In the past few weeks, conservative pundit and radio host Laura Ingraham has positioned herself as the "voice of opposition" on immigration reform and has used her syndicated radio show to launch baseless attacks on the issue and demonize immigrants. However, her inflammatory rhetoric surrounding reform is at odds with her call following the 2012 election to change the language regarding Latinos.
Following the 2012 presidential election, Ingraham appeared on Fox News' America Live to discuss the GOP loss as well as calls for the Republican Party to soften on certain issues and broaden its appeal across ethnic groups. When host Megyn Kelly pointed out that Republican candidate Mitt Romney had underperformed with Latinos, Ingraham responded: "I think the language of dealing with Latinos has to be changed."
However, Ingraham has used the current debate over comprehensive immigration reform to demonize undocumented immigrants and smear Latinos. In fact, her opposition has been marked by an anti-immigrant and xenophobic fervor that is typical of nativist groups like the Center for Immigration Studies, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and NumbersUSA.
Some examples include:
- Ingraham has argued that a "two-tiered" class system for undocumented immigrants - where immigrants could be granted legal status but never attain citizenship -- "sits better with me" than comprehensive immigration reform, adding:
INGRAHAM: If you've been here illegally and you've been living here and you've been using our roads and using our schools and using our health care system, I don't believe you should ever be a citizen of the United States. No, I don't.
- Ingraham has smeared the American children of undocumented immigrants as "anchor fetuses"
- Ingraham mocked reform supporters' chants of "si se puede" following the passage of the Senate immigration bill in committee by saying, ""Si se puede destroy American sovereignty"
- Ingraham seized on the Boston Marathon bombings to call for ending asylum to refugees from Islamic countries or territories, and suggested that the United States stop giving tourist visas to visitors from Central Asia. She also used the bombings to stoke terrorism fears about immigration reform.
- Ingraham has claimed that immigration from Mexico would "turn America into a hellhole" and complained that American culture is "disappearing."
Ingraham has gone even further, using her platform to facilitate spurious attacks on reform from others, including extremists in the anti-immigrant movement. This week, she hosted a member from the Progressives for Immigration Reform, a nativist group that, as the Anti-Defamation League has noted, allies itself with white supremacist organizations such as VDARE.
In March, while guest-hosting for host Bill O'Reilly on his Fox News show, she brought on FAIR spokesman Bob Dane to deny that the anti-immigrant organization is a "hate group." Dane, whom Ingraham described as "not a hateful person," was then given free rein to demonize the Southern Poverty Law Center.
These statements from Ingraham are hardly surprising. In her 2007 book Power to the People, she wrote: "Our national power and identity comes in part from our shared American culture and language. This power will continue to be eaten away if we don't stop the double-talk and defend our borders."
Indeed, Ingraham has never professed to be an impartial member of the conservative media, and certainly not on immigration reform. In fact, she recently signed onto a letter with other conservatives and Fox contributors to express opposition to immigration reform.
In addition to smearing Latinos, she has used her radio show to attack reform efforts and has even threatened to challenge the candidacies of Republican congressional members who support reform.
On her May 22 show for example, she stated: "I am thinking of moving to Arizona. You know why? I will primary challenge Senator Jeff Flake myself if that's what this requires." Ingraham was attacking Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee who voted down an amendment to the Senate immigration bill by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would have denied government services like Medicaid and food stamps to any legal immigrant who had previously been in the country illegally. Ingraham went on to call for the primary challenge of "every Republican who voted for this bill."
Today, she again vowed to campaign against any House Republican supporting immigration reform, saying to Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA): "If anything comprehensive passes, Sir, in the House of Representatives, I am telling you, I am going to make it my personal mission to support primaries for every Republican who supports it." She added: "We should not be doing this now. It is not the priority of the Republican Party or the grassroots."
She has also warned that reform "will not only be the end of Marco Rubio's career, it will be the end of the Republican Party."
On her June 6 show, she actually cheered when her guest claimed that reform was "dead." She stated: "I'm not gonna dance on the grave of another amnesty until this thing is really, really dead. Because it's like Freddy Krueger. I helped kill it off in 2007 and I'm working nonstop to kill this off."
Recent polling by Latino Decisions, which focuses on Latino political opinion research, shows that Latino voters view immigration reform as the most important issue facing their community. The polling also indicates that Latinos believe the Republican Party would be responsible if reform failed to pass this year.