentary change to eliminate filibusters for most presidential nominees to call for Republicans to block immigration reform or advance the notion that the change makes it less likely for Republicans to act on reform. In fact, Republicans repeatedly refused to act on immigration reform long before this change took place.
On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham repeatedly mocked then imitated the accent of a woman whose native language appeared not to be English as the woman made comments in protest of the Obama administration's record number of deportations.
On the November 21 edition of her radio program, Ingraham aired comments from a pro-immigration reform protest in which a woman states: "We are here to say to President Barack Obama, not one more deportations [sic]." The protest was ostensibly part of the national campaign by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) called NotOneMoreDeportation.com or #Not1More to protest and expose what immigrants' rights activists view as unjust Immigration laws. One of the campaign's aims is to "collectively challeng[e] unfair deportations."
Following the woman's comments, Ingraham said: "Wait, what did she say at the end? I can't -- I need a translator. I speak Spanish too. I'd rather have her just speak Spanish, at least I'd understand that." She then went on to affect the woman's accent:
Ingraham's comment that she would have preferred the woman speak Spanish are at odds with what conservative media figures have been saying for years -- mainly that immigrants who want to settle in this country have to learn to speak English.
Ingraham's mocking of the woman's accent is hardly the first instance in which a conservative media figure has ridiculed an immigrant whose native language is not English. On Fox News, contributor Jesse Watters repeatedly made fun of the accents of foreign-born immigrants in New York City. And Rush Limbaugh repeatedly mocked a speech by Chinese President Hu Jintao on his visit to the United States, speaking in mock Chinese to purportedly mimic how Jintao was speaking.
Fox News highlighted a new law in Washington, D.C., that will allow the city's undocumented residents to obtain limited driver's licenses, airing segments that were laden with anti-immigrant language but little other information. The context missing from the Fox broadcasts is that nearly half of the country has enacted or is thinking of enacting similar laws, which law enforcement officials argue promote road safety and offer other benefits.
On November 18, Mayor Vincent Gray signed the measure passed by the D.C. Council, which will go into effect in May 2014. As The Washington Post reported, the licenses will be stamped as "not valid for official federal purposes," meaning undocumented immigrants will not be able to use them for federal identification purposes like entering federal buildings or for boarding planes.
In two segments on the law, Fox & Friends First co-host Heather Childers used inflammatory language to refer to undocumented immigrants, saying: "Illegal aliens living in Washington, D.C., will be able to get driver's licenses." She went on to note that the law will go into effect "unless Congress intervenes."
Childers repeated her report later during the show, as a graphic read: "Licenses For Illegals."
What Fox News ignored, however, is that these licenses are hardly uncommon and they provide real benefits to law enforcement.
According to the National Immigration Law Center, 11 states and Puerto Rico have passed measures that allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. In Minnesota, a measure has passed one chamber of its legislature, and 10 other states have introduced similar proposals this session.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham mocked an Obama administration memo clarifying existing U.S. immigration policy meant to alleviate stress and anxiety among active duty service members and veterans. She dismissed the directive as "a pathway to voting" and claimed the administration was "using veterans to push through an amnesty."
In a November 15 memo, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new directive formally normalizing the "parole in place" policy for undocumented family members of active and retired U.S. service members, which allows undocumented immigrants in cases of "urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit" to legally stay in the country while they apply for legal status.
"Parole in place" has been recognized by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service dating back to at least 1998, according to USCIS and was available on a case-by-case basis under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
As the New York Times reported:
Immigrants without papers generally have to leave the country to collect visas they applied for through marriage to an American citizen or some other family tie. But, in a notorious Catch-22, once those immigrants leave they are barred from returning for years. Under the new policy, those immigrants who are in military families will not have to leave to complete their visa applications.
Faced with the legal quandary, many service members chose not to apply for papers for immigrant spouses and relatives, often keeping their immigration status secret. As a result, there is no way of knowing how many immigrants will be affected by the new policy, but it could be tens of thousands.
Immigrants involved will have work permits and will have to renew their documents yearly.
Discussing the Obama administration memo, Ingraham dismissed it as "yet another amnesty for still another group of illegal aliens," adding that this time it was done "under the guise of relieving quote, stress and anxiety of our troops." She continued: "They're either hiding behind the children -- it's the children, sob stories about family unification, now it's the veterans."
Media are engaging in revisionist history to absolve Republicans of blame for failing to pass immigration reform this year, repeating the right-wing lie that President Obama and the Democrats had "two years" to pass immigration reform legislation in 2010 when they had control of both chambers. In fact, Republicans -- then and now -- are the reason immigration reform continues to fail.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, editorial writer Sandra Hernandez asserted that "Republicans shouldn't shoulder all the blame for the failure to fix the nation's dysfunctional immigration system." Hernandez continued: "After all, we wouldn't be having this debate if Democrats had passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2010, when they controlled both the House and the Senate."
Similarly, in a Los Angeles Daily News op-ed titled, "Both parties to blame for failure to reform immigration," San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders claimed that "Obama did not deliver on his 2008 promise to push an immigration bill during his first year in office, even though Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House during the first two years of his presidency." She added:
Only after Democrats lost the House in 2010 did that lame-duck body pass the DREAM Act to offer citizenship to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Because supporters couldn't deliver the 60 votes needed in the Senate -- five Democrats voted no -- it tanked.
Unfortunately, history can't be so easily airbrushed. As numerous fact-checks have noted, while the Democrats did control a majority of votes in the House for two years from 2009 to 2011, the same is not true of the Senate.
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum explained:
Until Al Franken was sworn in on July 7, the Democratic caucus in the Senate stood at 59. After that it was technically up to 60, but Ted Kennedy hadn't cast a vote in months and was housebound due to illness. He died a few weeks later and was replaced by Paul Kirk on September 24, finally bringing the Democratic majority up to 60 in practice as well as theory. After that the Senate was in session for 11 weeks before taking its winter recess, followed by three weeks until Scott Brown won Kennedy's seat in the Massachusetts special election.
So that means Democrats had an effective filibuster-proof majority for about 14 weeks. Did they squander it? I guess you can make that case, but there's a very limited amount you can do in the Senate in 14 weeks. Given the reality of what it takes to move legislation through committee and onto the floor (keeping in mind that the filibuster isn't the minority party's only way to slow things down), I think you might make the case, at most, that a single additional piece of legislation could have been forced through during that period. But probably not much more than that. Democrats basically had a filibuster-proof majority for about three months. That's just not very long.
Conservative media are applauding House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) decision to refuse negotiations on immigration reform between the House and Senate, which likely means the end of comprehensive immigration reform this year. This decision comes after months of right-wing media telling Republicans to obstruct any and all action to pass comprehensive immigration legislation.