Mainstream media outlets should be aware of damaging economic attacks leveled by anti-immigrant groups in an attempt to derail comprehensive immigration reform. In reality, research indicates that comprehensive immigration reform would improve the U.S. economy, create jobs and boost American wages. Moreover, new findings show that immigrants are less likely to rely on public benefits than native-born Americans.
Fox News contributor Fred Barnes alleged that President Obama is championing legislation that will make undocumented immigrants instantly eligible for a pathway to citizenship. In fact, according to Obama's immigration reform proposal, applicants must prove eligibility and wait roughly thirteen years before becoming citizens.
On the March 27 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Barnes suggested that President Obama's immigration reform bill includes instant eligibility for a pathway to citizenship:
In reality, Obama's plan would require applicants to wait multiple years before obtaining citizenship. Talking Points Memo reported that applicants would likely have to wait eight years to obtain a green card, and five more to apply for citizenship.
A draft of the White House immigration proposal published by USA Today on February 17 outlined a conditioned path to citizenship in which undocumented immigrants would have to pay taxes, pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information, and pay additional fees before applying for the new visa:
According to the White House draft, people would need to pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa. If approved, they would be allowed to legally reside in the U.S. for four years, work and leave the country for short periods of time. After the four years, they could then reapply for an extension.
Illegal immigrants would be disqualified from the program if they were convicted of a crime that led to a prison term of at least one year, three or more different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail, or if they committed any offense abroad that "if committed in the United States would render the alien inadmissible or removable from the United States."
Fox News continued to stoke fears that immigrants are a threat to public safety by advancing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's argument that granting undocumented immigrants driver's licenses might endanger American citizens. Fox has repeatedly sought to equate immigrants with an increase in crime, even as experts argue that crime drops as immigration rises.
Discussing a lawsuit challenging Brewer's decision, Fox News anchor Uma Pemmaraju suggested on Happening Now that Brewer is right to deny undocumented immigrants driver's licenses because it could jeopardize public safety. Pemmaraju stated: "What about when she raises issues about the safety of the citizens -- the fact that we already have situations that threaten our people here? We don't need another added burden."
In fact, experts contend that licensing undocumented immigrants will do the exact opposite -- increase public safety and promote the rule of law since it would encourage people who would otherwise be on the road anyway to get the training needed to obtain the license.
In June 2012, the Obama administration announced it would grant "deferred action" to certain undocumented immigrants under 31, exempting them from deportation for a period renewable every two years. Those who qualify are eligible to obtain work permits and Social Security cards. Though they do not have full legal status, they are considered to be lawfully present in the United States under the program.
Two months later, Brewer issued an executive order denying driver's licenses and IDs to the undocumented youths, claiming that state law barred these immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses.
This action was unusual. According to the National Immigration Law Center, at least 38 states, including the District of Columbia, have announced they will issue or plan to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants who have deferred status. Only two -- Arizona and Nebraska -- have explicitly said they will deny them. A number of states have cited the benefit to public safety as reason to issue driver's licenses, saying it would promote the rule of law and cut down on traffic violations and unlicensed drivers.
Fox News continues to peddle anti-immigrant myths, such as undocumented immigrants are a drain on the nation's economy, even as Republican leaders recognize the economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform.
On March 18, the Republican National Committee released a report diagnosing the Republican Party's failures during the 2012 election cycle and offered recommendations to ensure future victories. The report argued for passing comprehensive immigration reform as one way to improve its image among Hispanics, saying:
[A]mong the steps Republicans take in the Hispanic community and beyond, we must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our Party's appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only. We also believe that comprehensive immigration reform is consistent with Republican economic policies that promote job growth and opportunity for all.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) echoed that message, emphasizing in a speech today that immigration reform would help the economy. Paul stated, "somewhere along the line Republicans have failed to understand and articulate that immigrants are an asset to America, not a liability." He went on to stress the point that immigrants are synonymous with hard work, adding: "Whether we are discussing hard work, respect for life or the quest for freedom, immigrants bring with them the same values that previous generations of immigrants did."
But the economic message that Fox News is projecting is one that pits immigrants against American citizens and promotes the myth that immigrants have a detrimental effect on the American economy and society. On the March 19 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum brought on Bob Dane, spokesman for Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled hate group the Federation for American Immigration Reform, to criticize Paul and advance these nativist arguments.
First, the myth that immigrants would displace Americans and steal their jobs has been proven time and time again to be false. Second, Dane's assertion that "most illegal aliens are heavily government dependent" is a clear falsehood. Even other anti-immigrant groups such FAIR's sister organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, have said that "preconceived notions about the fiscal impact of illegal households turn out to be inaccurate."
Though Fox News has previously called for a new tone on immigration, the network has continued to allow anti-immigrant voices on its network -- most of whom stoke fears about immigrants -- and let myths and negative images of immigrants dominate its immigration coverage.
President Obama has nominated Thomas E. Perez as Secretary of Labor. Right-wing media used this announcement to push false attacks about Perez based on his service in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and other civil rights work and advocacy.
The Washington Times misled its readers by claiming that African-American workers would see fewer jobs and lower pay if immigration reform were to pass. Despite the assertions made in the piece, immigrant labor does not steal jobs from American workers -- specifically African-American workers -- and often has a net positive impact on the economy by creating more jobs.
A February 12 article in The Washington Times cited two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights who wrote to President Obama claiming that successful immigration reform would "likely mean fewer jobs and lower pay for black Americans" but failed to push back on their unfounded claims. From the article:
Two members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights wrote to President Obama on Tuesday telling him that if he succeeds in enacting an "effective amnesty" for illegal immigrants, it will likely mean fewer jobs and lower pay for black Americans.
Pointing to hearings the commission held in 2008, the two members -- Peter Kirsanow and Abigail Thernstrom -- said the economics of the situation are clear: Low-skilled blacks compete with low-skilled illegal immigrants, depressing wages.
In fact, overwhelming evidence shows that immigration's negative effect on African-American employment is an unfounded myth. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute called the idea that low-skilled immigrants take African-American jobs a "pernicious myth" and cited a 1997 report that found no evidence that African-Americans have fewer job opportunities because of immigration.
Another study by Robert Paral & Associates for the Immigration Policy Center found similar results. From the Immigration Policy Center:
One of the most contentious issues in the debate over immigration reform is whether or not the presence of immigrants in the U.S. labor force -- especially undocumented immigrants -- has a major adverse impact on the employment prospects of African Americans. The African American community has long been plagued by high unemployment rates, and a relatively large share of African Americans lack a college education. As a result, some commentators argue that undocumented immigrants, who tend to have low levels of formal education and to work in less skilled occupations, are "taking" large numbers of jobs that might otherwise be filled by African American workers.
If this is indeed the case, one would except to find high unemployment rates among African Americans in locales with large numbers of immigrants in the labor force -- especially immigrants who are relatively recent arrivals to the United States and willing to work for lower wages than most African Americans. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that this is not the case. In fact, there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates among African Americans, or any other native born racial/ethnic group, at the state or metropolitan level.
Gerald D. Jaynes, professor of Economics and African-American Studies at Yale University, who once believed that immigration played a role in the declining African-American workforce, launched a large-scale study that concluded that "declining black unemployment is due more to other factors and events that have been restructuring our nation's labor market during the past several decades," including the elimination of many factory jobs and other blue-collar employment.
Immigrants and other low-wage workers often fill different types of jobs which require different skills. However, when they do work in the same job type, immigrants and other workers often specialize in different aspects of the job, complementing each other rather than competing with one another.
Take the case in Georgia, where a harsh immigration law forced out many of the state's farm workers, which left approximately 11,000 open farm jobs. Despite the open jobs, however, so few people applied that Gov. Nathan Deal pushed farmers to hire 2,000 unemployed criminal probationers, many of whom walked off the job soon after starting.
Wages for native-born workers also, in general, tend to increase as a result of immigration. According to an Economic Policy Institute estimate, native born African-American males experienced an average wage increase of 0.4 percent from 1994 to 1997. Native-born men with less than a high-school education were the only group to see a decrease in wages by 0.2 percent.
In reality, immigration reform would be a huge benefit to the economy. It could add billions of dollars and millions of jobs to the economy, as well as potentially $4.5 to $5.4 billion in additional tax revenues.
This false claim about immigrant labor hurting African-Americans isn't new. Breitbart.com's Seaton Motley used this myth to attack President Obama's deferred action plan. The anti-immigrant nativist organization, NumbersUSA, ran ads hyping this myth during the run up to last year's referendum on the Maryland DREAM Act in an attempt to cause the measure's failure. But this effort backfired -- instead, African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for the measure.
As congressional leaders debate a framework for comprehensive immigration reform that will likely grant undocumented immigrants legal status, conservative media are engaged in promoting myths and falsehoods about what reform means for the country.
From the January 29 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Right-wing media figures have responded to immigration reform by invoking the oft-repeated conservative argument that legalizing immigrants will enlarge the "welfare state." In fact, the announced immigration reform proposal would prevent newly legalized immigrants from receiving federal benefits for an extended period of time; moreover, immigrants in general are less likely to receive welfare benefits.
Fox News contributor Monica Crowley attacked an immigration reform proposal by claiming the federal government has failed to protect the U.S.-Mexico border. However, recent reports show that undocumented migration from Mexico has come to a halt, and border security is at an all-time high.
After a bipartisan group of senators announced a proposal to overhaul the U.S. immigration system that will focus on -- among other initiatives -- border security and opening a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the country, Crowley blasted the federal government for failing to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, causing states like Arizona to take matters of border security into their own hands. Crowley said drastic measures are needed because "the federal government either has not or will not enforce [the U.S.-Mexico] border."
However, Crowley's suggestion that current border security is not capable of enforcing our laws is wrong. An April 2012 report by the Pew Hispanic Center explained that net migration flow from Mexico to the U.S. has been reduced to zero and may be headed in the other direction:
After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants--most of whom came illegally--the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed, according to a new analysis of government data from both countries by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.
Among the causes for lower undocumented immigration, the report points to heightened border enforcement, increased amount of deportations, and the growing danger of illegal border crossings.
Fox News used the tragic story of a grieving father to continue smearing undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and attack the Obama administration's deportation policies. In fact, data shows that immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated and do not commit crimes at higher rates than others. Moreover, the Obama administration's deportation of undocumented immigrants is at an all-time high.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy interviewed Don Rosenberg to discuss the death of his son, Drew, who was killed in California when his motorcycle was hit by an unlicensed driver in 2010. As San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders reported, Roberto Galo was charged in the incident for driving without a license and with felony negligent homicide for causing Drew's death. He is reportedly slated for release on Friday.
As Saunders noted, Rosenberg has called for Galo to be deported upon his release. However, Galo is "a legal immigrant with 'temporary protected status,'" which, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, means Galo cannot be deported under certain circumstances: Conditions in his home country temporarily prevent him from returning safely or his country is unable to adequately handle his return.
Galo is reportedly from Honduras, which affords its nationals and those without nationality who last resided in that country protected status in the United States until July 2013. However, those eligible under these conditions might forfeit protected status if they have been convicted of a felony or have committed two or more misdemeanors in the United States.
In introducing the segment, Doocy called Galo "an unlicensed illegal immigrant" while onscreen text repeatedly identified him as an "illegal immigrant."
Fox News website Fox Nation also highlighted the story, linking to Saunders' column with the headline, "Obama Won't Deport Illegal Alien Killer," even though she reported that Galo is in the country legally:
Bill O'Reilly and Fox News legal analysts Kimberly Guilfoyle and Lis Wiehl dismissed and mischaracterized a lawsuit alleging that a citizenship question on certain Michigan ballot applications illegally burdens the right to vote. But the "citizenship checkbox" may keep citizens from voting, as the state's Republican Governor anticipated when he vetoed an earlier attempt to implement the practice.
The ACLU of Michigan has filed a lawsuit accusing Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R) of once again violating state and federal law by including a checkbox to re-determine a voter's citizenship on absentee and election-day ballot applications. Although supporters defend the practice as a means to prevent noncitizens from voting, election experts have pointed out redundant citizenship verification is a solution to an almost non-existent problem, contrary to the claims of Johnson and Fox's Guilfoyle.
O'Reilly characterized the ACLU lawsuit seeking to eliminate the citizenship checkbox as "madness and stupidity," and threatened that if a "crazy judge" granted the injunction, he would "put the judge's face on the screen and then send [Fox's Jesse] Watters out to see him." Fox's legal analysts not only agreed with O'Reilly's evaluation of the facts and law, but also his unsupported allegation regarding the motive behind the lawsuit:
What the ACLU wants is they don't want people committing perjury when they register. They do want people voting, who are not American citizens, to advance. They believe that most of those people would vote for the Democratic candidate in Michigan. That's exactly what's going on here.
No one acknowledged the actual arguments behind the lawsuit, namely that including a checkbox for citizenship affirmation on these ballot applications violates state and federal law and suppressed voters in Michigan's most recent primary election. It was this concern that led Governor Rick Snyder (R) to veto the proposed citizenship checkbox law in July. In his veto message, Snyder, a conservative Republican, stated the citizenship question could impermissibly "create voter confusion."
Voting by noncitizens is not a problem nationally or in Michigan. Indeed, according to the authoritative and exhaustive News21 study of thousands of alleged instances of voter fraud in the U.S., voter fraud such as noncitizen voting is "virtually non-existent." With respect to Michigan, an analysis by Wayne State University Law Professor Jocelyn Benson of the Michigan Center for Election Law demonstrates that:
[Secretary of State] Johnson has irresponsibly declared that 4,000 noncitizens vote in Michigan's elections, falsely claiming that the federal government is forcing her employees to register ineligible voters.
Her data is incomplete and unverified. The 4,000 number is no more than a general estimate of how many of Michigan's 7.5 million registered voters are not citizens.
In reality, she claims to have discovered 54 noncitizens who may have voted in Michigan's elections in the past decade, and as many as 900 others who are registered but have not voted. Yet the secretary of state is able to provide details on only two noncitizens who have recently voted. That's a far cry from 4,000.
State efforts, such as Michigan's, duplicate federal law that already prohibits and punishes ineligible voting and place excessive burdens on eligible voters. A recent Advancement Project report indicates that the Latino vote in particular is susceptible to the low turnout caused by redundant citizenship screens. According to the Michigan Election Coalition, this sort of unconstitutional burden was precisely what occurred during the 2012 Michigan primary election when poll workers across the state gave contradictory and erroneous instructions to eligible voters about the voluntary nature of the checkbox. It was this inconsistent treatment of voters across the state that led the ACLU to challenge the checkbox as a violation of the federal equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, not the due process clause as Fox's Wiehl incorrectly stated.
Furthermore, Johnson may not even have the power to place the citizenship question on the ballot. The state legislature originally tried to pass the election change in a bill, and Michigan law does not appear to allow the Secretary to unilaterally adopt this failed legislation. Even if it did, there does not appear any justification for the Secretary to then ignore the standard administrative notice and comment procedure behind the introduction of new state rules. Finally, the Secretary appears to have passed an election practice change statewide, despite the fact that the federal Voting Rights Act -- in order to prevent illegal racial or national origin discrimination -- requires certain townships in Michigan to pre-clear any such changes with the U.S. Department of Justice before they are put into effect.
From the September 18 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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While guest hosting The O'Reilly Factor on August 24, Monica Crowley praised SB 1070 architect Kris Kobach's filing suit against the Obama administration's "deferred action" policy, which allows young undocumented immigrants to temporarily remain in the United States. But Crowley failed to mention that the deportation policy is the continuation of long-standing prosecutorial discretion, and also neglected to report the lawsuit's basic procedural flaws.
Instead, Crowley ignored the weaknesses of the lawsuit and alleged the policy is "illegal," accused the administration of acting "extra-constitutionally," and finally commended Kobach for "fighting the good fight" against a "banana republic."
The lawsuit was filed in district court by Kobach on August 23 on behalf of 10 disgruntled Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and is underwritten by controversial "immigration-restriction" group NumbersUSA, despite the Supreme Court's recent reminder that "[a] principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials." Nevertheless, the lawsuit challenges the administration's policy of deferred action in deportation proceedings for undocumented youth - a continuation of standard immigration discretion also practiced by George W. Bush - and further undermines its credibility through its choice of plaintiffs.
Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney debunked the theory that rounding up and deporting immigrants is a solution to economic problems -- a notion that is widespread throughout the conservative media.
During an appearance on Fox & Friends to discuss Greece's efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Varney if deporting immigrants would help Greece's economy and whether America should "follow suit."
Varney said that rounding up and deporting immigrants wouldn't help Greece with its economic problems and denied that they were taking jobs from Greek citizens. He also said that we shouldn't round up immigrants in the United States either:
VARNEY: Should America follow suit, a round up of illegals here? I would say absolutely not. We're not in financial crisis, and we're a very different country. We have a very strong tradition of acceptance of people from all over the world, legal or illegal, we don't round them up and throw them out. We don't do that, thank heavens.
Economists agree that immigration is beneficial to the American economy and that immigrants don't have a negative impact on the jobs of American-born workers. And studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform could lead to a boost to the economy.
But the myth that undocumented immigrants harm the economy is very common in the right-wing media.