Fox News is falsely claiming Democrats are incentivizing migration and Trump’s approach to immigration is the only way to solve it 

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Fox News is pushing a narrative that Democrats are incentivizing undocumented immigration with their social policies, even though experts have concluded that most people migrate to the U.S. in a desperate attempt to flee conditions in their home countries. Fox’s narrative frames President Donald Trump’s border agenda -- which includes building a border wall and cracking down on asylum-seekers -- as the only way to alleviate the problem. But experts also widely agree that on-the-ground aid to Central America’s Northern Triangle countries is the best way to slow migration toward the U.S. and that migration will continue as long as these countries face violence and poverty. 

Fox News has been quick to provide cover for the Trump administration after recent reporting shone a spotlight on disturbing conditions at facilities where migrants are being held. While Fox now acknowledges that the conditions at those facilities are dangerous, the network has pivoted to blaming Democratic policies for that. In particular, Fox figures are insisting that Democratic immigration policies are incentivizing illegal immigration and, as a result, are to blame for any incidents or deaths within U.S. detention facilities. Many at Fox are now suggesting that migrants are going to come to the U.S. for health care after the Democratic presidential candidates asserted during last week’s primary debate that they would provide health care for undocumented immigrants. 

In reality, migrants are coming to the U.S. because of violence and poverty plaguing their home countries that creates a level of desperation such that making the long, dangerous trek to the U.S. seems like the only option. And there is no evidence to support Fox’s claim that people are migrating to the U.S. because of Democrats' social policies. 

Fox News figures are also insisting that the only way to curb the flow of migrants is for Democrats to adopt the Trump administration’s policies to militarize the border, including building a wall. Yet experts agree that as long as the Northern Triangle countries of Central America -- El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras -- remain mired in poverty and violence, immigration toward the U.S. is inevitable. According to Daniel McQuillan, who has spent a decade working in Honduras and Guatemala with the nonprofit Catholic Relief Services, “People are migrating because they feel they have no choice. ... These migrants do not want to leave ... and go to a new country where they can't speak the language and aren't even legal.” And even though experts say that “cutting aid to impoverished countries will give desperate people more reasons to leave, not to stay,” Trump decided to abruptly cut off aid to the Northern Triangle countries earlier this year. 

Former officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of Homeland Security have also agreed that “through misguided policies, political stunts and a failure of leadership, the president has created the conditions that allowed the asylum problem at the border to explode into a crisis.” They argue that Trump’s fixation on a wall “has become a profound distraction and waste of time for policymakers and agency leadership as other solutions that would prove far more useful to our real immigration problems have gone neglected.” Despite becoming a primary goal for Trump, the wall will do nothing to address the issues that cause migrants to come here, nor will it address the U.S. asylum laws or immigration court backlog. Additionally, Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy involving “prosecuting illegal border-crossers wasted scarce prosecutorial and detention resources and could never be operationally sustained.” And his family separation policy was not vetted, leading to a chaotic and inhumane implementation with traumatic side effects still playing out today.

Fox’s argument that Democrats are not trying to alleviate the problem also ignores the solutions that Democratic lawmakers have introduced: increasing aid to Northern Triangle countries, creating new options for migrants to apply for entry into the U.S. without making the dangerous journey to the border, making investments to expedite immigration cases, and adding more protections for migrant children. 

Despite all evidence that suggests otherwise, Fox is still adamant about crafting a narrative for its viewers that Democrats are responsible for the humanitarian crisis at the border and adopting Trump’s immigration agenda is the only way to solve it.

Fox figures claim Democrats are incentivizing illegal immigration through their policies 

On Outnumbered, co-host Melissa Francis questioned whether Democrats “bear part of the responsibility for the people that are dying on their journey to this country.” She added that “when you put out there free health care for people who are inside the border, you incent more people like that poor man and his daughter to make the trip,” referring to the Salvadoran migrant father and his young daughter who recently drowned while swimming from Mexico to Texas. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/28/19; NBC News, 6/26/19]

On Fox Business, Trump 2020 campaign senior adviser (and Trump’s daughter-in-law) Lara Trump said Democrats “are the ones enticing people to come over.” She then asked, “Sanctuary cities, sanctuary states, health care for all illegals: Why wouldn’t everybody want to come to this country?” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 6/28/19]

Fox New contributor Liz Peek pointed out tweets she agreed with, claiming that “the more you offer things like free health care, the more people will come -- it’s an incentive.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/28/19]

Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer tweeted a six-step “Democratic plan for the future” that implied Democrats intend to incentivize illegal immigration to win future elections. The first step in the plan was to “decriminalize illegal border crossings,” the third was to “provide illegals with free health care,” and the last step was to “win elections.” Fleischer’s tweet was featured on Fox News’ Fox & Friends. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/28/19]

On her prime-time Fox show, Laura Ingraham said that “families still have an incentive to cross” under Democrats’ immigration policies “because they’ll be taken care of in a better way, more humane -- they’ll have beds to sleep in, … it’ll be a better situation.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 6/27/19

On Fox & Friends Weekend, co-host Ed Henry claimed that saying “we’re going to give you free health care when you get on the other side” is “another incentive to get people to cross the border illegally.” Co-host Jedediah Bila said that it is “amazing” and “unbelievable” that Democrats criticize Trump’s policies as being “inhumane” and suggested that Democrats' policies are encouraging human trafficking, which she said is equally inhumane. Co-host Pete Hegseth listed what he seemed to suggest were Democrats policies: “no border wall, bring a kid, we’ll release you within 21 days, you can go to a sanctuary city.” He added, “You wonder why people are coming here in droves.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 6/23/19]

Fox contributor Tomi Lahren claimed Democrats are “creating” the humanitarian crisis “by issuing this cattle call for people to come into this country.” Lahren also pushed the conspiracy theory that Democrats are trying to change the electorate through immigration by “ushering in their future voting bloc in the United States of America.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/26/19]

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asserted, “If you are in Guatemala, Nigeria, Norway, or someplace else and want to come to this country, now is the perfect time. Sneak across our border and then you’ve free health care. And what else free? Maybe just about everything else.” Guest co-host Lisa Boothe agreed, adding that “our policies here in the country incentivize illegal immigrants, and they pay attention to what politicians are saying here in the country.” Boothe asserted, “If you have Democrats saying, ‘Look, if I become president, free health care for everyone including illegal immigrants,’ of course you’re going to want to make that trip.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/28/19]

Fox News contributor Tom Homan listed several Democratic policies before insisting that this will lead to more women being raped and more children dying “because they’re enticing them to come to this country.” Homan also claimed that Democrats oppose Trump’s border policies only because of “their hate of this president.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/1/19]

Fox figures and guests assert or suggest that Trump’s approach to immigration is the only way to solve the crisis 

Discussing the humanitarian crisis at the border, Fox contributor Mike Huckabee berated Democrats, saying they “cannot be allowed to continue having leadership in the House.” He criticized Democrats for “being only willing to address part of” the border crisis. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/26/19]

While guest co-hosting Fox & Friends, Bila said that it’s “a little bit exhausting to listen to Democrats talk about” helping migrant children and express concern about conditions when they won’t increase funding for law enforcement agencies. Bila implied that if Democrats really cared about migrant children, they would “stop incentivizing a system that promotes human trafficking,” urging Democrats to “put your money where your words are.” Bila concluded that the border “is an issue of not only national security, but this is a huge humanitarian crisis” and “Democrats are going to be responsible for that.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/26/19]   

On Outnumbered Overtime, Trump 2020 campaign communications adviser Marc Lotter said that “until Democrats agree to work with this president to change” asylum laws, “the crisis at the southern border is not going to change.” He added that “Democrats are owning this issue right now” because “they are not doing anything to work with us.” [Fox News, Outnumbered Overtime, 6/26/19]

On Fox, acting ICE Director Mark Morgan insisted that there’s “absolutely some truth” to accusations that the conditions at detention facilities are unsanitary, but he also implied that the only solution is more funding from Congress. Kilmeade dismissed accusations of disturbing conditions at the border by saying, “You’re never going to have a Hyatt [Hotel] at the border.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/26/19]

On Fox Business, anchor Maria Bartiromo expressed empathy for migrant children on the border and the conditions they face before emphasizing that this crisis was created because Democrats “can’t get anything done to close these loopholes” in asylum laws. Bartiromo called Democrats’ unwillingness to close asylum loopholes “ridiculous” and chastised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for having “the nerve to say that the president is separating families.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 6/25/19]

On her prime-time Fox News show, Ingraham insisted that “if people are truly caring about the human suffering of real refugees, they will embrace the president’s policies.” Ingraham also connected California’s homelessness problem to sanctuary cities’ immigration policies. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 6/21/19]

On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy claimed that if Democrats are really “concerned about the kids,” they “have to close the asylum loopholes. Because that’s where the kids are dying and getting sexually assaulted.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/24/19]

Fox contributor Dan Bongino expressed concerns for “kids [who] die at the southern border” and “women who have been sexually abused.” Bongino continued, “These are real, serious problems and they are being almost entirely ignored by a political class that seemingly doesn’t care.” Co-host Jedediah Bila said that it’s “so outrageous” for Pelosi to criticize Trump “when she has sat by and done absolutely nothing to address the humanitarian crisis” while Trump is “working overtime.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 6/9/19]

Outnumbered Overtime guest anchor Julie Banderas berated Democrats for not funding the border wall and immigration reforms “because it would cost too much money,” asking, “What dollar sign do you put on the lives of children?” Banderas bizarrely explained that “I understand that they are children from other countries, nonetheless, they are children,” adding that “Democrats haven’t come up with any kind of plan, and they’re never going to as long as they are in control.” [Fox News, Outnumbered Overtime, 6/7/19]