Fox News' Neil Cavuto failed to challenge House Homeland Security committee chairman Peter King's (R-NY) misleading claim that "Democrats voted" for a provision in the House immigration reform bill that makes illegal presence in the U.S. a felony. Cavuto also left unchallenged King's false claim that Alaska's oil reserves are "equivalent" to those of Saudi Arabia.
During an interview with House Homeland Security committee chairman Peter King (R-NY) on the April 24 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto failed to challenge King's misleading claim that "Democrats voted" to retain a provision in the House immigration reform bill that makes illegal presence in the U.S. a felony. Cavuto also left unchallenged King's false claim that Alaska's oil reserves are "equivalent" to those of Saudi Arabia.
While discussing the controversy surrounding the immigration bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2005, Cavuto did not challenge King's claim that "[t]he only reason that the [immigration] bill came out of the House saying that it's a felony for immigrants to overstay their visa is because the Democrats voted to keep it a felony." But as Media Matters for America has documented, GOP congressional leaders have recently attempted to blame Democrats for the controversial felony provision in the immigration bill by asserting that, because Democrats voted against an amendment sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to reduce the charge for unlawful presence in the United States from a felony to a misdemeanor, Democrats support the felony provision. This is not the first time King's assertions went unchallenged. Media Matters also recently noted that CNN host Lou Dobbs failed to challenge King's claim that Democrats are to blame for the immigration bill's felony provision.
In fact, as the Congressional Record shows, Democrats opposed the measure because it retained the bill's imposition of criminal penalties for unlawful presence -- not because they supported the felony provision, as King and other Republicans have suggested. From Rep. Zoe Lofgren's (D-CA) floor statement immediately following Sensenbrenner's introduction of the amendment:
LOFGREN: This section, section 203, makes virtually any violation of the immigration laws an ongoing criminal act. In one stroke, it would subject the entire undocumented population, estimate by some to be 11 million people, to criminal liability. Now the amendment before us changes the degree of punishment, but it does not alter the underlying issue of criminalizing being alive in the country without documents.
Shortly thereafter, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) declared on the House floor that the Hispanic Congressional Caucus had unanimously resolved to oppose the amendment. "I do not think we should criminalize it at any level," Gutierrez said.
In addition, Sensenbrenner's introduction of the amendment illustrates that the Bush administration lobbied to change the felony provision to a misdemeanor out of concern that the due process requirements associated with felony charges would limit the number of actual prosecutions. From Sensenbrenner's December 16, 2005, floor statement:
SENSENBRENNER: The administration subsequently requested the penalty for these crimes be lowered to 6 months. Making the first offense a felony, as the base bill would do, would require a grand jury indictment, a trial before a district court judge and a jury trial.
Also because it is a felony, the defendant would be able to get a lawyer at public expense if the defendant could not afford the lawyer. These requirements would mean that the government would seldom if ever actually use the new penalties. By leaving these offenses as misdemeanors, more prosecutions are likely to be brought against those aliens whose cases merit criminal prosecution.
For this reason, the amendment returns the sentence for illegal entry to its current 6 months and sets the penalty for unlawful presence at the same level.
Later in the Your World segment, while discussing the implications of high energy prices and the immigration issue for the 2006 mid-term elections, Cavuto failed to question King's claim that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has "a 30-year supply of oil, equivalent to that of Saudi Arabia." According to the U.S. government, however, Saudi Arabia has more oil resources than the entire United States, not just "up in Alaska."
As Media Matters has previously noted, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, the United States has between 21.4 and 29.3 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, while Saudi Arabia possesses between 262.1 and 266.8 billion barrels of proved oil reserves. "Proved oil reserves" are defined by the EIA as "estimated quantities that analysis of geologic and engineering data demonstrates with reasonable certainty are recoverable under existing economic and operating conditions."
A U.S. Geological Survey analysis, which uses a different methodology to assess the "ultimate oil resources" available to each country, found that the United States has up to 255.2 billion barrels, while Saudi Arabia has up to 374.2 billion barrels.
From the April 24 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CAVUTO: Do you think that the Democrats are trying to paint the -- the -- the get-tough position on illegal immigrants with an issue that will hurt your party with legal immigrants in the next election -- in other words, with the Hispanic community in particular, with whom you have made great gains, that that's what they're going to hang over their head?
KING: Well, you know, it's hard to get into the mind of some of these Democrats. They have totally distorted what the bill is all about. The only reason that the bill came out of the House saying that it's a felony for immigrants to overstay their visa is because the Democrats voted to keep it a felony. You have people like the Catholic bishops and Democrats saying that we have made it illegal to assist illegal immigrants who need food and water. That's totally untrue. So, I think they are trying to distort it. They're afraid to come to terms with the real issue. They are trying to hurt us with Hispanics. But, you know, we can't be looking at this as a race or ethnic group issue. It's an American issue. And I think all immigrants, especially those who are here legally, realize what we're trying to do. And I'm willing to do what's the right thing, and let the chips fall where they may.
CAVUTO: While I still have you, do you think that these twin issues -- the higher energy prices, still no way to solve the illegal immigration mess -- are a one-two punch that are going to kill Republicans this November?
KING: No, I don't expect to be killed at all. I have been hearing this from the Democrats for the last 12 years. We're going to have tough races. There's no doubt about it. But I believe we're right on immigration, the House of Representatives. The American people do want tighter border security. And one of the reasons we have gas shortages is because the Democrats have stopped us from drilling in ANWR. We can get as much oil from ANWR in the -- up in Alaska, as we could from Saudi Arabia. It's a 30-year supply of oil, equivalent to that of Saudi Arabia. So, you know, there's no easy answer on this, but that's one answer which the liberals and the Democrats have continually blocked, because they cave in to liberal extremists on the environmental issue.
CAVUTO: Yes, but it's your party, right? I mean, there's a different view on the illegal immigration mess held by the Senate, more, I think, in line, Congressman, with the president's views on this -- not quite amnesty, but it seems pretty close, and --
CAVUTO: -- and your own House.