Immigration Myths

Issues ››› Immigration Myths
  • Hispanic Media Silent On Dangerous Bills Targeting Undocumented Immigrants

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Major Hispanic media news shows were silent on the Senate’s anticipated vote on two Republican-sponsored bills that could present a threat to undocumented immigrants. The proposed measures -- Kate’s Law and the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act -- echo anti-immigrant talking points previously spewed by conservative media, which paint undocumented immigrants as violent criminals and sanctuary cities as places that foster violent crime.

    The July 5 editions of some of the most highly viewed Hispanic media news shows -- Univision’s Noticiero Univision, Univision’s Noticiero Univision: Edición Nocturna, and Telemundo’s Noticiero Telemundo -- failed to report on the Senate’s vote on these bills, scheduled for July 6. Both bills, which failed to pass in the Senate, presented serious threats to undocumented immigrants and could in fact undermine crime deterrence capacities in some cities. 

    Senate Bill 2193, dubbed Kate’s Law by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, proposed a mandatory minimum prison sentence on undocumented immigrants attempting to re-enter the country. The Fox News host devoted plenty of airtime to fearmongering about undocumented immigrants and repeatedly lobbied to advance the bill through the legislative process. From the June 30 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

    Similarly, conservative news outlets hyped the need to pass Sen. Pat Toomey’s Senate Bill 3100, the Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act, which would have cut federal funding to “sanctuary cities,” or cities that do not necessarily report undocumented immigrants to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency if they have not committed a serious crime.

    But both bills would have had negative consequences for human rights and the federal budget. The Daily Beast said Kate’s Law “might do more harm than good” by potentially undoing previous successes in criminal justice reform and increasing America’s overlarge prison population. The Atlantic reported last year that the impact of Kate’s Law would be “dramatic,” and “cost the U.S. Bureau of Prisons an estimated $2 billion per year,” similarly noting that it would be counterintuitive to attempts to reform mass incarceration.

    Additionally, the basis for the failed Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act was that “sanctuary cities” threaten public safety, yet the American Immigration Lawyers Association and California’s attorney general have both argued that defunding “sanctuary cities” would not hurt public safety and that these types of cities might actually deter crime.

  • Editorial Boards Blame Republican Obstruction For Supreme Court's Immigration Impasse

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Numerous editorial boards slammed the Supreme Court’s “maddening” and “depressing” “nondecision” in United States v. Texas that upheld a federal court’s decision to block President Obama’s executive action on immigration that temporarily relieved millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The editorial boards blamed the impasse -- which “condemned” millions to “live in the shadows” -- on congressional Republicans’ obstruction of Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, as well as their failure to pass immigration reform.

  • VIDEO: Why Are Trump Supporters So Afraid Of Immigrants?

    Blog ››› ››› CARLOS MAZA & COLEMAN LOWNDES

    Donald Trump has made attacking immigrants a central part of his presidential campaign, tapping into anti-immigrant sentiment that’s been brewing for years thanks to a concerted effort by right-wing media outlets like Fox News.

    Trump’s campaign has been defined by his animosity toward immigrants: he launched his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and criminals, called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and, most recently, argued that an American-born federal judge with Mexican heritage can’t be trusted to do his job.

    Trump’s attacks on immigrants are copied and pasted from right-wing media, which have spent the better part of a decade warning Republican voters that immigrants are pouring across the border to take their jobs, commit crime, and spread disease. That constant barrage of misinformation has pulled Republican voters to the right -- Fox News Republicans have a considerably more negative view of immigrants than other Republicans.

    That coverage has also had an effect on GOP lawmakers and candidates, who know that sounding too moderate on immigration might make them targets for right-wing pundits. The fear of retaliation from conservative media helps explain why, by the end of the GOP primary, Trump’s opponents sounded a lot like him when it came to immigration.

    The Republican Party’s embrace of Trump’s anti-immigrant bigotry is a dramatic shift from the “compassionate conservative” approach touted during the Bush years, and demonstrates the power of right-wing media to influence Republican voters. A paper from the Harvard Kennedy School last year concluded that conservative media now dictate the direction of the Republican Party on immigration, driving it far to the right.

    Regardless of what happens in November, the Republican Party will need to come to terms with the anti-immigrant monster that right-wing outlets like Fox News have created.

  • Fox & Friends Hosts Discredited Academic To Push Faulty Anti-Immigrant Report

    Jason Richwine Has Argued That Latinos Will Never Reach IQ Parity With Whites

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News hosted anti-immigrant, discredited academic Jason Richwine -- who once claimed Latinos may “never reach IQ parity” with whites -- to peddle shoddy research painting immigrants as a fiscal burden. Richwine used the Fox platform to hype his anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report, which experts have called “fundamentally flawed" and pushes spurious claims about immigrants and welfare.

    Fox & Friends hosts allowed Richwine to hype his May 9 CIS report that claimed immigrant-headed households receive more welfare than households headed by native-born people. Experts called the findings “fundamentally flawed” and misleading, but Fox host Tucker Carlson called them “almost unbelievable” and “shocking.”

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): These numbers are almost unbelievable. I'm assuming they're true, they're shocking. I want to put up on the screen the amount in welfare that the average illegal immigrant gets every year. $5,692 versus American families $4,431. What kind of country gives more benefits to illegal aliens than to its own citizens?

    JASON RICHWINE: Well, you know, Tucker, it's actually, it's all immigrant households, not just illegal. It's legal and illegal. They both receive a very large amount of welfare. In fact, actually, about half of all immigrant households receive some form of welfare. And you see the numbers on the screen there. So it's quite large. To me, the biggest takeaway from this is that there is something fundamentally wrong with your immigration system when immigrants are receiving more welfare than natives.

    [...]

    CARLSON: Or at least have a public debate about it, which as of right now is not allowed at all, as you know. So the basic justification for the record high immigration levels we have now, 3 million people in the last two years, is that our economy needs it. They're the engine of the economy. It's a net plus to America economically. But these numbers suggest the opposite.

    RICHWINE: Immigration certainly raises GDP, but almost all of that money goes to the immigrants themselves. There's really only a small sliver that ends up going to natives and, in exchange for that sliver, there's a very large redistribution of money from labor to capital.

    Jason Richwine wrote in 2009 that Hispanics and blacks have lower IQs than white people, has penned articles for a “nationalist” website, and has tied himself to a network of anti-immigrant nativists. Richwine resigned from conservative think tank Heritage Foundation after co-authoring a shoddy, heavily criticized anti-immigration report.

    CIS has ties to hate groups in the nativist lobby, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and has been repeatedly criticized for its shoddy research.

  • Conservative Media Keep Relying On Shoddy Research From This Anti-Immigrant Group To Push Xenophobic Agenda

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Fox News and numerous other conservative media outlets uncritically presented the misleading conclusions of a May 2016 report by the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which claimed that immigrant-headed households consume more welfare than households headed by native-born people. Right-wing media have ignored criticism from experts pointing out the report’s methodological flaws and exaggerations in order to present immigrants as a fiscal burden.

    Right-wing outlets including Breitbart, Newsmax, and The Daily Caller hyped the May 9 CIS report claiming that immigrant-headed households receive more welfare than households headed by native-borns. On May 12, Fox correspondent Eric Shawn presented the study’s claims uncritically during the “Truth Serum” segment of Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor. Host Bill O’Reilly introduced the segment by announcing the story was about “tax money going to support illegal aliens”:

    Experts have already leveled criticism at the report. Immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh wrote that “The CIS headline result … lacks any kind of reasonable statistical controls” and that “CIS’ buried results undermine their own headline findings.” The American Immigration Council called the report “fundamentally flawed” and criticized its methodology as “creative accounting”:

    The biggest shortcoming of both reports is that they count the public benefits utilized by U.S.-born children as costs incurred by the “immigrant-headed households” of which they are a part—at least until those children turn 18, that is, at which point they are counted as “natives.”

    The problem with this kind of creative accounting is that all children are “costly” when they are young because they consume educational and health services without contributing any tax revenue. However, that situation reverses when they are working-age adults who, in a sense, “pay back” in taxes what they consumed as children. So it is disingenuous to count them as a “cost of immigration” one minute, and then as native-born taxpayers the next minute.

    According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), CIS has ties to hate groups in the nativist lobby and “has never found any aspect of immigration that it liked, and it has frequently manipulated data to achieve the results it seeks.” CIS has repeatedly been criticized for publishing shoddy research work that includes the “misinterpretation and manipulation of data” and methodologies that are “deeply flawed.”

    These criticisms of the new report received no mention on right-wing media reports on the study. Previous equally flawed CIS studies have been similarly promoted by conservative media, indicating a pattern: CIS publishes a study with anti-immigrant conclusions, and right-wing media ignore facts to report it uncritically, despite expert criticisms pointing to methodological flaws, nuances, or controls that undermine the study’s conclusion. This cycle joins other dishonest strategies from the immigrant smearing playbook that have been repeatedly employed by right-wing media.

  • An Extensive Guide To The Fact Checks, Debunks, And Criticisms Of Trump’s Various Problematic Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY & JARED HOLT

    Over the course of the 2016 presidential primary, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has laid forth a series of problematic policy proposals and statements -- ranging from his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States to his suggestion that the United States default on debt -- that media have warned to be “dangerous,” “fact-free,” “unconstitutional,” “contradictory,” “racist,” and “xenophobic.” Media Matters compiled an extensive list of Trump’s widely panned policy plans thus far along with the debunks and criticism from media figures, experts and fact-checkers that go along with them.

  • Conservative Media Advocated For Illegally Keeping Immigrant Students Out Of School, And Now It’s Actually Happening

    ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Right-wing media figures have for years advocated in favor of denying undocumented immigrant students access to public education,and now an Associated Press investigation reports that it may be happening "in at least 35 districts in 14 states." These policies may be not only unconstitutional -- according to a Supreme Court ruling that specifically bans public school districts from denying enrollment to children based on their immigration status -- but also illegal under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

  • Right-Wing Media Keep Rehashing The Xenophobic Smear That Immigrants Bring Diseases

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Conservative media frequently push the debunked claim that immigrants pose a threat to public health, merely changing the disease to fit their narrative. Fox News repackaged a popular nativist and anti-immigrant smear claiming that the child migrants from Central America were "an illegal health risk" and were bringing diseases into the country according to internal CDC emails.

    On the April 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, anchor Heather Nauert reported that "disease" had come with the "thousands of immigrant children" who came to the United States in 2014, fleeing violence from their home countries. The assertion was based on documents recently made public by the conservative activist group Judicial Watch showing officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) coordinating responses for the possibility of unaccompanied minors arriving with tuberculosis:

    While the CDC acknowledged that “a small number of cases of TB have been identified,” it also noted that “CDC believes the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America pose little risk of spreading infectious diseases to the general public.”

    Similar claims to Fox News' have been debunked by experts previously. In 2015 the fact-checking website PolitiFact examined Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump's claim that "tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border" and wrote that "The experts we contacted agreed that there is no evidence of a massive influx of infections across the border" as a consequence of undocumented immigration. An NBC News report explained that, in fact, most of the illnesses found in unaccompanied child immigrants were “nothing unusual,” including the common cold and head lice. NBC also noted that mechanisms were put in place so that arrivals are screened for tuberculosis -- which is not casually transmitted -- and facilities with the capacity to quarantine were made available. According to the most recent data from the World Health Organization, immunization rates for tuberculosis in Central America are above 80 percent. Tuberculosis in the United States has had a declining incidence for decades, with a relatively small increase of 157 more cases in 2015, which, according to the CDC, cannot be pinned on a single variable like undocumented immigration, since funding for prevention has been reduced or stagnant nationwide.

    However, the trope of immigrants carrying diseases to the United States is often perpetuated by anti-immigrant and nativist groups hoping to stoke fear and resentment towards immigrants. According to one expert, “There is a long, sad and shameful tradition in the United States in using fear of disease, contagion and contamination to stigmatize immigrants and foreigners.” Fox News and other conservative media figures -- including Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham -- have pushed this smear, blaming immigrants for diseases that range from leprosy, measles, chickenpox, and dengue to enterovirus and ebola, despite the absence of evidence showing a significant correlation. The Southern Poverty Law Center has explained that these claims "generally originate with modern nativist groups and ideologues." They are then presented by right-wing media as factual news, without the benefit of context or the opinions of experts that have explained how the threat that undocumented immigrants place on public health is "wildly overstated."