Fox News ran a prepackaged segment that took an immigration expert's comments out of context to stoke fears about the Senate immigration bill and the Obama administration's prosecutorial discretion policy.
In the segment, which appeared three times on Fox News on one day, correspondent William La Jeunesse discussed the cases of two undocumented immigrants who are accused of drunken driving accidents which resulted in the deaths of two police officers. La Jeunesse used these cases to baselessly claim that the Senate immigration bill would allow some immigrants who are criminals and felons to stay if they have family connections in the U.S. The segment included quotes from a pre-recorded interview with immigration expert Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):
Fox makes it appear as if Williams is tacitly agreeing with the premise of the segment, noting that "drunk driving needs to be treated as the crime that it is ... not something related to immigration." However, in a statement to Media Matters, AILA explained that Williams was never asked about those specific cases and never got the opportunity to explain that these two suspects would not have been eligible for legal status under the Senate immigration bill:
During the actual interview with Crystal Williams from which clips were taken, the two cases addressed in this spot were never raised, and she was never asked to address them. Instead, she was asked general questions about the Senate immigration bill.
In fact, if she were asked about these cases, she would have been able to point out that the discretion reserved in the bill for those convicted of misdemeanors would not have applied. The piece indicated that the first individual had already had two convictions for DUI and burglary. It was not clear whether that meant that there were two DUI convictions or one for DUI and one for burglary. But he would not be eligible for the discretion discussed in either event, as there is no discretion in the bill for felonies (which burglary would be) or aggravated felonies (the bill would make three DUIs an aggravated felony). The facts of the second case were not laid out, but would have been subject to the same rules.
The piece also inaccurately depicted the Administration's prosecutorial discretion policy, claiming that instead of removal, criminal aliens get a day in court. Yes, they get a day in court, but that's what our justice system does--it has nothing to do with the Administration's policy. In fact, the prosecutorial discretion policy emphasizes removal of those with criminal backgrounds--requiring that ICE put its resources behind finding and prosecuting criminals before going after people just living their lives peacefully. Indeed, had ICE officers actually embraced this policy, they might well have found these men before they killed. It was clear Mr. Kobach was asked about this particular policy. It is a shame that Ms. Williams, who is very familiar with the policy, was not.
As the AILA statement notes, the Senate immigration bill would not have applied to either of the two defendants discussed in La Jeunesse's segment due to their previous convictions and due to one of the defendant's prior deportation.
Immigration and Custom Enforcment's prosecutorial discretion policy also has nothing to do with an immigrant's criminal trial. All undocumented immigrants who are suspected of committing a crime receive a criminal trial separate from their deportation process. Immigration removal proceedings are civil, not criminal, proceedings.