Fox News has a well-documented anti-immigrant bias. This is apparent not only in countless examples of slanted coverage and purportedly "fair and balanced" debate, but also through the network's choice of slurs and smears when discussing undocumented immigrants. Fox's calculated decision to continually blast this one image of a man climbing what could be a border fence is a perfect example of how Fox uses its brand to reinforce negative views of unauthorized immigrants.
The way Fox responded to the decision by a federal judge to suspend implementation of the harshly criticized Alabama immigration law was yet another prime example.
In her ruling temporarily blocking the law from taking effect, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn said she needed more time to review the various lawsuits brought by the Obama administration and other groups who questioned the law's constitutionality.
Fox, which has defended and applauded the law, decided that guests from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigration organization, carried the best insight and brought them on to discuss the ruling. FAIR has been labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dan Stein, the group's president, was welcomed on Fox News' America's Newsroom, and he promptly blasted the Obama administration for "making all kinds of wild allegations" in its lawsuit. As Stein spoke, footage of what appeared to be immigrants running near the border appeared on screen.
Stein went on to parrot the conservative argument that "[t]here's really nothing revolutionary here but for the fact that ... President Obama and his people do not want immigration laws enforced and so they and their allies are challenging all these laws." He also argued that the Alabama law would free up jobs for Americans and that the "administration is taking us down a course of chaos and anarchy and we have to stop it."
About two hours later, Greg Jarrett hosted FAIR communications director Bob Dane. In typical Fox fashion, Jarrett reiterated the bogus claim that the federal government "has abdicated its responsibility" when it comes to enforcing immigration laws. Dane agreed and slammed the administration for what he called its "entrenchment of an affirmative non-enforcement policy." Dane also defended the Alabama law, calling it "rational," and asserted that it mirrored federal law.
Bill O'Reilly, who once blasted Latinos for supposedly converting their homes into what he dubbed "an illegal alien Club Med," dismissed concerns from religious leaders who say that the law violates "their right to free exercise of religion, arguing that it would 'make it a crime to follow God's command to be Good Samaritans.' " The New York Times explained the concern:
"The law," said Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, "attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church."
While church leaders have spoken out against similar laws elsewhere, Alabama is the only state where senior church leaders have gone so far in formal, organized opposition. But the law in Alabama, a state with an estimated 120,000 illegal immigrants, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, goes further than any other.
It contains some of the controversial provisions of other recent state laws, including one that empowers local law enforcement to try to ascertain immigration status after pulling people over for traffic violations.
But the law also makes it a crime to transport, harbor or rent property to people who are known to be in the country illegally, and it renders any contracts with illegal immigrants null.
To some church leaders -- who say they will not be able to give people rides, invite them to worship services or perform marriages and baptisms -- the law essentially criminalizes basic parts of Christian ministry.
Though O'Reilly acknowledged that "it's clear that the Alabama legislature and the government [don't] want illegals living in Alabama," he nevertheless continued to argue that critics of the law are wrong. At one point, he called contributor Lis Wiehl "hysterical" for pointing out that the law is written in such a vague and broad manner that people could fear going to church if they knew that undocumented immigrants were among the parishioners.
O'Reilly later accused Bishop Henry Parsley, who has been a vocal opponent of the law, of "making ... up" concerns about the law, suggesting that none were warranted.
Lou Dobbs' Fox Business show hosted Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who co-authored Arizona's controversial immigration law. Kobach has also said he "drafted" Alabama's law. Kobach said he agreed with the judge's decision, adding that it was "good" that "she is giving this issue the kind of attention it deserves." He also blasted the Obama administration for "attacking this law and making some really absurd arguments against the state of Alabama."
Kobach claimed that the Alabama law was drafted to be a "mirror image" of federal law and that what is penalized under the Alabama and Arizona laws is "something that's already prohibited by federal law." He further claimed that both laws are "reinforcing what's already prohibitive behavior in a federal law."
Arizona's S.B. 1070 goes well beyond the traditional boundaries of Federal and State immigration cooperation -- so much so, in fact, that the United States took the unusual tactic of suing to enjoin the law. In bringing the battle to the Supreme Court, Kobach and Arizona have failed to appreciate that S.B. 1070 is much more likely to impede, rather than enhance, federal enforcement objectives. Where a state seeks to hinder federal law enforcement in an area of nearly exclusive federal jurisdiction, the United States Supreme Court is not likely to ratify the state's efforts.
Instead, the Court is likely to conclude that while the states and the federal government may work together cooperatively to enforce U.S. immigration laws, such efforts must be directed and managed by the federal government to complement federal policies and priorities.
In defending the federal lawsuit, Arizona has argued that S.B. 1070 is a permissible attempt to engage in concurrent enforcement of federal law because S.B. 1070 only criminalizes behavior that is already unlawful under federal law. In fact, however, the Arizona law criminalizes much behavior that is only a civil violation under federal law.
By creating mandatory state criminal sanctions for even the most minor civil immigration violations, Arizona's foray into immigration enforcement is likely to disrupt federal immigration enforcement efforts, creating a surge of immigration cases in the civil immigration and federal criminal court systems. If other states copy Arizona's law, the resulting tidal wave of cases could completely overwhelm federal resources. Given these practical realities, it is understandable that the United States has chosen to seek an injunction against the Arizona law. Rather than being a "force multiplier," Arizona's law would impose an even greater burden on the already overwhelmed federal immigration system, threatening to become a "ball and chain" that pushes the system to complete dysfunctionality.
Alabama's law was reportedly modeled on Arizona's, but the Alabama measure includes provisions that make it illegal to knowingly give an undocumented immigrant a ride and require schools to check students' immigration status, which is a direct violation of federal law. Alabama public school superintendents have maintained that requiring schools to ascertain the legal status of students and their parents could cause them to lose federal funding for education.
Fox and supporters of the law have further contended that the measure would create jobs for Alabamians and prove that the claim that immigrants perform jobs Americans won't do is nothing but a fallacy. But the reports coming in belie state lawmakers' promises that the law would prove a boon to unemployed Americans and the economy. Per the Wall Street Journal:
Representatives of agribusiness, the state's biggest industry, and sectors such as construction, which is charged with rebuilding the tornado-hit city of Tuscaloosa, are reporting worker shortages because of immigrants already fleeing the state. The state agriculture commission says squash, tomatoes and other produce are rotting in the fields.
"We have a big problem on our hands," said Brett Hall, the state's deputy commissioner for agriculture and industry. "Farmers and business people could go under."
Instead of expanding his peach farm and adjacent jam and basket-weaving factory, "I'm closing down on Sept. 1," said Hal Hayes of Clanton, Ala.
Echoing a point raised by farmers in other states, Mr. Hayes said that a handful of Americans who showed up to apply for jobs demanded that he pay them off the books so that they can continue to collect unemployment benefits.
Mr. Hayes, who has farmed for more than three decades, said, "We are going to lay everybody off and I am going to draw unemployment because the state put me out of business."
Georgia, which passed a similar anti-immigration law in April, estimated that the state's farms could lose up to $1 billion because of the shortage of field workers. When Gov. Nathan Deal put in place a program to replace the migrant workers with probationers, this is what happened:
[I]n rural south Georgia, The Associated Press writes of convicts calling it quits at 3:25 p.m. -- more than 2½ hours before the crew of Mexicans and Guatemalans they replaced.
"Those guys out here weren't out there 30 minutes and they got the bucket and just threw them in the air and say, 'Bonk this. I ain't with this. I can't do this,'" said Jermond Powell, a 33-year-old probationer working at a farm in Leslie. "They just left, took off across the field walking."
Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, said farms have already lost $300 million and could lose up to $1 billion if it does not get access to a reliable workforce.
"People come out and they have an idea of what they're going to be doing," Tolar said. "As soon as they start doing it and find out that its more difficult and more work required than they'd anticipated, they leave."
These concerns are clearly far from "absurd." USA Today, for example, called the Alabama measure "shortsighted and thoughtless." "It would turn all Hispanics into suspects," the paper added, "not just those here illegally, and it would potentially expose people who associate with them to prosecution." Of course, few of these concerns were taken seriously on Fox, as evidenced by Kimberly Guilfoyle and O'Reilly's laughter when brushing aside Wiehl's criticisms.
Instead, what we got from Fox was a litany of false claims about how the Obama administration is unserious about enforcing immigration, how immigrants are stealing Americans' jobs and benefits, and how these state laws are merely copycats of federal law. Through it all, Fox continued to promote the spurious suggestion that "illegals" are somehow a threat to our way of life, and that it would be best if they were herded back to wherever they came from.