Fox News distorted comments by Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink about the need for immigration reform, completely misinterpreting the meaning of her remarks to cast them as outrageous and beyond the pale. In fact, as the Miami Herald noted, Republican lawmakers have made similar comments in the past without the hint of the conservative outrage Sink's comments have received. Moreover, the comments broadcast by Fox were not Sink's full remarks on the topic.
During a candidate forum in Florida hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Sink addressed the need for immigration reform by stressing the fact that coastal communities rely heavily on immigrant labor and that without reform, employers are put "in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers":
SINK: Immigration reform is important in our country. It's one of the main agenda items of the beaches' Chamber Of Commerce for obvious reasons. Because we have a lot of employers over on the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? And we don't need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers.
Discussing those comments on Fox & Friends, guest host Clayton Morris twisted the meaning of those words, claiming what Sink really said was "we need immigration reform so we can have illegal immigrants doing landscaping and cleaning hotels." Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck added: "Because what would we do without that, she's saying." Morris continued: "How would our hotels be cleaned?"
Co-host Brian Kilmeade also stated: "She was winning by 2 points prior to those remarks. I don't know if this is going to send her numbers south."
In fact, Sink was making the opposite point: We need immigration reform so that employers, particularly those in high-growth areas like coastal communities, don't resort to hiring unauthorized labor. For a network that has been stridently opposed to immigration reform because of the impact such labor has on the workforce, Sink's comments should have been greeted favorably.
Moreover, as the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo noted, Republicans and conservatives have made similar comments in the past:
"I am not in favor of a housekeeper or a landscaper crossing the border illegally," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said April 14, 2013 on CBS' "Face the Nation" while discussing his immigration-reform bill (a bill Republicans have blocked in the U.S. House and barely voted for in the Senate).
It's important to emphasize Rubio didn't use CEOs or software developers as examples. He used the same professions Sink did.
The news media didn't make a fuss about Rubio's comments at the time. Nor did conservatives. Nor did Republicans call his comments "narrow-minded" or "racist."
And that's because the comments are true.
Immigrants, especially in Florida, disproportionately work in service-sector jobs. And national, state and local chambers of commerce have advocated for immigration reform because they represent businesses that employ recent immigrants (and perhaps illegal ones).
Spoiler alert: that includes farm workers, landscapers and maids.
Indeed, a recent study from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights on the undocumented population in Illinois found that 43 percent of undocumented residents of the state were employed in manufacturing and hospitality and food services. By legalizing these workers, as Sink suggested, it will allow them to continue to pay taxes, positively contribute to our society and economy, and allow them to move jobs without fear of retribution or deportation, thereby creating a more productive workforce and an enhanced economy.
While the Fox News hosts stated they had included the full context of Sink's remarks, that was not the extent of Sink's comments on immigration reform. According to Caputo, Sink went on to talk about high-achieving, young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. She reportedly stated:
"For every example that you hear I think about the high school valedictorian. I believe who live in this district now. He was brought here when he was a young man, nine of ten years old. He didn't choose to come here, his parents brought him. He was undocumented. And what does he do? How does he get an education? He did everything right. He became an incredible student. He even eventually ended up going to law school and becoming a lawyer. But right now he [can't] practice law because of his undocumented status. That's not right."