Right-wing media have defended Donald Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering into the United States, despite multiple legal experts arguing the ban is likely unconstitutional, illegal, or lawless. Right-wing media have also cited prior country-specific restrictions on immigration to defend Trump's plan, despite the fact that these policies did not ban people based on their religious affiliation, and would be unlikely to survive judicial scrutiny today.
Numerous conservative media outlets are parroting the misleading conclusions of a September 2015 report by an anti-immigrant nativist group, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which claims that "immigrant households use welfare at significantly higher rates than native households." Like previous flawed CIS studies, these findings have been called into question by immigration experts for failing to account for the economic hardship of some immigrant families, lumping American-born beneficiaries into "immigrant household" categorizations, and conflating numerous anti-poverty programs with so-called "welfare."
Right-wing media outlets are trying to draw a distinction between Republican administrations' executive actions on immigration and President Obama's proposed order, claiming that the current president's authority for deferring deportation -- unlike that of his predecessors -- is illegitimate.
On November 20, Obama will reportedly issue an executive order that would suspend deportations for certain classes of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Although the full details of the order aren't yet known, it is expected to focus in part on keeping families together and to provide temporary administrative relief to immigrants who are undocumented but whose children are U.S. citizens or otherwise legally present. There is plenty of legal precedent to support Obama's exercise of prosecutorial discretion to halt some deportation proceedings, and experts from across the political spectrum have pointed out that this sort of executive action has taken place in the past, notably once when Congress failed to pass immigration reform.
Yet right-wing media have nevertheless fearmongered about the legality of Obama's proposed executive action, even though the Associated Press reported that both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush "acted unilaterally on immigration," as have numerous presidents before and since. Despite this Republican precedent, which the American Immigration Council has called a "striking historical parallel," conservative media figures have sought to deny the similarity. Radio host Mark Levin slammed the Associated Press report, saying, "No, Ronald Reagan, no, George H.W. Bush did not do what Obama is about to do," because Reagan was acting in response to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which "Congress passed" and "sent to the president."
National Review Online contributor Mark Krikorian also tried to distinguish Obama's "threatened move" from Reagan and Bush's executive actions, calling the comparison a "nice try." Krikorian went on to argue that Reagan's action "is simply irrelevant to the current case" because it "was a legitimate exercise of prosecutorial discretion shortly after passage of" IRCA. Krikorian also rejected the similarities to George H.W. Bush's immigration order, arguing that it "cannot meaningfully be described as precedent for Obama's scheme" because, among other reasons, Bush's move was a "cleanup measure for the implementation of the once-in-history amnesty that was passed by Congress."
Rush Limbaugh repeated this attack on the November 18 edition of his show, saying that "it's uncanny to me how often the Democrat Party, when they get in a jam and when they know they're doing something that is untoward, when they know they're doing something that's not above board -- like this clearly is not above board -- they go back and they cite Reagan." Later, Limbaugh claimed that "Reagan never took executive action. This is a bold-faced, flat-out lie."
National Review Online contributor Mark Krikorian claimed that liberals and Democrats are engaged in a "strategy" through immigration to increase the size of government programs. He stated that Democratic support of immigration reform is a way to "import voters" and "exacerbate social problems," namely poverty and the lack of health insurance, to make it more palatable for Americans to support big government programs like the health care law.
Krikorian floated his new conspiracy theory during an address to the National Security Action Conference's "Uninvited II," an event hosted by Breitbart News on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that featured many speakers who "were not invited to CPAC."
As highlighted by the Right Wing Watch blog, Krikorian stated that the Democrats and the left have promoted immigration "for explicitly political purposes," including as "a way of importing voters." He continued:
KRIKORIAN: Not just that, but also, they create the conditions such as increased poverty, increased lack of health insurance that lead even non-immigrant voters to be more receptive to big government solutions because liberals will often say, look at the size of the uninsured, we have to have a solution to this.
One third of all the people without health insurance are in immigrant households, 80 percent of the growth in the uninsured population over the past decade is driven by immigration.
So the fact is that the left is not just importing voters, but they're trying to create -- they're successfully exacerbating social problems through immigration that they then point to as the reason for big government solutions, and are listened to more openly. The solutions seem more plausible to just ordinary middle of the road voters precisely because those social problems have been made worse by immigration.
Krikorian added: "The left doesn't say that they have made these problems worse through their own policies but that is part of their strategy."
Breitbart News also highlighted Krikorian's comments.
Krikorian, the executive director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies is often quoted in the media as an expert on immigration issues, despite his group's anti-immigrant nativist designation and its penchant for pushing false or misleading information about immigrants.
Following the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), National Review contributor Mark Krikorian responded by smearing Muslims. He wrote on Twitter that the decision all but assured the legalization of polygamy, which would see "spousal immigration from Muslim world ... ballon":
Krikorian went even further, stating that while bestiality would not be legalized, "there's no longer any grounds for barring polygamy or incest [between] adults":
Krikorian, the executive director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, writes regularly for the National Review and its blog, The Corner. He is frequently promoted in the media as an expert on immigration issues.
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.
Media figures are peddling claims by anti-immigrant advocates that immigration reform would hurt the economy and negatively impact American workers, even though economic evidence disproves this false narrative. A new poll showing that small business owners support immigration reform indicates that they also distrust these anti-immigrant arguments.
In a recent column praising the work of Mark Krikorian, executive director of the nativist organization Center for Immigration Studies, CNN contributor David Frum, also a Daily Beast contributing editor, wrote that "because the illegals are predominantly very low-income, their demand on such [social welfare] programs will be heavy -- and not only long-term, but likely multigenerational."
Krikorian also peddled this falsehood in a March 19 National Review Online column, writing that because immigrants are "so unskilled and thus earn so little money... they are inevitably net costs to taxpayers."
WND repeated similar claims in an exclusive interview with Roy Beck, executive director of nativist organization NumbersUSA who said that Republican Sen. Rand Paul's immigration reform plan -- which has many of the same pro-immigration stances as proposals being floated by President Obama and the bi-partisan group of senators known as the "Gang of 8" -- would have serious economic consequences and is "a keeping wages low plan."
However, a new poll gauging the immigration views of job creators' shows that they are not buying into these arguments. A poll released on March 27 by the Small Business Majority found that small business owners, many of whom identified as Republican and either are the child of, or are, an immigrant, overwhelmingly support a comprehensive immigration reform plan that includes a path to citizenship. Included in the report:
ABC News published a story which quoted several members of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) but failed to disclose the organization's ties to nativist John Tanton, who is affiliated with a designated hate group, and ignored the organization's well-established credibility problems.
On January 14, ABC News reported on a conference held by CIS, which attacked "legalization programs for undocumented immigrants":
Analysts from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a think tank that advocates reduced immigration levels and stricter enforcement of current immigration laws, said today that legalization programs for undocumented immigrants typically lead to fraud and increased illegal immigration.
ABC provided a platform for CIS representatives to voice their opposition to a variety of proposed immigration measures, but ABC failed to provide background on CIS, despite the group's long history of anti-immigrant rhetoric, ties to nativist organizations, and lack of credibility.
The Center for Immigration Studies was started in 1985 by John Tanton, an anti-immigrant nativist with ties to other anti-immigrant organizations such as NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled hate group. From the Southern Poverty Law Center:
Although you'd never know it to read its materials, CIS was started in 1985 by a Michigan ophthalmologist named John Tanton -- a man known for his racist statements about Latinos, his decades-long flirtation with white nationalists and Holocaust deniers, and his publication of ugly racist materials. CIS' creation was part of a carefully thought-out strategy aimed at creating a set of complementary institutions to cultivate the nativist cause -- groups including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA. As is shown in Tanton's correspondence, lodged in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Tanton came up with the idea in the early 1980s for "a small think tank" that would "wage the war of ideas."
And while Tanton never actually ran CIS, his correspondence shows that as late as 1994, nine years after it was started, Tanton, who remains on FAIR's board of directors today, saw himself as setting the "proper roles for FAIR and CIS." He raised millions of dollars for the think tank and published the writings of top CIS officials in his racist journal, The Social Contract. He maneuvered a friend on to the board of CIS -- a man who shared his interest in eugenics and who attended events with Tanton where white nationalists gave presentations. Through it all, CIS pumped out study after study aimed at highlighting immigration's negative effects.
ABC also failed to note that CIS studies have also been the subject of frequent criticism. The Southern Poverty Law Center has previously called into question the group's findings, stating that CIS often reaches baseless conclusions which are "either false or virtually without any supporting evidence." The Center for New Community has also scrutinized CIS and even warned professional journalists that CIS is not a "credible voice in the debate on immigration."
One of ABC's sources, CIS executive director Mark Krikorian, has a history of making insensitive remarks about other ethnic groups. He has previously claimed that "Haiti's so screwed up because it wasn't colonized long enough," that foreign-nationals who aren't raised in the United States could become terrorists, and that Muslims are a "vicious people." In addition, Krikorian has stated that the United States should deny pregnant women entry to the U.S. because someone "visiting Disneyland" could give their child American citizenship (while referring to said child using the derogatory phrase "anchor baby"). None of Krikorian's past rhetoric was documented by ABC.
Unfortunately, ABC isn't the only major news outlet to treat CIS as a reasonable voice in the immigration debate. The nation's top seven newspapers cited CIS and other anti-immigrant groups over 250 times from January 2010 through June 2012. The New York Times cited the group several times despite publishing an exposé on the organizations unsavory ties with Tanton. NPR has also featured Krikorian as an alternative voice to Jose Antonio Vargas during an immigration debate, despite his harsh views on immigration.
Fox Business anchor Stuart Varney debunked the theory that rounding up and deporting immigrants is a solution to economic problems -- a notion that is widespread throughout the conservative media.
During an appearance on Fox & Friends to discuss Greece's efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants, co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Varney if deporting immigrants would help Greece's economy and whether America should "follow suit."
Varney said that rounding up and deporting immigrants wouldn't help Greece with its economic problems and denied that they were taking jobs from Greek citizens. He also said that we shouldn't round up immigrants in the United States either:
VARNEY: Should America follow suit, a round up of illegals here? I would say absolutely not. We're not in financial crisis, and we're a very different country. We have a very strong tradition of acceptance of people from all over the world, legal or illegal, we don't round them up and throw them out. We don't do that, thank heavens.
Economists agree that immigration is beneficial to the American economy and that immigrants don't have a negative impact on the jobs of American-born workers. And studies have shown that comprehensive immigration reform could lead to a boost to the economy.
But the myth that undocumented immigrants harm the economy is very common in the right-wing media.
Mark Krikorian was surprised to learn on Thursday that labor unions are lobbying in support of marriage equality in Maryland. In his National Review Online post, he wrote that the reason it "seems improbable is that until recently, American organized labor, while misguided on many economic questions, was deeply traditionalist." He concluded that unions are now supporting marriage equality only because "the unions no longer represent many workers."
But what Krikorian has apparently failed to understand is that marriage equality has many economic benefits. The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law argues that marriage equality creates jobs. It also estimated that in the first year same-sex marriage was legalized in six states, wedding spending from those marriages totaled at least $249 million:
Forbes estimated in 2004 that if laws were changed to legalize same-sex marriage in the entire United States, the wedding industry would see "a short-term gain of prodigious proportions" and eventually provide a nearly $17 billion boost to the economy over time. In another estimate, San Francisco's chief economist stated in 2010 that the "annual wedding-related spending would rise by $35 million in San Francisco, with an additional $2.7 million in hotel spending, if same-sex marriage were legal."
Business groups and leaders have also expressed support for marriage equality due to its economic benefits. The executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce in New Hampshire praised the economic potential of civil unions in December 2007. The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce argued that marriage equality in California "would improve the business climate" and would enhance "the ability of California businesses to compete nationwide for top talent."
In April 2011, top New York business leaders urged the state to adopt marriage equality "to remain competitive" and "attract top talent." A few months later, more than 75 business leaders in North Carolina signed an open letter opposing a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages "because of the significant harm it will cause our state's pro-business environment, its major employers, and efforts to spur job-creation in North Carolina."
The lack of same-sex marriage recognition has been shown to be costly to workers as well. As CNNMoney reported last week, same-sex couples "are paying as much as $6,000 a year in extra taxes because the federal government doesn't recognize gay marriage."
In a post Thursday on National Review Online, Mark Krikorian attempted to deflect criticism from Sen. Marco Rubio against so-called "Democratic" Hispanic critics, writing, "Apparently it's news that 'Rubio faces Hispanic Critics.' " According to the Politico article Krikorian was referencing, "the broader Hispanic electorate" is not enthused with Rubio because of "his hard-line stance on immigration," especially in light of recent revelations about his background. But Krikorian rationalized the criticism as "phony," claiming that it's "hilarious" to expect Rubio to appeal to a broader swath of Hispanics because of their shared ethnic history.
Here's a hint: his critics are -- drum roll -- Democrats! The controversy itself is obviously phony (the Post has his parents' 1956 immigration application but we can't see Obama's transcripts?), but what's really hilarious is the idea that a Cuban-American Republican is somehow naturally going to appeal to Mexican-American Democrats just because their ancestors came from countries that were once both part of Spain's long-defunct empire. News flash: Cubans aren't Mexicans. Puerto Ricans aren't New Mexico Hispanos. And Mayan-speaking Guatemalans certainly aren't Portuguese. The very idea of an "Hispanic" or "Latino" identity is an ahistorical fiction, but one we are doing everything in our power to create and reinforce.
Setting aside the fact that the Politico article also highlighted Republican critics of Rubio or that it was in no way making the point that Rubio's appeal, or non-appeal, is predicated on his ethnicity, what is Krikorian really saying here? Is he really pushing the idea that the only reason one Hispanic can disagree with another is because one is an American of Puerto Rican descent and the other is an American of Cuban descent? Is he in fact claiming Hispanics or Latinos don't have the intellectual capacity to take sides because, well, they can't really argue the merits of an issue since ethnic history trumps all?
This premise would be ridiculous in this day and age, but not for Krikorian. He has stated that Haiti is "so screwed up" because "it wasn't colonized long enough." He once blamed a bank's demise on its diversity policy -- specifically, its commitment to Hispanic diversity. He has repeatedly suggested that the U.S.-born children of foreign nationals, because they won't be raised in the United States, could one day grow up to become terrorists. (And there's more.) And let's not forget that Krikorian is the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which is part of an anti-immigrant network comprised of hate groups founded on nativist ideology.
On October 18, an ad by NumbersUSA, the anti-immigration group with white nationalist ties run by Roy Beck, aired during CNN's coverage of the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas. In the ad, NumbersUSA pitted immigrants against Americans, blaming legal immigrants for high unemployment among Americans, especially minorities. It featured a diverse group of people taking turns saying:
The immigration debate should not be about the color of people's skin, or their country of origin, or their religion, or where their grandparents were born. The debate should be about the numbers. Should Congress give work permits to 1 million new legal immigrants again this year when 20 million Americans of all colors, national origins, and religions are having trouble finding jobs? Immigration, it's about the numbers. The numbers. The numbers. Tell Congress at NumbersUSA.org.
In a post at National Review Online touting the ad, Mark Krikorian asked: "Is the issuance of green cards to more than 1 million legal immigrants per year (plus hundreds of thousands of 'temporary' workers) a good idea when we have 9 percent unemployment?"
A similar ad by anti-immigration group Californians for Population Stabilization aired during MSNBC's coverage of the September 7 Republican presidential debate. It also blamed immigrants for the fact that millions of Americans "are unable to find a job." This claim is still not true, as we noted at the time. Yet anti-immigrants persist in using it to stoke xenophobic sentiment.
And that's the message behind this ad campaign.
On October 18, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that the agency had deported a record number of undocumented immigrants: 396,906 foreign nationals in Fiscal Year 2011. ICE stated that this included the largest number of criminal immigrants removed at nearly 55 percent, "an 89 percent increase in the removal of criminals from FY 2008, and the largest number of criminal aliens removed in agency history."
As The New York Times reported:
"We came into office focused on creating a smart enforcement system by setting a rational system of priorities, and we have done that," John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said on Tuesday. "We said criminal offenders would be our highest priority, and lo and behold, they are the highest priority."
The Times further reported that the deportation program has come under intense criticism by Latinos and pro-immigration activists. The article highlighted a study that found that the program "has led disproportionately to the removal of Latino immigrants and to arrests by immigration authorities of hundreds of United States citizens."
In a post today at National Review Online, Mark Krikorian brushed away ICE's numbers, calling the announcement a "hollow deportation boast." His contention? The "largest number in the agency's history" "is a lot" but it isn't big enough. "[W]hen you look at history," Krikorian argued, "the 'largest number' is only about 1,700 more than two years ago." He continued:
The Obama administration, as a matter of policy, refuses to even ask Congress for the resources needed to deport any more than 400,000 people. Now, 400,000 deportations (of illegal aliens, of course, but also of legal aliens who made themselves deportable because of crimes) is a lot, but it can easily be doubled; I remember one of the top people at INS in the Clinton years telling me that the 114,000 removed in 1997 was a really, really big number and sufficient proof of their seriousness about immigration enforcement.
Krikorian seemed to be echoing Rep. Lamar Smith, who reportedly stated on October 18: "The Obama administration continues to inflate its deportation numbers. ... [I]n reality they are enacting amnesty through inaction."
NPR recently published a laudatory (some would even say fawning) profile of the "one man" behind the controversial Alabama anti-immigration law, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. From it, we learn that Kobach "looked the part" of a "movie star," "handsome and loaded with charisma"; that he is "deified by his supporters" in part because of his Ivy League credentials (Harvard, Oxford, and Yale); and that the time spent on immigration issues has been very "lucrative." Gushed the reporter: "Official documents from Arizona indicate he made $300 an hour with a $1,500 monthly retainer, plus expenses."
Amid all the flattery, however, KCUR reporter Laura Ziegler dropped hints that Kobach isn't all Mr. Congeniality. But she failed to show how extreme a figure Kobach really is. The fact that he has a history of anti-immigrant action and rhetoric elicited barely a mention. Instead, here is what Ziegler reported:
ZIEGLER: At a campaign event before the 2010 elections, candidate Kobach brought in Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Arizona, who's enforcing the immigration law there. Rallies outside the event, in a Kansas City suburb, showed how both had become lightning rods because of it.
MYRNA OROSKO: My name is Myrna Orosko and I came to the United States when I was four years old. And I came legally with a visa. However, like for many immigrants, it expired. I have to, you know, refuse to let men like Kris Kobach and Arpaio continue to spread a message of hate and intolerance for our immigrants around the country.
Zeigler didn't explain what Orosko meant nor did she point to any "message of hate and intolerance." She later added:
ZIEGLER: [Southern Poverty Law Center director of research Heidi] Beirich says Kobach is leading a strategic anti-immigrant crusade, which she says has a racial element.
BEIRICH: His decision to first start at the local level with laws in towns that were going through some strife over growing immigrant populations and then to take that to the state level shifted the entire terms of the debate.
While exhorting a government to enforce its immigration laws may not be racist, that's not the reason critics have given for blasting Kobach for "spread[ing] a message of hate and intolerance." Kobach works on behalf of noted hate group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. As a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he assigned students a book with an anti-Latino immigrant message.