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.
Fox News accused the government of willfully endangering Americans by releasing undocumented immigrants who commit sex crimes instead of trying and deporting them. In fact, immigrants who commit crimes are arrested and tried in a criminal court before potentially going through deportation proceedings in immigration court.
On the September 17 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly brought on Fox's legal analysts Kimberly Guilfoyle and Lis Whiel to discuss a recent GAO report that found that 2,837 undocumented immigrants who were convicted of a sex offense were released under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) supervision as of September 2012. O'Reilly called the release a "frightening situation" and asked why the government couldn't "get these people tried or deport them in six months." Guilfoyle blamed the government's "inefficiency" in administering justice and "releasing these predators back into the street." They all agreed immigrants should be subject to tougher standards for criminal conduct than Americans.
But immigrants who commit crimes still face criminal repercussions. Undocumented immigrants who are arrested for a crime must go through the criminal justice system -- similar to when an American is arrested for a crime -- and can serve jail time or pay fines for those crimes. ICE then holds a separate hearing to determine whether the immigrant should be subject to removal following jail time.
One of the most repeated claims against immigration reform from conservative media is that legalizing immigrants would negatively impact the U.S. economy. Another is that immigrants take jobs from American workers. And that the economy should take precedence over immigration reform, despite the fact that immigration is an economic issue.
A new study that examined government data over a 40-year period has punctured all of these myths, finding that immigration -- vital to hard-hit communities across the nation -- has a positive effect on the country and the economy, especially in the manufacturing sector.
As CBS News reported, a study by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and the Partnership for a New American Economy found that immigrants "are boosting job growth, raising home prices and more broadly helping to revive thousands of economically distressed communities." Many of those communities, CBS News pointed out, are in rural areas with a heavy manufacturing focus.
The study, prepared by Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor, used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Community Survey to assess the impact of immigration on "the number of middle-class manufacturing jobs," "the health of the housing market," and "the size of the local U.S.-born population." It looked at nearly 3,100 counties within a 40-year period from 1970 to 2010.
The report highlighted three key findings:
The study found that the "arrival of high-skilled immigrants as well as workers that are part of the essential economy has also greatly contributed to the growth of the manufacturing industry in places like Los Angeles, Houston, and in southern Arizona." To illustrate, the study contrasted Los Angeles County with Cook County in Chicago and found:
A wave of new foreign-born residents moved to both areas between 1970 and 2010, but the growth was proportionately much larger in Los Angeles. There, the immigrant population nearly quintupled, compared to the doubling experienced in Cook County.
Bearing in mind that when 1,000 immigrants move to an area 46 manufacturing jobs are created or preserved, the fact that Los Angeles added 2.7 million immigrants over this time period -- rather than Cook County's 600,000 -- accounts for about half of the difference in total manufacturing jobs between the two areas in 2010. Immigrants now account for more than 35 percent of the population in Los Angeles County, a substantial share of the population.
Conservative media are turning to a 22-year-old letter signed by Coretta Scott King to accuse immigration reform activists of co-opting the civil rights movement. They deceptively argue that the letter proves Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta would have opposed the modern immigration reform movement.
In 1991, Coretta Scott King signed a letter addressed to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that urged him to reconsider a proposal to undercut penalties on companies that employed undocumented workers that were mandated by the 1986 immigration law. King, along with other members of the Black Leadership Forum -- a coalition of leaders from some of the country's preeminent African-American organizations at the time -- wrote that they wanted an opportunity to study the effects such a repeal would have on African-American and Hispanic workers. The letter stated:
We are concerned, Senator Hatch, that your proposed remedy to the employer sanctions-based discrimination, namely, the elimination of employer sanctions, will cause another problem -- the revival of the pre-1986 discrimination against black and brown U.S. and documented workers, in favor of cheap labor -- the undocumented workers. This would undoubtedly exacerbate an already severe economic crisis in communities where there are large numbers of new immigrants.
The letter added: "With roughly 7 million people unemployed, and double that number discouraged from seeking work, the removal of employer sanctions threatens to add additional U.S. workers to the rolls of the unemployed. Additionally, it would add to competition for scarce jobs and drive down wages."
The Black Leadership Forum members were clear that their concerns were centered on discrimination -- against minority workers and against immigrants. The letter said nothing about the larger illegal immigration issue. In fact, it didn't even express disagreement with the 1986 immigration law -- that law granted legal status and a pathway to citizenship to nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants -- which would have been a clear indication that members were against reform.
Instead they wrote that they were invested in "the elimination of the root causes of national origin discrimination under the Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), as well as discriminatory impact."
In a 1990 report on the law, the General Accounting Office found that "substantial" and "serious" national original discrimination was introduced as a result of the law, but that it was "not pervasive." GAO wrote that it "believes many employers discriminated because the law's verification system does not provide a simple or reliable method to verify job applicants' eligibility to work." That report formed the basis for a proposal by Hatch and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to eliminate employer sanctions.
Conservative media figures are using the Forum letter to claim that immigration reform activists are, as Breitbart.com put it, "trying to co-opt the civil rights messages of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to push immigration reform through Congress," which "seem[s] to be directly contradicting the wishes of the late Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King." Breitbart.com went on to claim that "Coretta Scott King and other black community leaders argued that illegal immigration would have a devastating impact on the black community."
On her radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham echoed that claim, suggesting that immigration rights' activists are conflating the civil rights movement with the immigration reform movement. She read from the letter to illustrate her point, adding, "So in 1991, Coretta Scott King was saying on the issue of amnesty what many of us are saying now."
Ingraham went on to criticize those who spoke in favor of immigration reform at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, accusing them of "ruining the moment."
Earlier in the show, Ingraham stated that African-Americans would be the ones who would suffer the most if Congress passed immigration reform, adding that they are "the very people who Dr. Martin Luther King struggled, and ultimately died, to protect and to elevate. That's the sad thing about all of this." She claimed immigration rights' activists were "confused" to conflate the issues of race and civil rights, even though the issues are undeniably intertwined.
Ingraham went on to say:
INGRAHAM: But to conflate the issue of equal opportunity, the desire for a fair application of existing law with the issue of allowing exceptions to the law or indeed amnesty for law breakers, and that's where you find the illegal immigration issue involved here, that's something wild right? But I think the left wants everyone to believe out there that the struggle for amnesty is equivalent to the struggle for racial equality and equal opportunity.
From the August 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham used a single anecdote about supposed undocumented immigrants living together in close quarters to denounce a study finding that immigration reform would help the housing market. In fact, the study finds that the immigration population -- including undocumented immigrants -- would benefit the housing market by driving up values, as well as generating demand in previously less desirable neighborhoods.
During a radio interview with Rep. Steve King -- the Republican congressman from Iowa whose comments likening undocumented immigrants to drug smugglers continue to draw fire -- Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham said she understood what he was saying but that he "could've worded it differently." She added: "I think you have to be smarter in the way you use your language."
Ingraham went on to accuse media outlets of refusing to cover crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and cited a number of such cases to suggest a link between violent crime and immigrants in the country illegally.
Following the interview, she addressed calls for him to apologize and asked: "Is he right in refusing to back down on this and give in to the PC pressure from the left and right? Is Steve King right on this or not -- to apologize?"
In fact, as The Wall Street Journal reported, King's suggestion that most undocumented immigrants are drug smugglers "is not politically incorrect. It's simply incorrect."
In a July 18 interview with Newsmax, King attacked undocumented youths known as DREAMers -- those who were brought into the country illegally and are younger than 35 -- claiming that for every one who's a valedictorian, there are another 100 who "weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."
While the comments have received widespread condemnation from congressional Republicans, some in the conservative media have defended King, saying that "the facts back King up," in the words of Breitbart.com's Matthew Boyle.
But as the Journal noted, the facts do not back King up:
Right-wing media have cited the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 as a reason to oppose the bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate June 27. However, the Senate immigration bill learns from and corrects the mistakes of the IRCA through increased border and interior enforcement and the creation of a legal channel for low-skilled workers.
The Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA), an anti-immigrant coalition that has ties to nativist hate groups, is hosting a rally in Washington, D.C., on July 15 with the purported mission to "preserve economic opportunity for American workers" by opposing immigration reform. Here is what the media should know about the group and its effort.
Appearing on Meet the Press, National Review editor Rich Lowry presented several falsehoods about the Senate's comprehensive immigration reform bill, misinterpreting and misstating the contents of the Congressional Budget Office's assessment of the legislation.
On July 8, Lowry co-wrote an editorial with Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol calling on congressional Republicans to "kill the bill." On Meet the Press on July 14, Lowry called for the passage of "incremental" immigration legislation in the House instead of comprehensive reform.
Lowry claimed that "we're still going to have, depending on your estimates, 6, 7, 8 million more illegal immigrants here in 10years."
In fact, the CBO forecasts that by 2023 there will be 8.1 million less undocumented immigrants in the country.
Later, Lowry said that "according to the CBO, unemployment will be higher" between 2014 and 2020 if the bill passes and that wages "will be lower."
But the CBO report notes that slight reductions in average wages "for the much of the next two decades" caused by the bill's passage would mostly be felt by "the additional people who would become residents under the legislation" who will "earn lower wages," and is not likely to impact current U.S. residents.
The report also notes that the bill would have "no effect on the unemployment rate after 2020."
Lowry also said "the CBO says there's no deficit reduction in the first 10 years," which directly contradicts the report's contents. The CBO explains that "the legislation would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the 2014-2023 period and by roughly $700 billion over the 2024-2033 period."
Conservative media figures have repeatedly distorted the data surrounding immigration reform, while also demanding that Republican elected officials refuse to pass the pending legislation.
Fox News is reviving the pernicious smear that undocumented immigrants are criminals in order to attack the comprehensive immigration reform proposal being debated in the Senate. In fact, the legislation toughens provisions against those immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and bars them from gaining legal status; moreover, studies show that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.
Right-wing media have urged Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to abandon comprehensive immigration reform efforts in their continued effort to thwart the Senate's attempt to overhaul the nation's immigration system.
Right-wing media outlets are hyping a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist organization -- which claims that the Senate's immigration bill would double the number of guest workers admitted into the country each year. The study, however, is just the latest in a series of flawed, debunked studies that CIS has released.
The outlets - including the Daily Caller, Newsmax, The Washington Times, Breitbart.com, and Drudge Report -- have all highlighted the study which claims that in the first year of the Senate's proposed comprehensive immigration reform bill, "nearly 1.6 million more temporary workers than currently allowed" will be admitted to the United States. The study also claims that the bill would double the number of temporary workers admitted each year compared to current levels.
What these outlets fail to mention is that, like many of CIS' previous studies -- and others they have latched on to in order to undermine immigration reform -- this study is flawed and its conclusions are bogus.
Philip Wolgin, senior policy analyst for immigration at the Center for American Progress, emphasized the top five reasons the CIS study "misses the mark," including its lack of methodology, double-counting temporary and permanent immigrants, misrepresenting who will actually compete with American workers, and the miscounting of visa categories. Wolgin explained that CIS makes significant statistical errors, including what he calls the "absurd" idea that 950,000 people would apply for and be granted the V Visa in the first year after the immigration reform bill's passage.
The V visa is a temporary visa that allows the family members of legal permanent residents to remain in the country legally until they are granted permanent residency as well. As the Center for American Progress explained, even though 75 percent of spouses and children of permanent residents are exempted from per-country quotas, some families still face up to 19 years apart due to backlogs in the immigration system.
Wolgin also pointed out that among the three visa categories that make up 83 percent of the increases in the CIS study, CIS over-counted by more than 255,000 people.
Radio host Laura Ingraham hosted the executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR), Leah Durant, to push the debunked myth that the immigration reform bill would hurt the African-American unemployment rate, despite studies which show the opposite is true.
On the June 4 edition of The Laura Ingraham Show, Ingraham introduced Durant as a "progressive" voice on the issue and not a "right-wing bomb thrower." Durant explained that her group is against the immigration bill because it would have "devastating consequences" on low-skilled workers, specifically in the black community:
However, Durant's organization is a pretty far cry from a "progressive" group. Progressives for Immigration Reform was set up as part of the John Tanton network of anti-immigrant nativists after they failed to take over the Sierra Club, which the Southern Poverty Law Center called "greenwashing" -- a tactic used by nativist groups to appeal to environmentalists in order to mainstream their nativist viewpoints in a more respectable venue. In another attempt at "greenwashing" right-wing groups established Progressives for Immigration Reform "as a purported group of 'liberals' " in the latest attempt "by nativist forces to appear as something they are not."
Imagine 2050, an organization that promotes a multiracial democracy, highlighted some of PFIR's links to the anti-immigrant movement, including the fact that nativist Roy Beck, head of NumbersUSA, helped recruit the executive director of PFIR. In addition, several of the group's members, including Durant, have close ties to Tanton's other groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies -- groups labeled nativist by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In fact, as the Anti-Defamation League pointed out, at a recent conference run by PFIR, several notable anti-immigrant nativists were in attendance, including VDARE's Peter Brimelow, Wayne Lutton, editor of The Social Contract, an anti-immigrant pro-white publication, and K.C. McAlpin, president of U.S., Inc. who once defended banning Muslim immigrants as similar to banning communists or Nazis in the past.
While the group's ties are problematic enough, the claim that immigration would hurt African-Americans' job prospects is also false and has been called a "pernicious myth" by Daniel Griswold of the Cato Institute. Several comprehensive studies have shown that there is no evidence to support the claim. In fact, wages for native-born Americans tend to increase as a result of immigration -- including one estimate which found that due to immigration native-born African-American workers saw a wage increase of .4 percent from 1994 to 2007.
From the May 23 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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