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."
A Fox News "fact" on the supposed costs of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers was lifted from a study by the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) that has been debunked as flawed.
During a segment on Fox News' America's Newsroom discussing the new immigration reform plan soon to be released by a bi-partisan group in the Senate, Fox displayed a "Fox Facts" graphic as host Martha MacCallum interviewed Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC):
This so-called fact is based on research from the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR. In 2010, FAIR released a study titled, "The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers," which found "the annual costs of illegal immigration at the federal, state and local level to be about $113 billion." At the time the study was released, FoxNews.com defended both FAIR and the study.
From the April 8 edition of Cumulus Media Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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Fox News and Fox News Latino are again reporting the same story using different lenses to appeal to both their conservative audience and a growing Latino culture.
The Associated Press announced this week that it would no longer refer to undocumented immigrants as "illegal immigrants," saying:
The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term "illegal immigrant" or the use of "illegal" to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that "illegal" should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
Explaining the change, AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll stated that the wire service was "ridding the Stylebook of labels" in other areas and to be consistent, the term "illegal immigrant" will no longer be used. The new entry reads in part: "illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegallyor without legal permission."
Carroll further said that the term "ends up pigeonholing people or creating long descriptive titles where you use some main event in someone's life to become the modifier before their name."
In an article reporting the AP's move, Fox News Latino featured a photo of a woman holding up a sign that read, "No human being is illegal":
The Fox News Latino article, headlined " 'Illegal Immigrant' Dropped From Associated Press Stylebook," referred to the term "illegal immigrant" as "controversial" and included quotes from racial justice organization The Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.org.
By contrast, FoxNews.com highlighted the story on its front page with a picture of what appeared to be immigrants climbing over a border fence. The headline on the photo read: "AP Rules: Don't Call Him an... 'ILLEGAL?'"
From the April 2 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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From the March 29 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Fox News used the supervised release of immigrants to fearmonger about public safety, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of released immigrants have no criminal conviction or that for those with aggravated felony convictions under immigration law can mean crimes that are neither aggravated nor considered a felony.
A Miami Herald article highlighting the release of immigrant detainees reported that 225 immigrants were released in the Miami deportation unit that includes Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands but remained under supervision.
Discussing the story on Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto argued that the fact that some of the immigrants were considered "aggravated felons" contradicted the government's claim that no one released was dangerous. Conservative pundit Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com stated that the decision "shows a gross disregard for public safety," while falsely claiming that a third of the immigrants released had aggravated felony convictions.
In fact, as the Miami Herald reported, only two immigrants released in the Miami deportation unit had such convictions -- and the nature of their crimes was not divulged. Moreover, immigrants who have been convicted of such crimes are automatically subject to deportation, without a court hearing, and face the harshest penalties under immigration law -- which immigration experts argue are more severe than even criminal convictions.
As immigration expert David Leopold, General Council of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explained to Media Matters, an aggravated felony under immigration law can include more than violent offenses like murder and sexual assault:
Determining whether a crime is an aggravated felony under the immigration law requires a confusing analysis of state and federal statutes and precedent court decisions. Some crimes, such as theft or assault, are considered aggravated felonies based of the length of the jail sentence imposed by a federal or state court -- even if the entire sentence is suspended.
Other crimes, such those involving fraud and deceit, are considered aggravated felonies if the amount of loss to the victim exceeds $10,000, whether or not the money has been paid back. A state controlled substance offense is considered an aggravated felony if it would be a felony under the federal law. States are sovereign political entities with their own set of civil and criminal laws.