As anti-immigrant legislation has flooded state houses from coast to coast over the past two years -- culminating most notably with the Supreme Court's review of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 -- the nation's print media have given voice to the anti-immigrant special interest groups cheerleading (and in some cases orchestrating) these initiatives. Many of these groups have ties to white nationalist organizations and racists, and at least one has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These extremist ties have not prevented the nation's most respected newspapers, as well as the Associated Press and Reuters, from citing the institutions as authorities on the immigration debate.
In fact, a Media Matters analysis of news coverage since SB 1070's introduction in January 2010 has discovered that the nation's top five newspapers (New York Times, L.A. Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post), the Associated Press, and Reuters have cited these groups over 250 times. Over that period, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, among other states, have introduced strict immigration bills that -- by their introduction alone -- have been met with a measure of success.
If print media plays a part in shaping public opinion, isn't it fair to ask whether the normalization of these extremist groups in the pages of America's daily papers has advantaged the ability of anti-immigrant measures to reach fruition?
For details on the methodology and other information in the Media Matters report, click here.
Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, was introduced in January 2010. Since then, in their coverage of immigration issues America's top five newspapers and the Associated Press and Reuters newswires have cited anti-immigrant organizations with ties to white supremacists and racists -- including one that has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- over 250 times.
Following the Obama administration's announcement that it will grant certain undocumented immigrants the chance to be exempted from deportation, Fox News claimed President Obama had issued the decision as an executive order, implying he did so to circumvent Congress. In fact, the change is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that is consistent with the current law and has decades of precedent.
The Department of Homeland Security announced a change in immigration policy on Friday that will potentially exempt certain undocumented immigrants from deportation and afford them the ability to work here legally. The change will largely affect some 800,000 immigrants who first entered the country as children provided they meet certain requirements of education or military service. While the change was greeted with a fair amount of criticism, mostly directed at President Obama, Fox News used the opportunity to dehumanize undocumented immigrants.
A Media Matters review of Fox News' June 15* coverage of the policy change found that the network repeatedly used the racial slurs "illegals" and "illegal aliens" in their reports or discussions on the change. We also found one instance of a Fox News host using the word "aliens" while commenting on the issue.
The Obama administration has announced that it will allow some young undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States. In response, right-wing bloggers are falsely suggesting that this policy change is evidence that President Obama is "putting politics above national security and the rule of law" and "acting like a king." In fact, the change is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that is consistent with the current law and has decades of precedent.
Today's announcement that the Obama administration "will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives" (per the Associated Press) offers an excellent glimpse at how that tension plays out.
Republishing the AP write-up, Fox News Latino used the staid headline "Obama Administration Halts Deportations for Undocumented Children," and attached a photo of a DREAM Act activist in front of the Capitol:
Fox Nation also republished an AP write-up, but their headline and photo selection* spoke to a different tone and audience:
*UPDATE: Fox Nation has since removed the photo from the article, though the photo still appears on their main page.
This Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court will decide if portions of Arizona's controversial immigration enforcement law, Senate Bill 1070, are inconsistent with federal law and therefore must be struck down. Fox has taken this opportunity to push misleading talking points about Arizona's immigration enforcement law and to continue to fearmonger about crime in Arizona.
As companies cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) following a campaign led by ColorOfChange, Fox News has defended the conservative legislation organization, accusing ColorOfChange of using "fascist tactics" and inviting ALEC supporters and officials on to defend their actions. ALEC, an organization that drafts model bills for conservative state lawmakers, has pushed for controversial "Stand Your Ground" and voter ID laws across the country.
Right-wing media criticized U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for declining to deport six undocumented students who were arrested while participating in a non-violent protest against the immigration policies of controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. However, ICE has limited resources and determined that the students did not fall under its enforcement priorities, which focus on "national security, public safety, and border security."
On Sunday, the Miami Herald reported on the case of convicted felon Kesler Dufrene, a Haitian national who was the prime suspect in a triple murder committed after he was freed following the Obama administration's deportation stay to that country. Right-wing media are now using the case to attack President Obama and push the racially charged narrative that Dufrene is Obama's "Willie Horton." But the circumstances surrounding Dufrene's case cannot be compared to those of escaped murderer William Horton.
In a blog post calling attention to the story, Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft accused Obama's "failed immigration policy" of "leav[ing] three more innocent people dead." Hoft wrote: "Thanks to the Obama administration's halt on deportations to Haiti last year three people are now dead, including a 15 year old girl." He added: "Can you say Willie Horton?"
But the facts behind the Horton and Dufrene cases simply don't match up. Horton had been sentenced to life in prison without parole but was granted a weekend furlough under a Massachusetts program. He did not return from his furlough and subsequently committed assault, armed robbery, and rape. Dufrene's release, on the other hand, was based on immigration law that predated the Obama administration and long-standing U.S. policy to temporarily stop deportations to countries hit by disasters.
It's important to realize what the right-wing media are calling for in saying that Dufrene is "Obama's Willie Horton." Horton is best known as the focal point of a campaign targeting Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis during the 1988 election that consisted of unadulterated race-baiting intended to scare voters.
Fox, it seems, has now become the go-to network for controversial Arizona sheriffs. Last week, Fox News' Megyn Kelly hosted Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to address allegations that his office routinely violates civil rights laws. At the end of her show, Arpaio thumbed his nose at critics and announced on air that he was running for reelection. In October 2011, a day after stating he had formed an exploratory committee for a potential congressional run, Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu was welcomed on Fox & Friends. It was the first in a series of appearances that would afford him free campaign advertising.
For the past six weeks, Fox has given the same treatment to Arpaio, providing him with a platform from which to attack the Obama administration and propagate his baseless accusations that the administration is engaging in a political witch hunt against him. With more than a dozen appearances during that span, Fox News and Fox Business have made Arpaio a weekly mainstay on the network since early December, when they hosted him to discuss his endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president.
But not only has Fox given Arpaio an unparalleled megaphone, it has also largely closed its eyes to reports that his Maricopa County office allegedly mishandled hundreds of sex-crimes cases on his watch.
From the December 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the December 16 edition of Fox Business' Follow the Money:
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Over the weekend, Matt Drudge tried to inflame passions with a headline blaring "FEDS PLAN UNMANNED BORDER CROSSING WITH MEX. . ." The actual story Drudge hyped, however, should not induce panic in anyone. According to the Associated Press article to which Drudge linked, the crossing will allow access between a national park in Texas and a small Mexican town. Campers in the park used to regularly cross over to the town for supplies, but such crossings were discouraged after the 9-11 attacks.
Furthermore, the article reported: "If the crossing is approved, Border Patrol would have eight agents living in the park in addition to the park's 23 law enforcement rangers. 'I think it's actually going to end up making security better,' CBP spokesman William Brooks said. 'Once you've crossed you're still not anywhere. You've got a long ways to go and we've got agents who are in the area. We have agents who patrol. We have checkpoints on the paved roads leading away from the park.' "
But with a headline and graphic like this from Drudge, it was only a matter of time before someone from Fox took the bait:
The winner was Greta Van Susteren. Luckily for viewers, rather than turn to Fox's usual stable of anti-immigrant commentators, Van Susteren hosted Nathan Thornburgh, a contributing writer for Time, who shot down every attempt by Van Susteren to inflame her viewers with suggestions that the checkpoint could allow people to "just walk through" into America, "inflame a lot of people," cause a "drug smuggler in Juarez to move" to the checkpoint, and "enrage" local residents.
Claiming he does not "want to break up families," Fox host Eric Bolling again voiced support for mass deportation -- even endorsing the idea of going into public schools to round up undocumented immigrants. In fact, experts warn that deportations result in broken families, often those of American children, and ultimately impact children's safety and well-being.