Fox News has repeatedly invoked the Boston bombings to suggest that immigration reform could exacerbate existing problems within the immigration system. However, their commentary actually highlights shortcomings that the bipartisan Senate bill will address in full.
According to Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace, the conservative Heritage Foundation is set to release a report that claims immigration reform will cost taxpayers billions of dollars. But Heritage's analysis is reportedly based on a 2007 study that was widely discredited by experts for its faulty methodology and dubious conclusions.
On KFTK's Allman in the Morning, Wallace stated that he plans to host Heritage Foundation president and former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint to introduce the report this weekend. Wallace said that the report will show that the proposed Senate immigration reform bill will "cost the Treasury billions of dollars" because "people would be eligible for Obamacare and various welfare programs."
In fact, as Wallace himself noted, undocumented immigrants who are granted legal status under the Senate bill will not be eligible for federal public benefits or subsidized health care for at least a decade. Moreover, immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to rely on such programs.
Wallace went on to criticize the conservative myth that immigrants come to the United States to gain access to government benefits.
Here are five facts media should know about the Heritage Foundation's previous problematic immigration report:
Fox News trumpeted the false claim that immigrants who receive provisional status under the immigration reform proposal would get a "tax amnesty" because the bill does not mandate they pay back taxes. In fact, the bill requires that immigrants -- at least three quarters of who already pay payroll taxes -- pay a tax liability before they can qualify for provisional legal status and ensure they pay taxes before they can renew their legal status.
In a FoxNews.com op-ed, Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform, accused the bipartisan group of senators behind the bill of giving a "tax amnesty" to undocumented immigrants because the bill does not contain language addressing "back taxes" and does not explicitly explain how taxes will be assessed. He wrote that "taxes assessed" are different from "taxes owed" and there is no proof that the proposal would require immigrants to pay anything:
While this sounds good at first blush, "taxes assessed" is not the same as "taxes owed." A tax assessment occurs when the IRS officially records that a person owes money because an individual files a tax return, or the IRS audits an individual - whether or not he has filed a return - and records how much the person owes.
The bill requires aliens to only pay taxes that the IRS has assessed at the time they apply for ["registered provisional immigrant"] RPI status.
If the IRS had no knowledge that the individual had been working here, there would obviously be no tax liability assessed and the alien has nothing to satisfy for the purpose of getting RPI status.
In fact, immigrants who apply for provisional legal status would have to pay taxes. The bill states that immigrants may not receive provisional status until any federal tax liability is satisfied in accordance with regulations to be established by the Secretary of the Treasury. This gives the IRS the discretion to decide how a tax liability will be administered to immigrants seeking the legal status. If an immigrant is granted legal status they would still be required to pay taxes during that period as well.
Fox News stoked fears of terrorism to attack immigration reform while failing to acknowledge that the Senate's proposed immigration legislation includes provisions to bolster security measures.
The Washington Post reported the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing legally immigrated to the United States as political refugees. Fox News personalities responded by attacking immigration reform and stoking fears of terrorism, going so far as to suggest that visitors from certain countries and regions be banned from entering the United States.
On the April 30 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Nauert continued Fox's pattern of using the Boston Marathon bombings to attack immigration reform and stoke fears of terrorism, asserting that terrorists are "being granted tourist visas." She went on to claim that certain individuals were "overstaying" those legal limits, and asked: "Why isn't there a plan in place to catch that?"
NAUERT: Critics say it is a gaping hole that Washington needs to fix, and fix right now ... And let's remember some of those 9-11 hijackers were here on student visas and overstayed those student visas as well.
During the report, on-screen text falsely claimed the Senate's immigration reform proposal "gives no solution" to individuals overstaying their immigration visas:
In fact, the number of legal immigrants overstaying their visas declined by 73% between 2000 and 2009, thanks to the Department of Homeland Security's enhanced security measures in the years following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate on April 17 is designed to speed that decline by implementing what Republican Senator Marco Rubio called "an effective entry and exit system."
Responding to questions about enforcement and temporary visas in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano described how provisions in the Senate immigration reform bill would "give us more measurements, more metrics, more identities, more things that we can use from a law enforcement purpose."
Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev "initially escaped the notice of federal authorities on a six-month trip to Russia last year because his name was misspelled on his airline ticket," The Washington Post reported. But Napolitano pointed out that the proposed electronic monitoring system is designed to specifically address that problem, as it "does a good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process."
CBS News reported that the bill's "modernized visa system" would monitor "the future traffic of immigrants during both departure and arrival to ensure that nobody overstays their welcome." The summary of the bill's framework further details that the success of the full proposal is "contingent upon our success in securing our border and addressing visa overstays" and requires "the completion of an entry-exit system that tracks whether all persons entering the United States on temporary visas via airports and seaports have left the country as required by law."
From the April 26 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox Nation falsely equated "amnesty," a term shown to produce negative reactions, with a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In fact, a pathway to earned citizenship would require immigrants illegally in the U.S. to meet a number of requirements before applying for citizenship.
On April 24, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in which he said, "creating a pathway to earned citizenship" for undocumented immigrants is "a matter of civil and human rights." Fox Nation highlighted the speech under the headline "Holder Calls Amnesty a 'Civil Right.' " In its post, however, Fox Nation reported that Holder said "creating a 'pathway to earned citizenship' was a 'civil right.' "
Fox Nation equated "amnesty" with a pathway to earned citizenship, but the two are not the same. To get on a pathway to earned citizenship, undocumented immigrants would have to face a number of hurdles, including completing a registration process, paying fines and taxes, and studying English.
Indeed, the comprehensive immigration reform proposal introduced in the Senate on April 17 by a bipartisan group of senators includes numerous conditions undocumented immigrants must meet before they can apply for citizenship, along with waiting a minimum of 13 years. That legislation has been repeatedly attacked by conservative media as "amnesty," even though immigration experts dispute the claim.
Conservative media figures are using the Boston Marathon bombings to pressure lawmakers to halt attempts at immigration reform, the details of which were released last week by eight bi-partisan members of the Senate known as the "Gang of Eight." By suggesting that immigration reform could facilitate future terrorist attacks, right-wing media are attempting to obstruct legislation that a majority of Americans support.
A Bloomberg Businessweek article pushed the myth that immigrants will take away jobs from high-skilled American workers. In fact, numerous studies show that highly skilled immigrants expand the number of jobs for all workers.
The article, titled "Immigration Reform May Make Your Job Search Much Tougher," makes the case that if immigration reform passes in its current form, high-skilled immigrants would compete with American workers, making it potentially more difficult for Americans to find jobs in some high-skilled markets. Neil Ruiz, an immigration expert at Brookings Institution, claims that potentially 343,000 foreign students would be eligible for visas due to the expansion of the H-1B visa program and the lifting of the cap on "aliens of extraordinary ability" visas:
The Senate's bill also lifts the caps entirely on another category of high-skilled immigrants, known as "aliens of extraordinary ability." (Yes, that's really the term.) If an immigrant has an MD, a PhD in math, science, or engineering, or can prove to the government that she has extraordinary abilities--a successful dancer or editor of a niche magazine, for example--then one can bypass the entire H1-B system. An employer can sponsor the immigrant immediately for a green card.
Under the bill, even undergrads can get green cards directly out of college without having to apply for the H1-B. Ruiz estimates that about 343,000 foreign students currently studying in the U.S. will be eligible to apply for this fast track to citizenship.
However, there already is no cap on visas for immigrants with "extraordinary ability." Moreover, even without Senate legislation, the number of people who could potentially qualify for this visa type (O-1 visa) is small. Out of almost 9 million visas given out last year, only 10,590 people were issued "O-1" type visas, which are split into two categories -- O-1A for science, technology, engineering and math and O-1B for those involved in the arts.
The visa process requires the applicant to show they have "received a major, internationally-recognized award, such as a Nobel Prize," or additional criteria. The O-1B visa requires similar evidence, including a "significant national or international award or prize ... such as an Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy." In addition, unless guidelines change under the new comprehensive immigration legislation, the visa expires after three years and must be renewed each following year.
However, even with more highly skilled workers, studies have shown that more immigrants actually increases demand for workers, stimulates investment, and promotes specialization for many workers already in the labor force.
Immigration experts dispute right-wing radio claims that the comprehensive immigration reform proposal is "amnesty." Indeed, the legislation introduced in the Senate on April 17 by a bipartisan group of senators includes a number of provisions undocumented immigrants would have to meet before they could apply for citizenship -- along with waiting at a minimum 13 years.
To attack the legislation, conservative radio talk hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham are claiming that the immigration proposal is "amnesty" and that undocumented immigrants would not have to earn citizenship. In fact, the bill places a number of conditions on undocumented immigrants before they could apply for citizenship. Moreover, the federal government would have to meet several border enforcement guidelines before undocumented immigrants could take advantage of such a path.
Here are five immigration experts who also dispute right-wing radio claims that the proposal is "amnesty":
From the April 18 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing radio talk hosts are attacking the comprehensive immigration reform proposal as "amnesty," claiming undocumented immigrants will not have to earn citizenship. In fact, immigrants here illegally would face a number of hurdles before they could even apply for permanent residency under the bill, including paying fees, fines, and taxes.
On her syndicated radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham repeatedly claimed that the Senate bill -- introduced on April 17 as the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" -- is "amnesty" because, according to her, undocumented immigrants will not be punished for breaking the law. She further stated: "This is amnesty. Within six months, every single person here illegally gets to be RPI. RPI is the provisional immigrant status. You get that in six months after the bill is signed."
Rush Limbaugh also attacked the bill as "amnesty" on his radio show.
In fact, the bill places a number of conditions on undocumented immigrants before they can apply for citizenship -- which is contingent upon the federal government meeting several border enforcement guidelines. Moreover, not all would qualify.
From the April 16 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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The findings of a poll that the majority of Latino immigrants who come to the United States illegally do so for economic opportunities and a better life for their families deflate the right-wing media myth that undocumented immigrants are more interested in taking advantage of government benefits.
The poll released April 15 by Latino Decisions found that more than three quarters of undocumented immigrants from Latin America "came to the U.S. for better economic opportunity, or to create a better life for their family."
From the poll:
Opportunity is identified as the principal reason for coming to the United States. Overall, 77% came to the U.S. for better economic opportunity, or to create a better life for their family. Approximately 39% of our respondents said "better jobs and economic opportunity" as the reason for migration, while another 38% said "to create a better life for [your] family and children." Another 12% came to reunite with family members.
A recent Washington Post article quoted Center for Immigration Studies' research director Steven Camarota who peddled the claim that undocumented immigrants "need" social government programs because they are supposedly more reliant on public services than native-born Americans.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has said that immigration reform would mean more immigrants "on the welfare entitlement train;" the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore has warned that the U.S. welfare system could become a "magnet" for other immigrants; and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin has argued that immigration reform would "rope more immigrants into [the] welfare state."
Fox News and National Review Online gave credence to claims about immigrant's use of social benefits by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) without noting that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to rely on such programs.
In a Fox News segment about the cost of comprehensive immigration reform to taxpayers, host Neil Cavuto allowed CIS research director Steven Camarota to repeat the myth that immigrants use social benefits at higher rates than native-born Americans because they are less educated, and that, if given legal status, they would stay on welfare. Cavuto did not challenge any of Camarota's claims:
Camarota's CIS counterpart, executive director Mark Krikorian, penned a column for National Review Online to further establish the myth, saying that, if you control for income, immigrants' rate of use of social benefit programs is less than that of poor Americans. He added that this means that "immigration imports a better class of underclass."
Numerous studies have debunked the claim that immigrants use public benefits in greater numbers than Americans, which Krikorian admitted in his column, albeit with a clear caveat. Moreover, as the Cato Institute explained when it took issue with CIS' study on immigrants and their use of public benefits, CIS uses a flawed methodology that counts the American-born children of immigrants along with undocumented or legal immigrants to determine costs:
Our approach of counting immigrant welfare use individually is used by the conservative state of Texas to measure immigrant use of government education and other benefits. The Texas Comptroller's Office did not include the children of immigrants who were American citizens when calculating the cost to public services in Texas because, "the inclusion of these children dramatically increased the costs."
In other words, counting the cost of the children of immigrants who are born citizens is a bad approach. If we were to follow Camarota's methodology, why not count the welfare costs of the great-grandchildren of immigrants who use welfare or public schools today? Our study, on the other hand, measures the welfare cost of non-naturalized immigrants and, where possible, naturalized Americans.
As the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of Eight" moves closer to releasing an immigration reform bill, Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform, lays out in an op-ed for Politico the "five compelling reasons why Republicans should walk away" from the legislation. Each one of Stein's "compelling reasons" is wildly misleading, unsubstantiated, or flat-out wrong.
Let's run them down, one by one.
"Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy will not even allow hearings on a bill."
This is completely false:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has formally announced an April 17 hearing on comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will testify.
The hearing is in part the result of talks with the bipartisan Gang of Eight working on the soon-to-be unveiled legislation -- including Marco Rubio, who pushed for a slower committee process.
"Democrats will not agree to border security and other enforcement requirements as a prerequisite to amnesty."
According to Stein, Gang of Eight member Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) "demands that legalization take place before border security or other enforcement provisions are in place." Not true! According to the Associated Press, the Gang of Eight arrived at a compromise wherein immigrants "living here illegally could begin to get green cards in 10 years but only if a new southern border security plan is in place, employers have adopted mandatory electronic verification of their workers' legal status and a new electronic exit system is operating at airports and seaports." Schumer is reportedly working on convincing House Democrats to support the compromise, arguing that it is "not an impediment to citizenship but rather works alongside citizenship."