The right-wing media's calls to end birthright citizenship -- a constitutional guarantee -- have been repeated incessantly over the years and have once again found a sympathetic ear in Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who recently re-introduced legislation that would supposedly "prevent children born in the U.S. of foreign national parents from gaining automatic U.S. citizenship."
Conservative media figures going back to Glenn Beck in his Fox News days have railed against so-called "anchor babies" and "birth tourism," the former a derogatory slur and debunked myth used against U.S. born children of non-citizens, the latter of which represents a sliver of births that experts have repeatedly pointed out are "extraordinarily rare" and an insignificant immigration problem. As Salon's Simon Maloy recently wrote, this "grossly nativist and legally dubious" rhetoric has nevertheless found a receptive audience in Republican legislators on both the state and federal levels.
At the same time, right-wing media continue their drumbeat on this issue, most prominently ABC contributor and talk radio host Laura Ingraham, who has called ending the constitutional guarantee of citizenship at birth a "common sense step." This is nothing new for Ingraham, a self-proclaimed influence on Republican politics who has repeatedly condemned "birthright citizenship nonsense."
On the March 10 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly joined the chorus when he heard that children born in the U.S. automatically receive citizenship -- "the baby gets the passport" -- and declared, "That law's got to change." In the segment, which focused on "birth tourism" by Chinese parents, O'Reilly concluded, "This law is being abused like crazy. It's got to be changed. That should not be a hard thing to do."
In fact, that would be an extremely hard thing to do -- it would require amending the U.S. Constitution or overturning centuries of post-Civil War Supreme Court precedent.
O'Reilly and his guests -- Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor, and contributor Lis Wiehl, also a lawyer -- ignored the fact that it's not merely a "law" that confers citizenship to children born in the United States -- it's the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment, intended to ensure equal protection for all in the wake of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, unequivocally states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States ... are citizens of the United States." This amendment has long been understood to grant birthright citizenship, and that interpretation has been re-affirmed by the Supreme Court since as far back as 1898. James C. Ho, the former solicitor general of Texas, explained in 2011 that birthright citizenship was intended "to reverse the Supreme Court's notorious 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling denying citizenship to slaves" and their children, and challenging its legality is "wasting taxpayer funds on a losing court battle, reopening the scars of the Civil War, and offending our Constitution and the rule of law."
But conservative media's radical calls for the end of birthright citizenship continue to make headway with Republicans in Congress.
On March 10, Vitter re-introduced his Birthright Citizenship Act, which would "close a loophole by clarifying that birthright citizenship is only given to the children of U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens." In announcing this legislation, Vitter claimed that allowing birthright citizenship is based on "a fundamental misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment," suggesting that the framers of the amendment, the Supreme Court, and legal experts have been wrong about its plain language for the last 150 years.
An alternate explanation for Vitter's legislation -- other than pure confusion -- is that this is intended to be unconstitutional and represents a "test case" expected to be repeatedly struck down in the federal courts on the way to the Supreme Court. Although GOP senators have shied away from acknowledging this, right-wing anti-immigration activists like Kansas' Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach have plainly admitted as much.
Right-wing media is not quite so honest in its calls to rewrite the U.S. Constitution, choosing instead to baselessly scaremonger about "anchor babies" and "birth tourism."
Observers of the Latino media have responded to Media Matters' "Single Issue Syndrome" report on the lack of Latino representation on Sunday morning political talk shows by starting a conversation about how to address the problem.
In response to the report, Latino Rebels, a Latino-focused media website, started the #AskMeMás Twitter campaign. According to Latino Rebels, the report "led to a conversation among a few people in our group: what other topics matter to U.S. Latinos?"
Latino Rebels followed up the #AskMeMás campaign by publishing a list of Hispanic experts who could speak about issues of importance to the Latino community as well as the population at large.
From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
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From the March 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
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MSNBC's The Rundown with José Díaz-Balart highlighted a new study by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and the Asian American Federation, which found that immigrants have a major positive impact on the American economy.
According to the study released by AAAJ, immigrants play a "vital role" in the American economy. The study reported a drastic increase in buying power of immigrants and minorities from 2000 to 2014:
The study also found that minorities and immigrants far outpace the majority starting small businesses:
Host José Díaz-Balart and MSNBC anchor Richard Lui highlighted the study during the March 2 edition of The Rundown, noting the positive impact immigration continues to have on the American economy. Lui also explained potential impact of immigrants affected by President Obama's action on immigration, reporting that the action translates to "potentially over 200 thousand new businesses and 200 thousand new jobs" for Americans:
Fox News cherry-picked from President Obama's statements at a town hall event to falsely suggest Obama is illegally enforcing his immigration directives in violation of a court order temporarily blocking the directives from going into effect -- but the Obama administration has already suspended implementation of the executive action to comply with the ruling.
On February 25, Obama spoke "directly to the Latino community" at an MSNBC town hall. Speaking with Telemundo and MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart, the president discussed the implications of the recent halt on his immigration actions put in place by a federal judge in Texas, a ruling that is currently being appealed by the Department of Justice.
During the February 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News anchor Heather Nauert played an out-of-context clip of the president's remarks at the town hall, suggesting he was illegally enforcing the immigration actions at issue in the Texas case. Nauert claimed that Obama was "warning" Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who did not follow his executive action and aired a clip of Obama saying:
OBAMA: The bottom line is, is that, if somebody's working for ICE and there's a policy and they don't follow the policy, there're going to be consequences to it.
After airing the clip of Obama's remarks, Nauert alleged that "there's just one problem" with Obama saying ICE agents would have to follow his directives -- "a federal judge has issued a ruling halting the executive immigration order in its tracks":
Later in the program, host Steve Doocy again played the cropped clip of Obama's remarks and claimed that the president was "essentially threatening ICE agents." Doocy added that Obama's policy was to "let everybody stay, but the laws say, if you're in the country illegally, you should be deported":
But the full context of Obama's statements show the president was speaking broadly about ICE agents following policies that are in place, making clear that a federal judge has currently blocked his most recent executive order. In the portion of the town hall directly prior to the remarks Fox aired, Obama told Díaz-Balart that while the administration appeals the Texas ruling, agents are expected to prioritize deportations properly and consistently with existing directives provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the administration (emphasis added):
DIAZ-BALART (Reading question from social media): How do you guarantee that an immigrant who is in the middle of legalizing his status, that he or she is not going to be deported by ICE? Mr. President, my husband was deported during the process, and this, she says, happened just last week.
OBAMA: You know, I would have to know the details of exactly what happened. But what I can tell you is that, until we pass a law through Congress, the executive actions that we've taken are not going to be permanent. They're temporary. We are now implementing a new prioritization. There are going to be some jurisdictions, and there may be individual ICE officials, or border patrol, who aren't paying attention to our new directives. But they're going to be answerable to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, because he's been very clear about what our priorities should be. And I've been very clear about what our priorities should be.
And the -- I don't know what the particular circumstances here are. But what I can tell you is, people who have signed up, for example, under my executive action in DACA, there are seven, 800,000 people who have signed up. They haven't had problems. It's worked. So we know how to make this work. Right now we've got a judge who's blocking it from working. And in the interim, until we can actually process all these applications, then what we're going to do is do what we can in terms of making sure that we're prioritizing it properly.
But the challenge is still going to be that not only do we have to win this legal fight, which we are appealing very aggressively, but ultimately we're still going to have to pass a law through Congress. The bottom line is, Jose, that I'm using all of the legal power vested in me in order to solve this problem. And, you know, one of the things about living in a democracy is that we have separation of powers, we have Congress, we have the judicial branch. And, you know, right now, we've got some disagreements with some members of Congress, and some members of the judiciary in terms of what should be done. But what I'm confident about is ultimately this is going to get done. And the reason it's going to get done is it's the right thing to do. And it is who we are as a people.
DIAZ-BALART: But what are the consequences? Because, how do you -- how do you ensure that ICE agents or border patrol won't be deporting people like this? I mean, what are the consequences?
OBAMA: Look, the bottom line is that if somebody's working for ICE and there's a policy, and they don't follow the policy, there are going to be consequences to it. So I can't speak to a specific problem. What I can talk about is what's true in the government generally. In the U.S. military when you get an order, you're expected to follow it. It doesn't mean that everybody follows the order. If they don't, they've got a problem. And the same is going to be true with respect to the policies that we're putting forward.
The Obama administration has already delayed the implementation of their executive action on immigration in response to the court's ruling on the matter. As The New York Times explained, "administration officials ... postponed President Obama's sweeping executive actions on immigration indefinitely, saying they had no choice but to comply" with the judge's order to halt the policy.
From the February 24 edition of iHeartMedia's Mickelson in the Morning:
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Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson misrepresented the constitutional law that requires states to provide public school education to undocumented children in the United States. In fact, the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly mandates that states and local educational agencies are obligated to provide these children with equal access to public education if other children in that state are receiving a similar benefit.
On Mickelson's Feb 19 radio show, Mickelson criticized the Iowa Farm Bureau for wanting to raise the gas tax, alleging instead that the state could save money by not funding undocumented students to go to public schools. Mickelson rationalized this attack on "the children of Mexico" by dismissing as "magical thinking" the long-standing Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe, which found that not providing public education to undocumented children in a school district was unconstitutional discrimination prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and called providing education to these children a "scam" while claiming that there is no "mandate" requiring school districts to spend money educating undocumented children (see transcript below):
But Mickelson completely botched the Supreme Court's decision and relevant constitutional law.
Contrary to his explanation, the Court did not set an independent "spending mandate" on behalf of undocumented students. Rather, the Court concluded that if a state or local jurisdiction chooses to offer public education, it cannot constitutionally withhold this benefit based on immigration status, just as it cannot on account of race. In other words, the Court held that if a state chooses to offer public education to its residents, the Equal Protection Clause prohibits it from irrationally discriminating among its beneficiaries.
From the February 19 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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The Wall Street Journal is celebrating a ruling from a lower-court judge who has temporarily blocked President Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion over undocumented immigrants by repeating a litany of right wing-media myths, some of which were repeated in the legal decision itself.
On February 17, federal district court Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary injunction that will block the Department of Homeland Security's implementation of the president's recent executive actions on immigration in the face of GOP opposition to immigration reform. These actions, which will defer deportations for some undocumented immigrants and were scheduled to open the application process today, have long been criticized by right-wing media as "unconstitutional," despite the fact that there is plenty of legal and historical precedent for the order.
Hanen's ruling -- which not only goes against other recent lower-court rulings, but also Supreme Court precedent -- found a receptive audience at The Wall Street Journal. The Journal has been particularly critical of Obama's immigration actions, erroneously suggesting the administration had not sought a legal justification for his order before issuing it and denouncing Obama for acting "on his own whim because he's tired of working with Congress." In a February 17 editorial, the Journal commended Hanen, calling his decision "a vindication of the 26 states that brought the challenge and, more significantly, for the rule of law":
Last November the Department of Homeland Security published memos instructing immigration enforcers to disregard federal laws that require deportation of the undocumented and place strict limits on who may work in the U.S. The White House and DHS claim this "deferred action" is nothing more than routine prosecutorial discretion, as if the department is merely conceding that its officers cannot hunt down and deport the millions of illegals in the country.
Judge Hanen dismantles that fiction. As he points out, the DHS memos amount to "a massive change in immigration practice" that reorders "the nation's entire immigration scheme." Instead of the historical norm of forbearance in individual cases, the memos devote 150 pages to detailing a blanket policy for whole classes of immigrants -- meaning that discretion is "virtually extinguished," as Judge Hanen writes.
The memos also actively bestow benefits that Congress never granted, such as the right to work, obtain Social Security numbers, and travel to and from the U.S.
The editorial is a rehash of myths about the executive action. For example, it is true that Congress never granted undocumented immigrants "the right to work," but neither did Obama's executive order. Undocumented immigrants who qualify for deferred action will become eligible for work authorization permits, not because of Obama's order, but because of a federal law that was passed in 1986 under Ronald Reagan.
Rush Limbaugh advocated for Senate Republicans to eliminate Democrats' ability to filibuster a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill, his latest in a series of reversals on the legality of filibuster reform.
On the February 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh urged Senate Republicans to eliminate the filibuster, which would keep Democrats in the minority from blocking the GOP's DHS funding bill that would "gut years of the Obama administration's directives on immigration reform."
Limbaugh advocated for a complete elimination of the filibuster, saying "it would be poetic justice" following Democrats' 2013 vote to eliminate the ability of the minority party to filibuster most presidential nominees (a move taken in response to years of unprecedented Republican obstruction). He assured Republicans, "It would also be good. It would work" to halt Obama's immigration reform.
What Limbaugh doesn't admit is that when Democrats changed the filibuster rules in 2013, he raged that Democrats had taken a step towards "total statist authoritarianism." At the time, Limbaugh complained that "250 years of rules, Senate rules, out the window, as the Democrats have made it plain they're not interested in democracy.
Conveniently, now that Republicans have majority control of the Senate, Limbaugh argues, "we ought to do the same thing."
The radio host's selective outrage is not at all surprising given the fact that he enthusiastically supported similar filibuster reform when Republicans controlled the Senate in 2004. Then he even called the so-called "nuclear option" -- the ability of the majority party in the Senate to eliminate the minority's ability to block presidential nominations -- the "Constitutional option," encouraging Republicans to pursue it.
From the February 17 edition of TawkrTV's The Bill Press Show:
In a piece exploring the political spin surrounding the fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Journal turned exclusively to House Republicans for commentary -- even while noting that Republicans are strategically lecturing journalists for political gain.
On February 27, DHS will shut down if Congress fails to pass a spending bill that will fund the department. The bill has been stuck in the Senate after House Republicans attached a measure to defund President Obama's executive actions on immigration to the legislation and Democrats subsequently refused to pass it.
In a February 16 article, National Journal presented the talking points of Republicans defending their use of the spending bill to block Obama's actions on immigration. Explaining "how to spin a government shutdown," the article outlined the GOP's claims that forcing a shutdown of DHS would be blamed on Democrats, that the shutdown "won't be that bad," and that it will end up blowing over. But the perspective given on the shutdown was roundly one-sided -- of the sources quoted in article, all were Republicans.
What's more, National Journal quoted top Republicans confessing a need to manipulate media coverage to their advantage:
More and more, Republican members are beginning to sound like journalism professors, instructing reporters in person on several occasions over the last week on how to report out the story. Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, put his editor cap on for a moment during a press conference on Thursday.
"I would suggest to our friends in the Fourth Estate," Cruz said, "that every one of those Democrats when they walk off the Senate floor, you should be asking them: 'If DHS funding is so important, why are you filibustering funding for DHS?' ... I would suggest to each of you in the Fourth Estate another question that would be entirely appropriate to ask them: 'Were you telling the truth or were you lying when you said you opposed the president's unconstitutional executive amnesty? Because if you were telling the truth, why then are you filibustering?' "
Indeed, National Journal seemed to fall prey to a reporting style that privileged the GOP -- setting up the entire piece about the shutdown by equating the severity of the acts from either side of the aisle, "pox on both houses" style of reporting:
Congress has packed its bags and gone home for the week, leaving lawmakers with just five legislative days to find a way to keep the Homeland Security Department open. Senate Democrats remain intractable in their filibuster of legislation to fund the department, just as House Republicans refuse to bring up a clean bill, leaving open the real possibility that Congress will allow part of the federal government to shut down for the second time in two years.
Media outlets are reporting that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) will attempt to block the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general on the grounds that the president's "illegal executive amnesty for illegal immigrants would be implemented" by the nominee. However, in reports about the January 28 hearing in which Vitter explained his "huge concern" about the "unconstitutional" executive actions on immigration, both mainstream and right-wing media failed to note that the statutory provision the senator relied on was not only the wrong one, it was out-of-date.
Lynch, the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of New York, has been widely praised across the political spectrum, and multiple conservatives -- including current Republican senators -- support her nomination. Her credentials are so strong, even right-wing media favorites called to her confirmation hearing by GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed she was unobjectionable. Nevertheless, from the moment President Obama nominated Lynch, conservative media have attempted to smear her -- attempts that have been riddled with spectacular mistakes.
Right-wing media are now hitching their opposition to Lynch to the positions of Vitter, who has repeatedly stated he will do his best to block the nominee's confirmation because she does not oppose the president's executive actions on immigration. On her radio show, Laura Ingraham hosted Vitter and agreed with his opposition to Lynch because of her support for "executive amnesty," repeating the debunked myth that Lynch believes there is a legal right for undocumented immigrants to work. Breitbart.com, which has struggled mightily to successfully criticize the nominee, also highlighted Vitter's obstructionist intentions toward Lynch, noting that "Lynch's outspoken support for President Obama's executive amnesty" was in part responsible for the current Republican delay on an up-or-down vote.
Mainstream outlets have reported on Vitter's antipathy toward Lynch as well, based on her support for the "reasonable[ness]" of the justification for the immigration actions. These reports have specifically noted that the senator laid out his case for the illegality of deferred action for certain undocumented immigrants at her recent hearing, where he accused the administration of flouting the law by assigning Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to the Department of Homeland Security. As Vitter said during the hearing, "I've read the plan, and the plan as I read it is for all of that to be done in the Department of Homeland Security. So my question would be, what is the statutory basis to allow that, when under the statute -- not some order, not some legal opinion -- the statute, the law, word by word it says the attorney general is in the middle of that decision[.]" The Washington Post, for example, included a photo of the oversized copy of 8 U.S. Code § 1182(d)(5) that Vitter displayed as he repeatedly questioned the nominee for agreeing with the White House's legal defense of the immigration actions. Vitter finally remarked, "Well, again, I'll have to be following up for the fourth time, but that'll be a central question. The plan is not for the attorney general to be in the middle of this at all. The statute says that 'the attorney general is.' Why aren't we following the statute?"
Unfortunately, both right-wing and mainstream media reporting on Vitter, the January 28 hearing, and his opposition to Lynch have failed to note that Vitter's questioning was referring to the wrong part of the law, which has since been superseded.
From the February 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show: