Immigration Myths

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  • Chris Wallace Botched The Discussion Of Immigration At The Final Presidential Debate

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox News’ Chris Wallace, moderator of the last presidential debate, failed to generate a meaningful discussion on immigration, meaning audiences “learn[ed] nothing new,” according to Univision. Instead, the moderator provided another platform for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant bashing while failing to dig deeper into the serious consequences immigration policies have on millions of people in the United States.

    Wallace initiated the discussion around immigration by stating the positions that both of the candidates have made known to the public throughout the campaign and then asking each, “Why are you right and your opponent wrong?”

    During Univision’s post-debate analysis, commentators took issue with the immigration segment because audiences “learn[ed] nothing new” even though many had been clamoring for a meaningful discussion of the topic leading up to the final debate. As Univision legal contributor Ezequiel Hernandez pointed out, many questions on specifics still linger: “The executive action was not discussed, judges were talked about in the previous topic, but the thousands of children who get to the border and are left waiting and who are deported until something is done were not discussed.”

    Wallace stuck to his promise of being nothing more than a timekeeper and failed to dig deeper on the topic, instead framing his next query around an illegally obtained excerpt of a speech Hillary Clinton gave to a Brazilian bank where she allegedly said, “My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.” Wallace asked Clinton, “Is that your dream? Open borders?” while ignoring both the context of Clinton’s words and Trump’s 2013 CNN op-ed in which he said, “We still have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability.” Trump had already attempted to capitalize on Clinton’s phrasing on the campaign trail, which prompted PolitiFact to analyze the claim and rate it “mostly false,” calling her immigration plan "a far cry from Trump's characterization." PolitiFact also explained that “the context of that sentence related to green energy -- and wasn’t about people immigrating to the United States.” As NBC News’ Suzanna Gamboa wrote,“The candidates seemed on the verge of a more insightful discussion” until Wallace directed the debate toward the “open borders” comment, which is when “things began to crumble.”

    As predicted, Trump took advantage of Wallace’s inaction and vague immigration questioning, using it as a platform to once again smear immigrants as violent criminals, conjuring up a phrase offensive to Latino immigrants in particular: “bad hombres.”

    Meanwhile, the pressing, life-altering questions many Latino immigrants have -- like the question 6-year-old Sophie Cruz suggested on, “What happens to me if you deport my parents?” -- remain unanswered.

  • Fox Business Gets Fooled Again By Gateway Pundit's Email Conspiracy Theory

    Host Stuart Varney Falsely Claims Out-Of-Context Email Proves Clinton Campaign Is “Encouraging” Voter Fraud

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta tacitly endorsed mass voter fraud based on a misreading of the contents of stolen emails released by WikiLeaks. Varney’s story comes straight from the discredited right-wing blog The Gateway Pundit, and it marks the second time in as many weeks that the Fox host has fallen for such an obviously fabricated story on air.

    In an attempt to deflect criticism of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s suggestion during the third presidential debate that he might not accept the results of the general election, Varney falsely accused Podesta of arguing in an email that “if you’ve got a [driver’s] license, you should vote … whether you’re a legal citizen or not.” Varney and guest Andrew Napolitano went on to suggest that the availability of driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in California and some other states would create an environment ripe for mass voter fraud:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Now listen to this. Maybe Trump's got a point. A WikiLeaks email from Clinton campaign manager [John] Podesta shows that if you’ve got a license, you should vote. That’s what Podesta thinks, whether you're a legal citizen or not. Here is exactly what he wrote: “On the picture ID, the one thing I have thought of in that space is that if you show up on Election Day with a driver's license with a picture, attest that you are a citizen, you have a right to vote in Federal elections.” … You’ve got to stand up and attest that you're citizen when you're not so you’ve got to lie. He’s encouraging this.

    Once again, Varney is pushing a conspiracy theory from hapless right-wing blogger Jim Hoft based on an intentionally misleading interpretation of emails released by WikiLeaks.

    On October 19, Hoft published a blog claiming “Podesta Says It’s OK for Illegals to Vote With Driver’s License…” in which he highlighted the exact quote cited by Varney and singled out California and other states for providing driver’s licenses to “illegal aliens.” The entire October 20 segment on Varney & Co. is based on this single blog, and Varney’s argument during the segment is pulled directly from Hoft.

    Varney could have followed the link back to the original WikiLeaks source and viewed a days-long email exchange from January 28, 2015, through February 4, 2015, between individuals who would soon join Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign. At no point during the email exchange, which has not been authenticated, does any participant so much as mention the word “immigrant,” much less undocumented ones. The email in question is about how responsive voters are to easing voter registration restrictions -- such as by adopting a policy of automatic voter registration when you receive a driver’s license or other state ID -- and the author simply concludes -- correctly -- that “you have a right to vote in Federal elections” if you “show up on Election Day with a drivers license ... [and] attest that you are a citizen”:

    It would still be a felony for a noncitizen to vote in a federal election, regardless of whether that person has a valid driver’s license. Trump supporters have been trying and failing to turn voter fraud into a core issue of the campaign, but the problem simply does not exist at any meaningful level. Fox News even admitted as much earlier the same day with an on-screen chyron reading “Experts Say Voter Fraud Is Rare.”

    Varney’s face plant on the voter fraud issue marks the second time in as many weeks that he has fallen for an laughable Gateway Pundit conspiracy on air. Last week, the Fox Business host bizarrely claimed that an unsolicited racist email sent to -- not from -- John Podesta somehow proved that Hillary Clinton was a racist.

    Varney should be more careful when regurgitating talking points pulled from fringe blogs like The Gateway Pundit, particularly when their conclusions are based on documents that the U.S. intelligence community stated on October 7 were stolen via Russian state-sponsored hacking in an effort to “interfere with the U.S. election process.”

  • CNN Fact-Checks Trump's False Claim That America Is Full Of Criminal Immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the September 1 edition of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:

    DON LEMON (HOST): Donald Trump laying out his immigration plan in a speech tonight in Phoenix. Now, our CNN Reality Check team takes a look, here is our Tom Foreman. What do you have for us, Tom?

    TOM FOREMAN: Hey Don, you know the central theme of all of this, a big theme, was that among all the undocumented people in this country, there are a lot of dangerous criminals.


    FOREMAN: 2 million. That is a whopping number, but analysts say to get to that number of criminals among this population, you basically have to count every possible infraction including traffic tickets. Maybe it is more realistic to look at this number from the Migration Policy Institute.

    1.4 million people on the priority list for apprehension for more serious offenses, or maybe you should even look at this number, 690,000 convicted of felonies or serious misdemeanors. That's another estimate that is out there. That seems credible in all of this. Still a big number, but only about a third of what Trump says.

    Nonetheless, he says he wants to go after them, he wants a task force to really crackdown on this population out there. The problem is one started just a year ago under the immigration office there. Priority Enforcement Program, that is what they call it, and it is aimed at getting the worst criminals off of the street.

    It's a big job. Maybe he will make it better. Maybe he will put more agents out there as he promised. Maybe he will do that on day one in terms of getting that started, so we can't say otherwise. That that part of the claim is true, but to the extent that none of this is going to produce immediate results, it simply can't. It is too big of a job. It is also misleading.


    White Nationalist Media Cheers Trump’s “Almost Perfect” Immigration Speech

    Media Reactions To Trump’s Immigration Speech: Same Extremist Trump

    CNN's Corey Lewandowski: Trump Immigration Speech Was A Tactical Decision To Appeal To White Males

  • Latinos: A New Immigration Plan From Donald Trump Won't Magically Erase His Previous Bigotry

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Latino media figures are calling Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “possible reversal” over immigration policy “too late,” noting that “Trump based his campaign on attacking immigrants,” and that the vague reports about a shifting stance on immigration come only a day after “Trump aired [a] xenophobic, anti-immigrant ad,” which “overtly” cites the anti-immigration group Center for Immigration Studies, whose founder “drifts in and out of overt white supremacist circles.” 

  • Politico Gives Anti-Immigrant Advocate A Platform To Justify Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Proposal

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico Magazine published an article written by anti-immigrant economist George Borjas, who defended Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposal to implement “extreme, extreme vetting” for immigrants, including temporarily banning refugees from an undisclosed list of countries. Borjas is linked to anti-immigrant think tanks known for shoddy research and himself has skewed information in a crusade against immigrants.

    In an August 17 Politico op-ed republished from his blog, Borjas slammed media figures for criticizing Trump’s proposals, citing a number of discriminatory policies throughout history that have blocked, deported, or discouraged certain immigrants from coming to the United States, and defending Trump’s extreme proposal by arguing that “immigration vetting is as American as apple pie.” He also refers to the 1917 Immigration Act, “which, in addition to effectively barring immigration from Asia, listed the many traits that would make potential immigrants inadmissible” as one of his “favorite examples” of “extreme vetting.”

    A 2006 New York Times profile of Borjas stated that his approach to immigration “carries an overtone of ethnic selectivity that was a staple of the immigration debates a century ago,” which “makes many of Borjas’s colleagues uncomfortable.” He also has ties to conservative think tanks known for expounding false information about immigrants, including the nativist Center for Immigration Studies and the hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which have both been described as organizations that “stand at the nexis of the American nativist movement.” Borjas continued to express these attitudes in his Politico op-ed, despite acknowledging that some immigration restrictions were rolled back “for good reason”:

    As early as 1645, the Massachusetts Bay Colony prohibited the entry of poor or indigent persons. By the early 20th century, the country was filtering out people who had “undesirable” traits, such as epileptics, alcoholics and polygamists. Today, the naturalization oath demands that immigrants renounce allegiance to any foreign state. Even our Favorite Founding Father du jour, Alexander Hamilton (himself an immigrant), thought it was important to scrutinize whoever came to the United States.


    In other words, immigration vetting is as American as apple pie.


    In 1882, Congress suspended the immigration of Chinese laborers, and added idiots, lunatics and persons likely to become public charges to the list for good measure.

    One of my favorite examples of the extreme vetting is the 1917 Immigration Act, which, in addition to effectively barring immigration from Asia, listed the many traits that would make potential immigrants inadmissible.


    In other words, even a century ago we had put in place ideological filters against anarchists, persons who advocate the destruction of property, and persons who believe in overthrowing the government of the United States.

    Of course, some of these filters, such as those restricting the entry of epileptics or Asians, have long since been rolled back—and for good reason. But many of them—especially those pertaining to criminals, and people who are likely to work against U.S. interests—remain in current law, with additions that reflect the changing security landscape.

  • Miami Herald Praises Humanitarian Approach To Immigration In Stark Contrast To Conservative Media’s Routine Demonization Of Immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The Miami Herald editorial board praised recent efforts by the Obama administration to address immigration by those fleeing violence from Central American countries, providing important context that right-wing media often ignore in attempts to demonize immigrants.

    The board pointed out that the administration’s expansion of its “Central American refugee program” is an attempt to live “up to this country’s humanitarian values,” underscoring that “seeking shelter from gang violence in Central America” is what has caused increases in the number of immigrants. This context draws a stark contrast to conservative media’s routine demonization of immigrants, which includes blaming them for diseases, terrorism, or stealing American jobs or misrepresenting government immigration policies as “lawlessness.” Fox News recently mischaracterized the new government immigration policy that protects “sensitive locations” by failing to explain its objective of improving “public understanding and trust.” Conservative media misinformation and demonization of immigrants has inspired the harsh anti-immigrant tone in right-wing politics.

    In the August 2 editorial, the Herald noted that “the administration deserves credit for acknowledging that more needs to be done” and explained that the new initiative provides incentives for Central American refugees to avoid the perilous journey to the United States, prioritizes opportunities for those in urgent need of refugee assistance, works to keep more families together, and undermines migrant smuggling activities:

    The Obama administration substantially expanded its Central American refugee program last week by making entire families eligible for approval, expanding refugee processing in Central America and offering immediate protection for some in Costa Rica.

    This will not put an end to the border crisis caused by the dramatic increase in migrants seeking shelter from gang violence in Central America, but the administration deserves credit for acknowledging that more needs to be done.

    For years, the administration has been under pressure from Congress and the public to devise a program that can deal with the crisis in a way that meets the often conflicting goals of living up to this country’s humanitarian values while keeping our borders from being overrun.

    This is a tall order, particularly in an election year in which immigration is a hot-button issue. It is important to declare plainly that the “expansion” is no open door for new waves of migrants. It will be limited, administration officials say, to those who have legitimate claims of asylum because of the violence they face in their home countries and communities.


    The most welcome aspect of the program consists of the reassurance that the administration remains committed to finding a way to tackle immigration in a safe and responsible manner despite criticism from all sides that it is either doing too much (deportations) or not enough (by failing to protect the border, or turning back migrants who deserve to have their asylum claims heard).

    The expansion announced last week cannot possibly accommodate all those individuals in Central America, young and old, who are desperate to flee, but it creates priorities and speeds up the review of legitimate claims. It also undermines the activities of “coyotes” who charge exorbitant fees for smuggling migrants across the border.