Fox News has repeatedly blamed dangerous conditions at the border and in detention facilities on Democrats instead of on Trump’s policies

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

After recent media coverage revealed the disturbing conditions migrants are facing in U.S. detention centers, Fox pivoted from arguing that the conditions at these centers really aren’t that bad to claiming that it’s the Democrats’ fault that they are.

A slew of recent reports, including one from the Department of Homeland Security’s own Office of Inspector General, have detailed disturbing and at times abusive conditions in detention centers housing migrants seeking asylum. The IG report found at multiple facilities expired and contaminated food, health risks from poor sanitation, and inappropriate separation practices that “infringe on detainee rights.” Additionally, doctors have sounded the alarm that the treatment of migrants held in civil custody at these facilities is comparable to that of convicted felons. A report by Physicians for Human Rights described U.S. Customs and Border Protection policies as unnecessarily punitive, noting that agents “hold ambulances at checkpoints while critically ill patients languish inside” or “stand guard and refuse to unshackle patients during medical evaluations.” Doctors have also said that their authority as medical professionals feels undermined in the presence of CBP agents. 

At least 24 migrants have died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody so far during President Donald Trump’s administration, and internal documents obtained by The Young Turks show that the agency’s health service had neglected some migrants’ medical care, causing “preventable harm and death to detainees.” Reuters reporting from June 2018 described migrant children held in Texas by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement being forced to take psychotropic drugs to deal with “trauma after being detained and in some cases separated from parents,” with some children being “held down and given injections when they refused.” A legal team that recently interviewed over 60 children at a CBP facility in Texas reportedly found “a traumatic and dangerous situation,” including three girls under the age of 15 caring for a sick 2-year-old child due to neglect. Holly Cooper, a lawyer representing detained youth, claimed, “In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity.” The New York Times described a “chaotic scene of sickness and filth” at the detention center, while the Trump administration recently argued in court that the government is not required to provide soap and toothbrushes to ensure “safe and sanitary” conditions to children.

In the face of such overwhelming evidence, Fox appears to have abandoned its previous strategy of asserting that conditions inside the migrant detention centers were not actually that bad, with one Fox host comparing them to “summer camps.” Instead, Fox figures are now acknowledging the conditions at the border and expressing empathy and concern toward migrant children, but they are pinning the blame for the crisis almost entirely on Democrats. 

Some Fox hosts and guests have argued that Democrats need to further fund CBP -- ignoring the fact that the costs of housing migrant children separately from their parents far outweighs keeping parents and children together. Others have accused Democrats of using migrants at the border for political purposes and refusing to further fund CBP only to withhold a win from Trump. But these attacks also ignore the solutions congressional Democrats have presented. In May, Senate Democrats unveiled a bill that would alleviate pressure at the border by giving more aid to the Central American nations that many of the asylum-seekers are coming from, allowing some refugees to apply for entry to the U.S. from their own countries, increasing the number of immigration judges to reduce court backlogs, and adding protections for migrant children. House Democrats have also committed to deliver billions of dollars in funding for humanitarian assistance but are reportedly wary that the Trump administration might use the funding for stricter border security enforcement instead. There is also the reality that the dangerous overcrowding at border detention facilities stems from the Trump administration’s own policies to detain everyone who crosses the southern border without authorization “with no exception for asylum seekers or those with minor children.”

Despite these facts, many Fox News figures have been blaming Democrats for conditions at the border and in the Trump administration’s detention facilities: 

Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy to Democrats: “If you're concerned about the kids, you have to close the asylum loopholes,” which are “the root of the problem.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/24/19]

On Fox & Friends, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said, “This is all up to the Democrats in Congress” and blamed them for federal agencies “running out of money … to meet these humanitarian needs.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/24/19]

Fox contributor Dan Bongino: Democrats “have zero interest in solving this,” and media “gives the Democrats largely a pass.” Campos-Duffy asked Bongino: “How is it that the Democrats are getting away with being the compassionate ones in this whole media story? I mean, they are the ones who refuse to change the loopholes. The children are being exploited, dying, and sexually assaulted because of the loophole. How do they get away with claiming that they’re the ones who are compassionate and care about the kids?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/24/19]

Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Pete Hegseth: Democrats are “keeping the crisis going” because it “somehow benefits them.” Co-host Jedediah Bila said Democrats “don’t want to allow [Trump] to have this campaign win going into 2020, and if they delay, delay only helps them.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Weekend, 6/23/19]

On Fox Business, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said that he hopes “people of Hispanic descent will understand that the Democrats are only using them; they’re not actually trying to help them.” He also accused Democrats of using “race bait” and “identity politics” to stop Trump’s agenda and asserted that Democrats have “yet to move a comprehensive immigration bill” since taking the House. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 6/23/19

On Fox Business, Republican consultant and frequent Fox guest Brad Blakeman said that “Democrats are complicit in not helping” migrants at the border. He also claimed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) doesn’t have “control of her caucus” and therefore won’t be able to reach a border deal. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 6/24/19]

On Varney & Co., National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd chastised Democrats for refusing to “give President Trump a win.” He asserted that if Democrats changed asylum laws, “illegal immigration would drop” and “President Trump would be able to declare victory, and I just don’t see the Democrats giving him any victories going into 2020.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 6/24/19]  

On Mornings with Maria, former ICE acting Director Tom Homan said Democrats are “more interested in protecting illegal aliens … than securing this border.” Homan later asserted that “children are dying” while “Democrats [are] calling these concentration camps, but they haven’t offered up one fix for the crisis.” Homan also attacked sanctuary cities, calling them “another enticement” for migrants. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 6/24/19]

Fox Business anchor Melissa Francis: Members of Congress -- “mostly Democrats” -- “are the ones who have created a system where this is going on.” Francis added that congressional Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) previously ignored Border Patrol warnings of “horrible conditions” for migrants at the border. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/19/19]