Jeff Sessions' statement rescinding DACA was packed with bigoted right-wing media lies

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era immigration policy that protects around 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children from immediate deportation while allowing them to work legally. Sessions’ announcement was full of familiar anti-immigrant lies, previously spewed by nativists and right-wing media outlets.

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump administration’s plan to rescind DACA

Politico: Jeff Sessions announces the end of DACA. In a speech delivered on September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced President Donald Trump’s plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In his speech, Sessions falsely labeled the program “unilateral executive amnesty,” claimed it was “unconstitutional,” blamed it for the surge in arrivals of undocumented Central American children in 2014, and accused DACA recipients of taking American jobs. Each claim echoed anti-immigrant lies that have been spewed by nativists and right-wing media outlets like Fox News and for years. From the September 5 speech:

The executive branch, through DACA, deliberately sought to achieve what the legislative branch specifically refused to authorize on multiple occasions. Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.

The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.


To have a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest, we cannot admit everyone who would like to come here. That is an open border policy and the American people have rightly rejected it.


Our collective wisdom is that the policy is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the courts recognized with respect to the DAPA program, which was enjoined on a nationwide basis in a decision affirmed by the Fifth Circuit.


Enforcing the law saves lives, protects communities and taxpayers, and prevents human suffering. Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism. [Politico, 9/5/17]

Anti-immigrant lies in Sessions’ speech are recycled nativist talking points featured on right-wing media

CIS’ Mark Krikorian has repeatedly used his platform at National Review to call DACA illegal amnesty. Mark Krikorian, executive director of Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) -- which has been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center -- has written at least four separate articles that frame DACA in the narrative of an illegal amnest[y] and complain that DACA recipients gained protection because their stories garnered sympathy from the public. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/23/17; National Review, 12/1/10, 4/18/16, 1/23/17, 6/8/17]

Breitbart routinely refers to DACA as “amnesty.” When writing about the fate of the program, Breitbart has been routinely publishing articles that referred to DACA as “amnesty,” falsely implying that DACA is a form of permanent legalization. [Breitbart, 8/31/17, 9/4/17, 8/29/17]

Right-wing media used the 2014 child migrants surge to attack DACA. On several occasions, right-wing media and media personalities including Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade and Laura Ingraham incorrectly claimed that President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, including DACA, were the reason children from Central America crossed the U.S. border in record numbers in 2014. These personalities ignored experts’ comments that most of these children were fleeing the gang violence in their countries. [Media Matters, 6/11/14; Breitbart, 8/5/14]

Breitbart has pushed the myth that DACA recipients are taking American jobs. Breitbart often pushes the anti-immigrant narrative that DACA recipients are taking American jobs, saying the program ending will hurt “corporate interests” seeking to exploit “cheaper labor sources.” [Breitbart, 8/31/17, 8/31/17]

Fox & Friends: DACA “was unconstitutional.” During the September 5 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Abby Huntsman pushed the false talking point that DACA is unconstitutional. [Media Matters, 9/5/17]

Breitbart reporter acknowledged Sessions echoed the site. Breitbart's White House correspondent Charlie Spierling tweeted that Sessions was “going full Breitbart” in his speech:

 [Twitter, 9/5/17]

Right-wing media talking points about DACA are lies

DACA did not grant amnesty to undocumented immigrants. As an article on The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog explained, “under no circumstances could Obama’s action be considered ‘amnesty’" because “immigrants in theory would still face legal risk because an executive order can be changed by Obama’s successor.” From the November 3, 2014, blogpost:

The Congressional Research Service, in a report, found that the White House’s authority to defer deportations is limited. The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 29 reported that the White House was considering options that could offer protections to 1 million and 4 million people in the country illegally.

At this point no one really knows the exact impact. But the odds are the number will be much less than 11 million — and under no circumstances could Obama’s action be considered “amnesty.” Immigrants in theory would still face legal risk because an executive order can be changed by Obama’s successor.


As we have noted before, “amnesty” is a loaded phrase when used in the context of illegal immigration. The dictionary definition is: “The act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.”

The Fact Checker does not take a position on the bill — or on someone's belief that any path to citizenship is, in effect, “amnesty.”

But the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which was approved in the Senate in 2013 on a vote of 68 to 32, including the support of 14 Republicans, did not contain anything as sweeping as that dictionary definition of amnesty.

If the bill had become law, undocumented aliens would have had to jump through all sorts of hoops before they could be considered for legal permanent residence, including registering with the government, having a steady job, paying a fine, paying back taxes, passing background checks, learning English — and then getting in line behind immigrants who had entered the country legally. It would have taken at least 13 years before citizenship could be obtained.

By its very nature, a presidential executive order would be even less than that, since an executive order does not permanently change the law. [The Washington Post, 11/3/14]

DACA is not a “magnet” for illegal immigration, nor did it cause the surge in arrival of minors from Central America. In responding to lawsuits against DACA, different judges have debunked the claim that the program acts as a magnet for illegal immigration, noting that the claim is “speculation.” Additionally, DACA only applies to immigrants who “have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time,” meaning new arrivals do not qualify for the temporary status. [Monthly Review Online, 8/25/15; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, accessed 9/5/17]

Law experts agree that DACA is constitutional. Law professors, immigration lawyers, and policy experts have made statements affirming that Obama had the legal authority to defer deportations with executive actions. In one case, over 100 law professors wrote a memo explaining that “the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that decisions to initiate or terminate enforcement proceedings fall squarely within the authority of the Executive” and there are historical precedents for such actions. [Media Matters, 4/17/16]

Immigration Policy Center: There is “little apparent relationship” between immigration and unemployment statistics. According to the Immigration Policy Center, there is “little apparent relationship” between immigration and unemployment statistics (emphasis original):

If immigrants really “took” jobs away from large numbers of native-born workers, especially during economic hard times, then one would expect to find high unemployment rates in those parts of the country with large numbers of immigrants—especially immigrants who have come to the United States recently and, presumably, are more willing to work for lower wages and under worse conditions than either long-term immigrants or native-born workers. Yet there is little apparent relationship between recent immigration and unemployment rates at the regional, state, or county level.

An IPC analysis of 2011 data from the American Community Survey found that, at the county level, there is no statistically significant relationship between the unemployment rate and the presence of recent immigrants who arrived in 2000 or later. [Immigration Policy Center, 6/12/13]