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The Miami Herald editorial board praised recent efforts by the Obama administration to address immigration by those fleeing violence from Central American countries, providing important context that right-wing media often ignore in attempts to demonize immigrants.
The board pointed out that the administration’s expansion of its “Central American refugee program” is an attempt to live “up to this country’s humanitarian values,” underscoring that “seeking shelter from gang violence in Central America” is what has caused increases in the number of immigrants. This context draws a stark contrast to conservative media’s routine demonization of immigrants, which includes blaming them for diseases, terrorism, or stealing American jobs or misrepresenting government immigration policies as “lawlessness.” Fox News recently mischaracterized the new government immigration policy that protects “sensitive locations” by failing to explain its objective of improving “public understanding and trust.” Conservative media misinformation and demonization of immigrants has inspired the harsh anti-immigrant tone in right-wing politics.
In the August 2 editorial, the Herald noted that “the administration deserves credit for acknowledging that more needs to be done” and explained that the new initiative provides incentives for Central American refugees to avoid the perilous journey to the United States, prioritizes opportunities for those in urgent need of refugee assistance, works to keep more families together, and undermines migrant smuggling activities:
The Obama administration substantially expanded its Central American refugee program last week by making entire families eligible for approval, expanding refugee processing in Central America and offering immediate protection for some in Costa Rica.
This will not put an end to the border crisis caused by the dramatic increase in migrants seeking shelter from gang violence in Central America, but the administration deserves credit for acknowledging that more needs to be done.
For years, the administration has been under pressure from Congress and the public to devise a program that can deal with the crisis in a way that meets the often conflicting goals of living up to this country’s humanitarian values while keeping our borders from being overrun.
This is a tall order, particularly in an election year in which immigration is a hot-button issue. It is important to declare plainly that the “expansion” is no open door for new waves of migrants. It will be limited, administration officials say, to those who have legitimate claims of asylum because of the violence they face in their home countries and communities.
The most welcome aspect of the program consists of the reassurance that the administration remains committed to finding a way to tackle immigration in a safe and responsible manner despite criticism from all sides that it is either doing too much (deportations) or not enough (by failing to protect the border, or turning back migrants who deserve to have their asylum claims heard).
The expansion announced last week cannot possibly accommodate all those individuals in Central America, young and old, who are desperate to flee, but it creates priorities and speeds up the review of legitimate claims. It also undermines the activities of “coyotes” who charge exorbitant fees for smuggling migrants across the border.
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Ryan Hypes Right-Wing Media Fiction About “Benefit Cliffs” As “The Core” Of His Anti-Poverty Agenda
CNN allowed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) to use a town hall event to promote his widely criticized “Better Way” poverty reform agenda unchallenged, including the discredited “welfare cliff” myth long promoted by right-wing media.
A member of the audience -- a Catholic priest and registered Republican -- asked Ryan what plans he had “to meet the basic human needs of the poor in this country, even if they’re here illegally,” during a July 12 town hall hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper. The questioner juxtaposed the moral imperative to serve individuals “as human beings” without asking them “for their documentation” with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “inhumane” stance on immigration.
Ryan’s initial response was littered with right-wing media talking points about President Obama’s supposed unwillingness to “secure the border” in order to fix the country’s “broken immigration system.” Ryan’s response then shifted to a supposed solution to poverty, which was also focused on myths frequently trumpeted by right-wing media, including how welfare “benefit cliffs” trap recipients in poverty. Ryan incorrectly claimed that the government’s “current approach” to poverty actually “perpetuates” it, and suggested that a “single mom with two kids” earning roughly $24,000 per year (barely above the federal poverty threshold) would rather live in poverty than get a raise “because of all the benefits she [would lose]” (emphasis added):
PAUL RYAN: Let me get to the poverty point you mentioned. Please take a look at our agenda. This is one of the most important reforms that I think we’re offering. Which is a better way to solve poverty -- “A Better Way To Fight Poverty.” Go to better.gop -- better.gop is where we’ve released our agenda. I spent the last four years going around this country visiting with poor communities, learning about the poor, and the suffering, and better ideas for fighting poverty. We’ve put in a very aggressive plan to go at the root causes of poverty, to try and break the cycle of poverty, and I would argue our current approach at the government of fighting poverty treats symptoms of poverty, which perpetuates poverty.
Our welfare system replaces work. It doesn't incentivize work. And as a result, we are trapping people in poverty. It's not working. So we think that there's a better way of reigniting what I call upward mobility, the American idea, and getting people out of poverty. Please take a look at these ideas. We have lots of them. I’d love to get into it if you give me time. But this is one of the things that we are talking about. Engaging with our fellow citizens, especially those who have slipped through the cracks, especially those that have no hope, that we have better ideas for helping them get back on their feet and converting our welfare system not into a poverty trap, but a place to get people from welfare to work.
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): Give me one idea. One poverty idea.
RYAN: Benefit cliffs. Right now, you stack all these welfare programs on top of each other and it basically pays people not to work. So you know who the highest tax rate payer (sic)? It’s not Anderson Cooper or Jake Tapper; it is the single mom with two kids making maybe -- earning $24,000, who will lose 80 cents on the dollar by taking a job or getting a raise because of all the benefits she loses. So, what happens is, we disincentivize work. We need to taper those benefits cliffs, customize welfare benefits to a person’s particular needs, and encourage work. So, you’ve got so much time to get these benefits, you have to have work requirements or job training requirements. Customize benefits to help a person with their problem. Whether it's addiction, whether it's education, or transportation.
Catholic Charities, by the way, is the model that I'm talking about. This is basically the Catholic Charities model. Customize support to a person and always make work pay. Make sure that you take the principles that we’ve used for welfare reform in the '90s, which are no longer really working or in place these days, to get people from welfare to work. And that's the core of what we are proposing.
The term "welfare cliff" was popularized by Pennsylvania's Republican-appointed Secretary of Public Welfare in a July 2012 report, which claimed a "single mom" could nearly double her net income by taking full advantage of nine distinct anti-poverty programs. But the concept of a trade-off between welfare and work dates back to a flawed Cato Institute study from 1995. One thing these studies have in common is the base calculation of benefits available to a hypothetical "single mom" with children. Most American workers aren't single mothers, most recipients of government benefits don't enroll in every single available program, and the value of federal benefit programs like welfare is less now than it was in years past -- facts that are not acknowledged in right-wing media discussions of anti-poverty programs.
Right-wing media outlets have repeatedly promoted the fantasy that low-income Americans would rather live in poverty than risk losing supposedly generous government benefits, and Paul Ryan is known for loyally parroting right-wing talking points about poverty. In fact, Ryan’s entire “Better Way” anti-poverty agenda for 2016 is built on right-wing media myths, including the so-called “benefit cliff” talking point. Journalists and experts slammed Ryan’s poverty plan, calling it a “seriously flawed” approach “based on faulty assumptions,” and concluding it is seemingly “designed to make it much harder for people in need” to access poverty alleviation programs. The same was true of his much-heralded 2014 anti-poverty plan. Ryan is right that there is a better way to fight poverty, but research by actual economists points to a reform agenda more like the factually based plan put forward by the Center for American Progress than the rehashing of right-wing myths endorsed by Ryan.
View the full exchange on poverty and immigration from CNN’s House Speaker Paul Ryan Town Hall:
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.
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.
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The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) announced that it will hold its “10th annual Hold Their Feet to the Fire radio row broadcast in Washington,” on June 22 and 23. In previous years FAIR has hosted speakers at the event who have used their own radio shows to push anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment. In addition, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated FAIR as a hate group whose founder “has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population.”
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’s Stuart Varney expressed outrage at a “misleading” campaign created by the White House, aimed at raising awareness about immigration and refugees by highlighting the stories of celebrity immigrants.
Varney asked how taxpayers could be “paying for a political message” during the June 6 edition of Fox News’ Your World. Varney called the campaign “misleading” for not distinguishing between “many people’s opposition to illegal immigration, and support for legal immigration.” Capital Research Center’s Matthew Vadum criticized the left’s refusal to use the term “illegal alien,” claiming that the term is supposed to “stigmatize them, they’re lawbreakers”:
According to Bustle, celebrities including Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson, and Lupita N’yongo joined the White House to spread awareness about immigrants and refugees for Immigrant Heritage Month in June. In a video for the campaign, celebrities discussed “the importance of immigrants in the history and fabric of America.” Part of the #IAmAnImmigrant campaign, the video draws attention to immigration reform and refugees, and encourages others to share immigration stories on the website. Actresses Kerry Washington and Gina Rodriguez tweeted their support for the campaign:
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) June 2, 2016
My parents came over from Puerto Rico so my sisters and I can have opportunities that we now are accomplishing. #IAmAnImmigrant and PROUD!
— Gina Rodriguez (@HereIsGina) June 1, 2016
Jason Richwine Has Argued That Latinos Will Never Reach IQ Parity With Whites
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.
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.
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The New York Times editorial board condemned the legal challenge to President Obama’s executive actions on immigration as “a highly politicized anti-immigrant crusade wrapped in legal briefs.”
On April 18, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in U.S. v. Texas, the challenge to the Obama administration’s programs that could protect 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and grant them the legal right to hold a job. Right-wing media have pushed misinformation about the programs, falsely claiming that they will cause a “constitutional crisis,” lead to Obama’s impeachment, cost $2 trillion, and harm American workers.
On April 16, the Times’ editorial board called the case “one of the most flagrant examples in recent memory of a naked political dispute masquerading as a legal one,” and wrote that the Supreme Court “should reject the plaintiffs’ absurd claim.” The board explained that the actions are, in fact, “well within Mr. Obama’s authority,” given that -- as the Supreme Court observed in 2012 -- “the federal government has ‘broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens.’” The board then concluded that Obama’s executive actions to shield the parents of American citizens and permanent residents from deportation are “smart politics and humane policy” and condemned the challenge as “a highly politicized anti-immigrant crusade”:
On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in United States v. Texas, one of the most flagrant examples in recent memory of a naked political dispute masquerading as a legal one.
In this case, 26 Republican-led states brought suit against President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions to protect millions of immigrants from deportation. And once again, the prospect of a 4-to-4 split on the court threatens to spur widespread legal chaos by effectively giving these 26 states the power to set national immigration policy. But it need not come to that. If the justices follow their own precedent as well as longstanding practice, they should reject the plaintiffs’ absurd claim.
This is both smart politics and humane policy, and it falls well within Mr. Obama’s authority. As the Supreme Court reiterated in 2012, the federal government has “broad, undoubted power over the subject of immigration and the status of aliens.”
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. likes to say that the court is above politics. This case, which has never been more than a highly politicized anti-immigrant crusade wrapped in legal briefs, gives him and the court a clear opportunity to reaffirm that principle and leave fights like these to the political process.