Conservative Media Cling To Falsehoods As GOP Readies Immigration Discussion

As Republicans gear up for an annual retreat later this month where leaders will reportedly unveil principles for immigration reform, conservative media are again misrepresenting facts to mislead about Americans' support for legalization.

As Roll Call reported, the retreat is set for January 29 and will include discussions about immigration reform: “To get their members energized and focused on the issue, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and his top lieutenants are about to unveil a set of principles for an immigration overhaul. They could be distributed to lawmakers as early as Friday, but likely not until lawmakers have settled into the retreat, sources say.” The article went on to note “that more and more GOP lawmakers from across the ideological spectrum appear to be growing receptive to giving undocumented immigrants a chance to receive legal status.”

In an attempt to hijack the debate, however, radio talk host Mark Levin and the Daily Caller are using the occasion to mislead about Americans' support for immigration reform.

On his radio show, Mark Levin pointed to a poll by Rasmussen Reports to claim that “immigration increases are opposed by the majority of lower-income and middle-income voters,” and by a “plurality of African-Americans.”

Levin was apparently reading from the Daily Caller, which made the same points in an article previewing the GOP retreat:

A new poll shows that the wealthy and politically well-connected favor the sharp immigration increases that are included in pending House and Senate bills.

The immigration increases are opposed by the majority of lower-income and middle-income voters, and by political moderates and conservatives, according to the new Rasmussen poll of 1,000 likely voters. A plurality of African-Americans oppose the increases.

The article added: “In June, the Senate passed a bill that would triple the inflow of legal immigrants over the next decade.”

But this is a false argument that was repeatedly debunked when conservative media first latched onto it in 2013, after its invention by anti-immigrant nativist group NumbersUSA in an online ad against reform. 

As noted at the time: “The ad claims that Congress is considering 'adding 33 million foreign job seekers' when 20 million Americans can't find a job. Both those numbers are inflated and misleading.” FactCheck continued:

To start, a third of those 33 million are already here and many are already working, so the immigration bill wouldn't be “adding” them or bringing them in. Furthermore, not all of those already here are “job seekers.” An estimated 1.3 million are children under age 18.


The 33 million figure is also puffed up by the inclusion of 11 million immigrants whom Numbers USA figures would come in -- legally, and over the next decade -- under “a continuation of the current system.” Even if that turned out to be accurate (and we have no ability to predict the future) it would not come as a result of the Senate bill the ad criticizes.

Numbers USA also includes 5 million relatives of persons who are currently waiting for permission to enter the U.S. -- also unrelated to the current bill.

The 33 million figure includes only 6 million “new immigrants” who would gain legal status in the next 10 years, through “new categories and expanded existing categories” of legal immigration.

If that's an accurate number, the ad would be be justified in saying that the Senate legislation would be adding an estimated 6 million new foreign job seekers over the next 10 years -- not 33 million.

Yet in its poll, Rasmussen asked respondents: “A bill passed last year by the U.S. Senate would triple legal immigration over the next decade by awarding green cards to 33 million immigrants and work permits to roughly 13 million guest workers. The House has yet to vote on this bill. Do you favor or oppose legislation that triples legal immigration over the next 10 years?” This is not the first time Rasmussen has skewed poll results with biased polling.

The Daily Caller also wrote that a “Quinnipiac University poll shows that both independent and GOP voters have swung sharply against an immigration amnesty since last May” and that it further "showed a 50 percent rise in opposition to the pending immigration bills since last spring." However, the poll showed no such thing.

On January 8, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing that a plurality of registered voters, 38 percent, would be less likely to vote for a candidate for Congress who supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; 31 percent said it would make no difference while 27 percent said it would make it more likely for them to vote for that candidate.

It was the only question in the poll specifically related to immigration reform and legalization:

But the poll showed only that more registered voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported a path to citizenship. It did not ask respondents whether they themselves support a path to citizenship - the more obvious question.

When it has asked that question, as it did in a November 13, 2013, poll, it showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans support letting undocumented immigrants stay in the country and gain either legal status or citizenship.

In fact, a number of polls, including one released on January 22 by Fox News, affirm that Americans support granting legalization or a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the country.

Image credit: SEIU