Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham claimed that undocumented immigrants under the Obama administration's deferred action program would have access to health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In fact, DACA recipients are ineligible to apply for subsidized health insurance.
During a town hall event with Spanish-language media on March 6, President Obama allayed fears within the immigrant community that information gathered about undocumented immigrant family members while signing up for health care would not be used for deportation enforcement. In the process, he stated that only U.S. citizens and those with "legal presence" would be able to apply for subsidized health care, noting that "it's true that the undocumented are not eligible -- that's how the law was written."
On her radio show, Ingraham distorted Obama's comments, claiming that "legal presence" applied to "anyone that he decides to defer immigration action on." She added: "The DREAMers can get Obamacare."
In fact, as the New York Times reported in September 2012, undocumented immigrants with lawful presence under DACA are not eligible for subsidized health care:
The White House has ruled that young immigrants who will be allowed to stay in the United States as part of a new federal policy will not be eligible for health insurance coverage under President Obama's health care overhaul.
The decision -- disclosed last month, to little notice -- has infuriated many advocates for Hispanic Americans and immigrants. They say the restrictions are at odds with Mr. Obama's recent praise of the young immigrants.
In June, the president announced that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, attended school here and met other requirements would be allowed to remain in the country without fear of deportation.
Immigrants granted such relief would ordinarily meet the definition of "lawfully present" residents, making them eligible for government subsidies to buy private insurance, a central part of the new health care law. But the administration issued a rule in late August that specifically excluded the young immigrants from the definition of "lawfully present."
At the same time, in a letter to state health officials, the administration said that young immigrants granted a reprieve from deportation "shall not be eligible" for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. Administration officials said they viewed the immigration initiative and health coverage as separate matters.
Thanks to a 1995 California law however, about 73,000 DACA recipients who are 21 and under are reportedly eligible for the state-funded Medi-Cal program, which is completely separate from the ACA's Medicaid program.
National Review Online contributor Mark Krikorian claimed that liberals and Democrats are engaged in a "strategy" through immigration to increase the size of government programs. He stated that Democratic support of immigration reform is a way to "import voters" and "exacerbate social problems," namely poverty and the lack of health insurance, to make it more palatable for Americans to support big government programs like the health care law.
Krikorian floated his new conspiracy theory during an address to the National Security Action Conference's "Uninvited II," an event hosted by Breitbart News on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that featured many speakers who "were not invited to CPAC."
As highlighted by the Right Wing Watch blog, Krikorian stated that the Democrats and the left have promoted immigration "for explicitly political purposes," including as "a way of importing voters." He continued:
KRIKORIAN: Not just that, but also, they create the conditions such as increased poverty, increased lack of health insurance that lead even non-immigrant voters to be more receptive to big government solutions because liberals will often say, look at the size of the uninsured, we have to have a solution to this.
One third of all the people without health insurance are in immigrant households, 80 percent of the growth in the uninsured population over the past decade is driven by immigration.
So the fact is that the left is not just importing voters, but they're trying to create -- they're successfully exacerbating social problems through immigration that they then point to as the reason for big government solutions, and are listened to more openly. The solutions seem more plausible to just ordinary middle of the road voters precisely because those social problems have been made worse by immigration.
Krikorian added: "The left doesn't say that they have made these problems worse through their own policies but that is part of their strategy."
Breitbart News also highlighted Krikorian's comments.
Krikorian, the executive director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies is often quoted in the media as an expert on immigration issues, despite his group's anti-immigrant nativist designation and its penchant for pushing false or misleading information about immigrants.
Now that the Republican Party has settled on a set of principles to guide its action on immigration reform, media outlets have turned to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as a credible source on immigration reform, validating his arguments that reform will slow U.S. economic recovery and further depress Americans' wages. These talking points, however, have been repeatedly discredited as experts agree that immigration reform would have a positive impact on the economy and Americans' wages.
As The Washington Post reported, Republican leaders released a list of "principles" on immigration reform, declaring that "there would be 'no special path' to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but that, in general, they should be allowed to 'live legally and without fear' in the United States if they meet a list of tough requirements and rules." The statement concluded that "none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced."
In reporting on the debate, media are validating Sessions' bogus economic arguments against reform. Discussing the issue on Fox News, for example, contributor Tucker Carlson highlighted Sessions' arguments, saying that Sessions is "no liberal and is not either some kind of fiery demagogue populist" and that "he's making an intellectual case against more immigration in a down economy."
CBS News similarly highlighted an "analysis" by Sessions, reporting that it "said increasing the number of immigrants would hurt an already weak economy, lower wages and increase unemployment. He cited White House adviser Gene Sperling's comment earlier this month that the economy has three people looking for every job opening." The article continued:
He said the House Republican leaders' plan that's taking shape would grant work permits almost immediately to those here illegally, giving them a chance to compete with unemployed Americans for any job. He said it would lead to a surge in the future flow of unskilled workers and would provide amnesty to a larger number of immigrants in the country illegally, giving them a chance to apply for citizenship through green cards.
Politico also quoted Sessions' criticism that the GOP proposal "provides the initial grant of amnesty before enforcement; it would surge the already unprecedented level of legal lesser-skilled immigration to the U.S. that is reducing wages and increasing unemployment; and it would offer eventual citizenship to a large number of illegal immigrants and visa overstays."
In fact, Sessions' arguments are actually repackaged talking points from anti-immigrant groups and, as the libertarian Cato Institute noted, "are based on misinterpretations of government reports, cherry-picked findings by organizations that engage in statistical chicanery, or just flat-out incorrect." Cato, which released a point-by-point rebuttal of many of Sessions' claims, added that his assertions "do not advance a logical argument against immigration."
From the January 2 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the December 5 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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Conservative radio host Mark Levin blamed undocumented immigrants for the United States' poor ranking in a global education survey of high school students, claiming that "one of the reasons" for the mediocre showing on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is because "a lot of these children only speak Spanish and a certain percentage of them are illiterate in Spanish because they're poor when they come over the border."
PISA, which is administered every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), found that among the 34 OECD countries, the United States performed below average in math at 26th and average in reading (17th) and science (21st). PISA found that even among the U.S.' strongest performers, students in Massachusetts, the top student performers in math, 15-year-olds in Shanghai, showed that they had the equivalent of more than two years of formal schooling over their American counterparts.
But immigration is not to blame for the U.S.' second-rate results. Indeed, according to the results, immigrant students in the United States performed better than the average of member countries in math.
As the Christian Science Monitor further reported:
More than 510,000 15-year-old students in 65 countries and other education programs took part in the 2012 PISA test. Students from Shanghai-China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea scored highest in all three subjects. Switzerland and the Netherlands also ranked near the top.
Set against that backdrop, the US performance in mathematics drew the most handwringing by far. Among 65 nations and jurisdictions where the PISA test was administered, 29 countries and provinces outperformed the US in math in 2012, compared with 23 in 2009, the last time the test was given.
The list of those racing past the US included not only perennially strong competitors like Singapore and South Korea, but also Latvia, Australia, and Vietnam when compared with test results from three years earlier.
In reading, US scores were flat. But students in 19 countries scored higher than the US in 2012, compared with just nine countries three years before. Steady gains by Poland and Germany leapfrogged them past the US along with Estonia, Ireland, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan).
In science, meanwhile, some 22 countries' educational systems beat out the US average, compared with 18 in 2009.
Overall, the US had a "flat line" performance as other nations surged, said Secretary Duncan.
Discussing the PISA results on his radio show, Levin attributed the mediocre results to undocumented children:
After complaining about the Supreme Court decision that guaranteed all students, regardless of immigration status, a public education in the United States, and lamenting House Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) recent move on immigration reform, Levin stated: "I mean, it just shows you how a culture deteriorates -- and not because it's Latino or whatever, it's because it's legal versus illegal. You either have a rule of law or you don't. And apparently we don't."
Media are engaging in revisionist history to absolve Republicans of blame for failing to pass immigration reform this year, repeating the right-wing lie that President Obama and the Democrats had "two years" to pass immigration reform legislation in 2010 when they had control of both chambers. In fact, Republicans -- then and now -- are the reason immigration reform continues to fail.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, editorial writer Sandra Hernandez asserted that "Republicans shouldn't shoulder all the blame for the failure to fix the nation's dysfunctional immigration system." Hernandez continued: "After all, we wouldn't be having this debate if Democrats had passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2010, when they controlled both the House and the Senate."
Similarly, in a Los Angeles Daily News op-ed titled, "Both parties to blame for failure to reform immigration," San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders claimed that "Obama did not deliver on his 2008 promise to push an immigration bill during his first year in office, even though Democrats controlled the White House, Senate and House during the first two years of his presidency." She added:
Only after Democrats lost the House in 2010 did that lame-duck body pass the DREAM Act to offer citizenship to children brought into the country illegally by their parents. Because supporters couldn't deliver the 60 votes needed in the Senate -- five Democrats voted no -- it tanked.
Unfortunately, history can't be so easily airbrushed. As numerous fact-checks have noted, while the Democrats did control a majority of votes in the House for two years from 2009 to 2011, the same is not true of the Senate.
Mother Jones' Kevin Drum explained:
Until Al Franken was sworn in on July 7, the Democratic caucus in the Senate stood at 59. After that it was technically up to 60, but Ted Kennedy hadn't cast a vote in months and was housebound due to illness. He died a few weeks later and was replaced by Paul Kirk on September 24, finally bringing the Democratic majority up to 60 in practice as well as theory. After that the Senate was in session for 11 weeks before taking its winter recess, followed by three weeks until Scott Brown won Kennedy's seat in the Massachusetts special election.
So that means Democrats had an effective filibuster-proof majority for about 14 weeks. Did they squander it? I guess you can make that case, but there's a very limited amount you can do in the Senate in 14 weeks. Given the reality of what it takes to move legislation through committee and onto the floor (keeping in mind that the filibuster isn't the minority party's only way to slow things down), I think you might make the case, at most, that a single additional piece of legislation could have been forced through during that period. But probably not much more than that. Democrats basically had a filibuster-proof majority for about three months. That's just not very long.
Hill reporter Elise Viebeck shot down Fox News' continued attempt to scapegoat undocumented immigrants for improper Medicare payments, disputing the claim that undocumented immigrants were willingly involved in defrauding the federal government of millions of dollars.
On October 30, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services released a report finding that from 2009 through 2011, Medicare inappropriately paid out $29 million in drug benefits for undocumented immigrants.
The report explained that the payments were made erroneously because the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services does not have a policy in place to screen undocumented immigrants from receiving benefits under its drug prescription plan, Medicare Part D.
But Fox News seized on the report to pile false attacks on undocumented immigrants and smear them, using dehumanizing terms like "illegal aliens."
Discussing the OIG report on Fox News' On The Record, Viebeck refuted host Greta Van Susteren's suggestion that CMS was "knowingly" paying insurance companies for Medicare drug benefits to undocumented immigrants. Viebeck noted that CMS "didn't have policies in place that would have caught" undocumented immigrants and "vetted them one by one in terms of their immigration status."
VIEBECK: The way Medicare Part D works is, people have their plans offered through a private insurance company, and then those insurance companies bill the federal government. And so, the federal government was effectively paying insurance companies on behalf of patients that apparently the insurance companies hadn't vetted extensively enough. They thought they might have been eligible for Medicare, but they weren't because they're illegal immigrants.
Viebeck went on to say that "these are not individual immigrants who are trying to defraud the federal government. This all happens through insurance companies. It's basically one gigantic error."
Fox News cherry-picked from reports by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to single out undocumented immigrants for improperly benefitting from Medicare drug benefits, taking the opportunity to smear them as "illegal aliens." However, undocumented immigrants are partially responsible for keeping Medicare solvent.
On October 30, the OIG released reports showing that Medicare inappropriately paid out millions in benefits for dead patients and drug benefits for undocumented immigrants. But in highlighting the reports, Fox News reported only on the Medicare drug benefits data in an apparent attempt to demonize undocumented immigrants.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased the segment by saying, "Many Americans can't even get prescriptions they need but illegal immigrants are getting them for free. Who's paying for that?" Co-host Steve Doocy followed with a short report noting that $29 million is "how much the federal government spent on prescription drugs for illegal aliens as part of the federal Medicare Part D program." He added: "Great."
But Fox News' reporting on the OIG reports ignored important facts -- the first being that undocumented immigrants are indeed paying some of the payroll taxes that sustain Medicare.
In fact, a Harvard study released in May found that undocumented immigrants are keeping the federal health care program partially solvent to the tune of $14 billion a year -- even as native-born Americans accounted for a $31 billion deficit to the program. As Bloomberg News reported:
Immigrants to the U.S. contributed $115.2 billion more to the Medicare Trust Fund during the past decade than they withdrew, casting doubt on criticism they overburden the health plan, Harvard University researchers said.
The data, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggest immigrants, mainly those without U.S. citizenship, help subsidize the nation's health program for the elderly and disabled. While American-born citizens took $30.9 billion out of Medicare in 2009 alone, immigrants provided a surplus of $13.8 billion that year. The study looked at data from 2002 to 2009.
The findings undermine the belief that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. health-care system, a key issue in the debate about immigration reform, the researchers said. In 2009, payments from immigrants and their employers accounted for 14.7 percent of payments to Medicare, while their expenses represented 7.9 percent of its costs, the study found.
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham continues to make outlandish allegations about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) applies to immigrants, including falsely claiming that the law allows undocumented immigrants to purchase subsidized health insurance and that their enrollment in the individual Marketplace will be used to inflate the overall numbers of those who sign up.
Contrary to what Ingraham has been saying on her radio show, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to apply for subsidized health insurance under the ACA. On the October 3 broadcast of her show, Ingraham advanced that falsehood, asking, "First of all, how many of you think that illegal immigrants aren't signing up on these Obamacare exchanges?" She added: "I mean, they're probably the only ones getting through to sign up on the exchanges."
Ingraham was referring to the difficulty those seeking insurance have had in accessing the federal health care website.
In reality, as the National Immigration Law Center has noted, undocumented immigrants cannot get subsidized health care coverage under the ACA and are not even allowed to purchase private insurance through the individual health insurance Marketplace at full cost. They are also not eligible for subsidized health care or Medicare, nonemergency Medicaid, or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
As the federal health care website explains:
Undocumented immigrants aren't eligible for federal public benefits through the Affordable Care Act. For example, undocumented immigrants can't buy coverage through the Marketplace. Premium tax credits aren't available for undocumented immigrants.
Undocumented immigrants may continue to buy coverage on their own outside the Marketplace and can get limited services for an emergency medical condition through Medicaid, if they are otherwise eligible for Medicaid in the state. Undocumented immigrants aren't subject to the individual shared responsibility requirement.
Immigrants who have been granted deferred action through the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are also ineligible for Medicaid, CHIP or ACA benefits.
While undocumented immigrants are barred from applying for subsidized health care, their American children do qualify.
Naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and legal immigrants who have lived in the country for more than five years and don't have health care coverage through their jobs are also able to apply for subsidized health care and other benefit programs under the ACA.
Legal immigrants who have been in the country less than five years whose incomes fall below 400 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $46,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four -- will be eligible for subsidized coverage in the health insurance exchange. Those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $15,800 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four -- will not be eligible for Medicaid coverage (except for pregnant women depending on the state) but can qualify for exchange subsidies if they pay 2 percent of income.
Fox News hosted discredited documentary filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch to attack an immigration rally that took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C, accusing non-English speaking participants of being undocumented and attacking participants for "climbing on some of the statues."
On October 8, several thousand demonstrators gathered on the Mall to call on lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants:
[T]housands of activists -- from young children wearing white T-shirts that read "Don't Deport My Dad" to activists cheering and waving signs that proclaimed: "No Human is Illegal" -- gathered on the Mall on a cool October afternoon. More than a dozen congressional Democrats and four House Republicans came before the crowd to push for a reform bill in the House.
Fox News reported on the rally by hosting filmmaker Dennis Michael Lynch, who characterized the protest as an "illegal immigrant rally." On the October 9 edition of America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer spoke to Lynch who likened the protest to a "rock concert" and said, "I felt like I was back down in Texas along the border where there's no fence and you say, 'come on in!' I mean, they were welcomed."
The National Hispanic Media Coalition, a media advocacy and civil rights organization, is calling on Fox News to apologize for a derogatory segment demonizing the children of undocumented immigrants as "Children of the Corn." In an open letter addressed to Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, NHMC president Alex Nogales called the segment "unacceptable," writing: "It is one thing for Fox News to routinely spread hate towards Latino and immigrant adults. It is quite another to demonize innocent children."
In a September 19 segment on Fox News' Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace discussed the findings from Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid" in the county. The total aid is projected to cost about $650 million by year's end.
During the segment, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. Text accompanying the graphic read "Children of the Corn" and "Alien Nation."
In the letter, Nogales wrote that the phrase "Children of the Corn" "likens immigrant children to the murderous cult of fictional children depicted in Stephen King's horror story and its universally-familiar film adaptations. It covertly insinuates that Latino and immigrant children are to be feared." He continued:
NHMC urges that Fox News and Chris Wallace immediately issue an apology to Latino children, and that you send a formal memo to all Fox News staff, urging refrain from all anti-Latino and anti-immigrant smears, especially those directed at innocent children.
Nogales went on to note that studies show that such negative rhetoric "may breed hate and impact the health of not only members of the targeted group, but anyone that hears these messages." Indeed, a September 2012 NHMC report found that Fox News viewers and conservative radio listeners are more likely to have negative views of Latinos and immigrants than those who watch more mainstream outlets.
The NHMC study stated that Fox News audiences were "more likely to agree that Latinos are on welfare (56%), take jobs from Americans (43%) and have too many children (42%)" -- all myths Fox News has repeatedly advanced.
Nogales concluded by saying that "Fox News must do better," adding, "At a time when Fox News' parent company is trying to attract Latino eyeballs, Fox News must understand that Latinos will not embrace the brand that hates them."
NHMC, which was founded in Los Angeles in 1986 with the mission of increasing Hispanic representation in the news, now boasts nine chapters nationwide and seeks to "eradicate the negative Latino stereotypes depicted in all forms of media." In February, it honored actor Michael Peña, comedian John Leguizamo, and host Mario Lopez for "helping erase negative Latino stereotypes in Hollywood."
The Special Report segment has also been criticized by Latino news sites and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In a post that called the segment "disappointing," NAHJ president Hugo Balta condemned Fox for airing it, saying it was "riddled with basic misinformation and disdainful images."
Fox News is continuing its practice of appealing to conservative viewers while also pandering to the growing Latino influence in the United States.
In a report on American children in Los Angeles County whose parents are undocumented, Fox News used phrases such as "Alien Nation" and "Children of the Corn" to illustrate the story. In another report, the cable channel celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month -- a month-long tribute to Hispanic Americans starting on September 15 -- with a feature on the immigrant roots of Goya Foods.
On the September 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report guest-hosted by Chris Wallace, the program used several inflammatory graphics during a segment called "The Grapevine" to highlight a new analysis by Los Angeles County officials that an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." According to the data, the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
On Special Report, Wallace stated that the LA County data is "more proof of the economic impact of the immigration debate." As he cited the numbers, several graphics bearing the image of a man appearing to vault over a border fence lined with barbed wire flashed on-screen. One read: "Children of the Corn":
"Children of the Corn" is the name of a 1977 short horror story by Stephen King, which tells of a murderous cult of children in a remote town who kill everyone over the age of 18. The story was adapted for film in 1984; at least eight other movies followed.
Wallace nor Special Report explained or referred to the graphics during the segment, which also featured one reading: "Alien Nation":
From the September 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Right-wing media have seized on a report noting that American children in Los Angeles County with undocumented parents are receiving millions in benefits to revive the spurious smear that undocumented immigrants come to this country only to receive welfare. However, these outlets are missing the facts surrounding the data, including that studies show immigration reform could raise these children's standard of living.
In a September 16 article, the local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles reported that according to a new analysis by county officials, an "estimated 100,000 children of 60,000 undocumented parents receive aid in Los Angeles County." The article added that the projected cost to the county would equal $650 million in 2013.
County supervisor Michael D. Antonovich was quoted as saying that the total cost to taxpayers could exceed $1.6 billion per year after factoring in health care and public safety costs, adding, "These costs do not even include the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually for education."
Right-wing media outlets, including the Daily Caller, The Blaze, and Breitbart.com, highlighted the report, with the Power Line blog using it to accuse undocumented immigrants of putting a "burden" on "the nation's welfare system, along with driving down wages for working Americans." American Thinker commented: "To open borders crowd: Please make your donations here to cover the cost of allowing destitute, jobless, skilless, poorly educated people to cross the border. We can't bill the Mexican government so you're the next best target."
Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham read the news on her radio show and used it to call for the end of birthright citizenship -- which, under the 14th Amendment, makes anyone born in this country an American citizen. She also argued that the news should end all talk of immigration reform.
But these reports leave out key facts. In 2012, according to Antonovich's office, the total cost of food stamp benefits and Cal WORKs -- a welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible needy California families -- to Los Angeles County was a little over $3 billion. Families headed by an undocumented parent received about $636.5 million or a little more than 20 percent of the total.