Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, who is known for spreading misinformation on immigration matters, spouted a number of falsehoods this morning in an attempt to link Latino immigrants to the brutal gang MS-13.
On June 13, Kilmeade interviewed the sheriff of Frederick County, MD, Chuck Jenkins, to discuss the gang’s influence in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Jenkins gained attention in 2013 for embracing a controversial program 287(g), also known as the “show me your papers” law, which has facilitated the deportation of “large numbers of Frederick Latinos caught without papers after being arrested only for driving without a license” and led to the illegal detention of one Latina woman.
While MS-13, a violent gang, is a serious problem in some communities, Fox News has exaggerated their presence in the course of their anti-immigrant fearmongering. Together, Kilmeade and Jenkins blamed unaccompanied minors and lax immigration policies for the rise of the gang with a host of lies:
Kilmeade incorrectly linked the influx of unaccompanied minors into the country to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, claiming, “When these kids came flooding across the border, in many cases, the unaccompanied minors, they were picked up under the DACA provision, and they were scattered in these communities.” But long-standing U.S. immigration policy has granted special protections to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. DACA was implemented as a solution for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and who had already been residing in the country, not as a legal basis for them to be accepted when they cross the border. And there is little evidence that, as many conservatives have implied, DACA encouraged unaccompanied minors to make the journey to the U.S.
Kilmeade suggested unaccompanied minors crossing the border are affiliated with MS-13. Only a very small fraction are suspected of gang affiliation. According to the acting chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, of the 45,400 unaccompanied minors who were apprehended per fiscal year from 2012-2017, only 159 had confirmed or suspected gang affiliations and 56 were suspected or confirmed to be affiliated with MS-13. It is more widely accepted that young immigrants living in the U.S. who have little access to community resources are forcibly recruited into gangs.
Kilmeade encouraged profiling unaccompanied minors with tattoos to identify MS-13 members. Authorities are already using physical indicators like tattoos to wrongly designate undocumented immigrants as gang members in order to detain or deport them. One federal judge recently found that ICE had improperly targeted a DACA beneficiary by claiming a tattoo proved he was involved in a gang.
Jenkins claimed that there were “well over 5,000” MS-13 members in three Maryland counties located just northwest of Washington, D.C. A White House press briefing statement in February by the acting assistant attorney general put the number closer to 3,000 across the D.C. metro region, and last year U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement put the number even lower, telling The Washington Post that the gang has 900 to 1,100 members in the entire D.C. region and 10,000 across 40 states.
From the June 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): You’ve got Northern Virginia, Long Island, and Boston. When these kids came flooding across the border, in many cases, the unaccompanied minors, they were picked up under the DACA provision, and they were scattered in these communities but not to rich schools. You have schools that are struggling, and they make these classes, which are already too big, even more unwieldy, and they don't even speak English, so they need even more support.
SHERIFF CHUCK JENKINS (FREDERICK COUNTY, MD): That's right, Brian. And, listen, Prince George's County, Montgomery County, this part of Maryland, now into Frederick County, my jurisdiction, was a targeted area for relocation. For some reason -- and we know the MS-13 population in this part of Maryland that I'm talking about is well over 5,000.
KILMEADE: When a kid comes across and says, “I’m a refugee,” but he’s got neck tattoos, that might be the first clue.
JENKINS: That is a clue.
KILMEADE: Yeah. Nearly a dozen parents told the Post they were worried about gang activity at their school. And it happens to be just 10 miles from the White House.
JENKINS: How can it be anywhere in the United States, Brian? How could we have let this happen?
KILMEADE: How could it happen again? What have we done to change things?
JENKINS: Well, we haven't done enough yet. What we need to do is a push from this administration, from the Justice Department, to declare this organization a terrorist organization and clean them up, get them out of here, and get them out of this country.
KILMEADE: So what kind of support are you asking? Do you need money? Do you need people?
JENKINS: We need a declaration from the White House, from President Trump, from the Department of Justice to allow local law enforcement to be effective, get in there and clean these pockets of crime out.
KILMEADE: Yeah. You don't have to dig out the next Nikolas Cruz. They’re sitting there right in front of you, declaring they’re MS-13, daring you to kick them out. And you, sheriff, on with us telling us, “Give me the power to do so.”