Washington Examiner Cites Misleading Chart To Claim Undocumented Immigrants Will Avoid Criminal Consequences


The Washington Examiner relied on a dishonest chart from a nativist organization to push the myth that undocumented immigrants who are convicted of certain crimes in the United States would receive a reprieve from repercussions under immigration reform legislation.

The Washington Examiner used a chart from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) -- a Southern Poverty Law Center-labeled nativist hate group -- which details the criminal repercussions for those seeking legal status, as well as for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants. According to the chart, undocumented immigrants who commit certain crimes would face less dire consequences than U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who commit the same offense:

Furthermore, the following chart published June 21 by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit organization that opposes liberalization of immigration law, compares the consequences for an array of crimes and discovered that while illegal immigrants might be exonerated and legalized, U.S. citizens and legal immigrants face years of incarceration or temporary expulsion from the country.

Both FAIR and the Examiner are misleading about the repercussions of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The chart makes it seem as if there are no criminal repercussions for undocumented immigrants who commit these crimes under the Senate's immigration reform legislation, but undocumented immigrants who are arrested for a crime must go through the criminal justice system just like U.S. citizens, and if convicted, can serve jail time or pay fines.

Immigrants who enter the criminal justice system can also be deported and not receive any type of deportation relief, despite the deceptive information from FAIR. As the National Immigration Project explains, the criminal justice system is primarily how the Immigration and Customs Enforcement finds out about the legal status of an immigrant and in 2008, 37 percent of deportees were deported due to a criminal conviction or charge. By 2012, that percentage rose to 55 percent.

The waiver provisions in the immigration reform bill only apply to those who have a criminal past but are hoping to change their immigration status under this legislation. As David Leopold, the past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explained in an email to Media Matters, convicted felons would be barred from applying for legal status and cannot receive a waiver. If an immigrant has committed three or more misdemeanor crimes, Leopold said they are eligible to receive a waiver for "humanitarian purposes to ensure family unity or if it is otherwise in the public interest." 

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