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."
During their significant coverage of his stand against the Obama administration's drone policy, the media have failed to examine Republican Sen. Rand Paul's support for surveillance drones in border states. Now that Paul has come out in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, media outlets have an opportunity to highlight this dichotomy -- especially in light of the fact that his immigration framework requires that drones be used to target immigrants.
In a February 11 Washington Times op-ed announcing his support for immigration reform, Paul wrote:
As a matter of both national security and immigration policy, though, it is absolutely essential that we both secure our border and modernize our visa system so we know who comes and who goes on travel, student and other temporary visas. It is vital all other reforms be conditioned on this goal being met.
Border security, including drones, satellite and physical barriers, vigilant deportation of criminals and increased patrols would begin immediately and would be assessed at the end of one year by an investigator general from the Government Accountability Office.
During an interview on Sean Hannity's radio show, Paul similarly stated that border enforcement should include "a combination of a lot of things," such as satellite imagery and drones. He then went on to dismiss his earlier stance against drones, adding that "for border security, you can use drones for surveillance. That's protecting our country." Hannity did not question Paul over the disconnect between these positions.
Similarly, media have largely ignored Paul's comments calling for drones to target immigrants, even though his stance is not new.
From the March 19 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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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.
The Republican Party wants to reinvent itself. The Republican National Committee's March 18 post-mortem of the 2012 election warns of a national party that "is increasingly marginalizing itself" by alienating women, Hispanics, African Americans, the youth -- basically everyone but old white people. The report prescribes a number of long-term fixes for the party, but before the GOP can even hope to implement them, they have to overcome a substantial hurdle: conservative talk radio and Rush Limbaugh. Can the Republican Party successfully undergo such a significant transformation when their most potent media platform refuses to go along?
We're already seeing friction between the party establishment and the AM dial. Not long after RNC chairman Reince Preibus unveiled his roadmap for the GOP's electoral future, President Obama formally nominated Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor. Perez, the son of Dominican immigrants, heads up the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and has been a key figure in the trumped-up scandal over the New Black Panthers. Reacting to the news, Rush Limbaugh drew a straight line between Perez and the "grand kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan" and also compared him to Hugo Chavez. It's not difficult to see how that bumps up against the recommendations in Preibus' report: "If we want ethnic minority voters to support Republicans, we have to engage them, and show our sincerity."
As for the RNC report itself, Limbaugh was not impressed. "The Republicans are just getting totally bamboozled right now. And they are entirely lacking in confidence. Which is what happens to every political party after an election in which they think they got shellacked," Rush said of Preibus' report, according to Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald.
Dick Morris, cut loose from Fox News after years of embarrassingly wrong political analysis, is still gainfully employed by The Hill, which continues to publish his weekly column. The very public battering Morris took following the 2012 election has done nothing to improve the quality of his commentary, and his most recent Hill column demonstrates as much. Headlined "Latinos could be GOP allies," the column is based on a Republican-funded push poll conducted by a pollster whose work in the 2012 Mexican presidential election distinguished itself with near-Dick Morris levels of inaccuracy.
"A new poll taken by Mexico's leading public opinion researcher shows that U.S. citizens of Latino descent are potentially strong allies of the Republican Party," writes Morris. The poll, as Morris acknowledges, was "organized and funded by John Jordan of Jordan Winery, a prominent Republican donor," but that's really the least of its problems. The questions asked, as quoted by Morris, are so over-the-top and one-sided that it's no real surprise the results are so favorable to the GOP:
By 59-34 percent, U.S. Latinos agreed that "Democrats are closer to the leaders we had in Latin America, always giving handouts to get votes. If we let them have their way, we will end up being like the countries our families came from, not like the America of great opportunities we all came to."
By 78-16 percent, U.S. Latinos agreed that Latino immigrants must "not go the way some have gone into high unemployment, crime, drugs, and welfare.
They must be more like the hard working immigrants who came here and worked their way up without depending on the government." More important, when asked which party most shares this sentiment, they chose the Republicans, by a margin of 45-29 percent.
By 47-31, Latinos agree that Republicans would do more to "strengthen churches so they can help the poor and teach values of faith and family." By 89-8, they think that "too many people depend on the government and its handouts. That way of thinking is very bad and leads to lifetimes of unemployment, poverty, and crime." And, by 45-37, they believe the Republican Party is more likely to share their view than Democrats are.
The poll's methodology does little to enhance its credibility. It combined telephone and in-person interviews conducted over the course of an entire month, January 15 to February 15. What's the problem with having a poll in the field that long? Something big could happen that might alter the opinions of the population being sampled -- like, say, the president of the United States laying out an immigration reform plan.
Fox's Laura Ingraham brought on Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), to attack the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and rebut SPLC's identification of FAIR as a "hate group." Ingraham and her guests ignored the fact that the SPLC, a non-profit organization that monitors hate groups and crimes, attached the label to FAIR in part as a result of the group's anti-immigrant advocacy, ties to white supremacists and the racist rhetoric of the group's founder John Tanton.
On the March 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Dane attempted to discredit the SPLC as a "far-left political attack machine" and compared the SPLC's activism to McCarthyism. Before the segment was over, Dane denied the very existence of hate groups, claiming that while hate crimes are real, "a hate group is a concoction, an invention of the politically-left Southern Poverty Law Center." Watch:
FAIR has a history of holding rallies where immigrants are smeared as "disease-ridden" criminals. One FAIR event featured a guest who had threatened, "We should hang you and send your body back to where you came from." FAIR also has close ties to the White Nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens and has received over $1 million in funding from a white supremacist group. According to the SPLC, FAIR is "the most important organization" in a network of 13 hate groups founded by John Tanton, who once warned of a coming "Latin onslaught."
Fox's Sean Hannity hosted former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick to hype their new book on immigration reform -- but Hannity never acknowledged that the book marked a major reversal of Bush's stance on a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
In their new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution, Bush and Bolick argue for an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws that does not include a pathway to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants. As The Huffington Post noted, Bush and Bolick wrote, "It is absolutely vital to the integrity of our immigration system that actions have consequences -- in this case, that those who violated the law can remain but cannot obtain the cherished fruits of citizenship."
But less than a year ago, Bush did advocate for a pathway to citizenship. As Talking Points Memo explained (emphasis original):
[Bush] told Charlie Rose in a June 2012 interview that he backed a path to citizenship, but would tolerate a lesser legal status for undocumented immigrants if necessary.
"You have to deal with this issue. You can't ignore it," Bush said at the time. "And so, either a path to citizenship, which I would support and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives; Or a path to legalization, a path to residency of some kind, which now hopefully will become -- I would accept that in a heartbeat as well if that's the path to get us to where we need to be which is on a positive basis using immigration to create sustained growth."
Bush's co-author, Goldwater Institute director Clint Bolick, is also on the record backing a path to citizenship, writing in 2007 that such a policy was a critical prerequisite to bringing Latino voters to the GOP.
Hannity failed to acknowledge Bush's reversal -- even as he asked the co-authors about their proposal for a pathway to legalization, but not citizenship, for undocumented immigrants.
From the March 4 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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From the February 21 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the February 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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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.
Fox News misleadingly invoked the 9-11 terrorist attacks to pillory President Obama's immigration policy, falsely claiming that the hijackers entered the United States illegally, and therefore would not have been arrested had they been detained in 2001 under Obama's immigration policy.
Citing a former Bush Immigration and Customs Enforcement official's February 2012 congressional testimony, Fox & Friends First co-host Ainsely Earhardt claimed that Obama's immigration policy would have allowed the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to remain in the United States had the policy been in effect in 2001, claiming his "policy prevents agents from arresting people solely for entering the country illegally."
However, the 9-11 hijackers did not enter the country illegally, so any immigration policy changes dealing with people entering the country illegally would not apply. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks reported that the hijackers entered the United States legally via visas issued by the State Department:
Beginning in 1997, the 19 hijackers submitted 24 applications and received 23 visas. The pilots acquired most of theirs in the year 2000. The other hijackers, with two exceptions, obtained their visas between the fall of 2000 and June 2001. Two of the visas were issued in Berlin, and two were issued in the United Arab Emirates. The rest were issued in Saudi Arabia. One of the pilots, Hani Hanjour, had an application denied in September 2000 for lack of adequate documentation. He then produced more evidence in support of his student visa application, and it was approved.
And while several of the hijackers had overstayed their visas, the Obama administration has taken steps to crack down on those who stay when their visas expire, focusing on security risks. From an Associated Press report in September 2011:
The Obama administration is cracking down on immigrants in the U.S. who have overstayed the terms of their visas by using a system that automatically checks multiple national security, immigration and law enforcement databases at the same time, a senior Homeland Security Department official said.
The common practice has been to make manual checks of individual databases. The new system already has identified dozens of investigative leads, said John Cohen, deputy counterterrorism coordinator at the Homeland Security Department.
The immediate focus is to identify people who have overstayed their visas and who pose potential threats to national security or public safety, Cohen said.
The department also is checking regularly the systems for people whose visas have not expired -- in some cases, as often as daily or weekly, Cohen said.
Such a review process deals with the reality that information about a person's potential terrorism ties might not be clear to the intelligence community until after a visa has been issued.
From the February 2 edition of Sirius XM's Media Matters Radio:
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