On Telemundo’s Sunday news show, José Díaz-Balart demonstrated how the host of a news program can allow misinformation to take root and fester by failing to correct misinformation about immigration detentions.
On the April 2 edition of Enfoque, Díaz-Balart hosted Jorge Silva of the Latino Victory Project and Alfonso Aguilar of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles to discuss the Trump administration’s recent threat to block federal grants to sanctuary cities. Aguilar -- who supported Trump during the campaign, then briefly withdrew his support following Trump’s hardline immigration speech in September, and then in December declared that he supported Trump “100 percent” -- falsely claimed the Trump administration is focused on detaining only those undocumented immigrants with serious criminal records. He said it “is simply not true” that all undocumented immigrants sentenced for crimes are reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Silva corrected the misinformation, but Díaz-Balart failed to explain the facts, potentially leaving viewers unclear which of the guests was correct. From the April 2 edition of Telemundo’s Enfoque:
JOSÉ DÍAZ-BALART (HOST): Alfonso, is this a wise policy on the part of President [Donald] Trump’s administration?
ALFONSO AGUILAR: Look, I think so. What has happened is that this debate has become highly politicized. There is no standard definition for what is a sanctuary city. It is not a technical term. There are different cities that treat undocumented immigrants in a different way. There are cities that give some local benefits to undocumented immigrants. This is not what the Trump administration is focused on. What the Trump administration wants -- and it’s something basic, I don’t understand why someone could be opposed to this -- is that the local authorities, if they arrest an undocumented immigrant who has a criminal record or is involved in serious criminal activity, they refer them to federal authorities to be removed.
JORGE SILVA: Let’s remind the viewers that, in this moment, an undocumented immigrant who has been sentenced for a crime is immediately referred to the deportation agencies, to the federal immigration agencies.
AGUILAR: That is simply not true. You are alarming the community unnecessarily. This is not what is happening. What they want to address are situations like that of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, a woman who was murdered by an undocumented immigrant who had a serious criminal record. Here there is not a mass deportation, here they are not seeking to deport people who are do not have criminal records. Please stop scaring our community.
SILVA: In this moment, we have seen that ICE is arresting people without criminal records. And you can’t lie to me, Alfonso, please. You have seen it.
AGUILAR: I am not lying.
SILVA: They are arresting and deporting people without criminal records.
AGUILAR: But it’s not the vast majority. It is a minority and this also happened under the Obama administration.
SILVA: In the Obama administration, there was a prioritization for people who had violent criminal records.
Aguilar’s assertion that ICE is not notified when an undocumented immigrant is arrested is false. According to The Washington Post, when a person is arrested, local authorities send his or her fingerprints “to the FBI, which sends the inmates’ information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” ICE may then issue a detainer request for local authorities to hold the person in custody for 48 hours. In many “sanctuary” jurisdictions, local authorities do not honor the 48-hour detainer request due to Fourth Amendment concerns. Sanctuary cities typically honor detainer requests for violent criminals but neglect to hold people past their sentences if they do not pose a threat to public safety.
Aguilar’s false equivalency between Trump’s and Obama’s immigration policies also is not consistent with facts. Border patrol and ICE agents are “newly emboldened” to detain all undocumented immigrants under Trump, whereas they were required to “concentrate on deporting gang members and other violent and serious criminals” under Obama.
Lies about sanctuary cities and immigration in general run rampant in the right-wing media echo chamber, but they can easily spread to mainstream media when hosts fail to push back on right-wing myths.