Fox News Relies On Anti-Immigrant Nativists To Push Asylum Myths

Fox News is turning to anti-immigrant and nativist organizations to further its failed narrative that Mexicans are gaming the immigration system by seeking asylum in the United States.

On August 12, Fox News repeatedly accused Mexicans coming into the United States from the U.S.-Mexico border of “taking advantage of a loophole” to enter the country, by invoking certain phrases like “credible fear” of drug cartels. In fact, petitioning for asylum based on “credible fear” of persecution is a legitimate and long-standing policy in immigration law.

Throughout the day, Fox News hosts and guests continued to push the narrative that immigrants were using these “bogus” asylum claims only to eventually disappear into the country after failing to attend their immigration hearings. As correspondent William LaJeunesse put it: “It's about overwhelming the system and getting released, getting a court date for which no one shows up.”

To back up these assertions, Fox News relied on Pete Nunez, whom it identified simply as a former U.S. attorney for Southern California, to reinforce this last point. In numerous segments, Nunez claimed:

NUNEZ: Hundreds of thousands of people have never returned and the list of people for whom warrants are outstanding is phenomenal. So, yeah, we have a long history of people absconding from immigration hearings of one sort or another, they just blend back into the community.

According to the Department of Justice, only 11 percent of immigrants fail to appear for their immigration hearings.

None of the hosts pointed out, however, that while Nunez is indeed a former U.S. attorney for Southern California, he is also the chairman of the Board of Directors at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and a member of the National Board of Advisors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). CIS is an anti-immigrant and nativist organization whose affiliation with hate groups has been thoroughly documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center. FAIR has similarly been designated a hate group by SPLC.

CIS has a long history of smears and inflammatory rhetoric against immigrants. It has also been exposed as a group that misrepresents evidence and data to substantiate dubious conclusions about immigrants. Frankly, in the words of the Center for the New Community, CIS “has proven not to be a credible voice in the debate on immigration.” The American Prospect has charged that “convoluted logic and paranoia is typical of the research” CIS produces.

As to FAIR, SPLC has noted that its “leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements” and that one of the group's “main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans.” FAIR has reportedly received funding from white supremacist groups.

On August 13, Fox & Friends also hosted FAIR president Dan Stein to continue to push the myth. Stein accused immigrants seeking asylum of perpetrating “abuse and fraud” to eventually stay in the country illegally and claimed that immigrants are “very unlikely to ever show up for a hearing before an asylum officer or later before an immigration judge.” He later reiterated that immigrants who are scheduled for a hearing are “probably not going to show up.” He added: “So again, this is massive fraud and it's being coached.”

America's Newsroom also aired comments from Nunez, in which he stated: “This clearly has to have been orchestrated by somebody. I mean, you can't -- it's beyond belief that dozens and dozens or hundreds or thousands of people would simultaneously decide that they should go to the United States and make this claim.”

During the segment, host Bill Hemmer reiterated the myth that immigrants skip out on their immigration hearings once in the United States, saying that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “estimates 600 to 800,000 illegals a year do not show up for the court date and they disappear into the U.S.” An August 12 article similarly stated: “ICE sources say an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 illegal immigrants a year do not show up for their court date and disappear into the U.S.”

While Fox didn't specify who these “sources” were, ICE estimates that at the end of fiscal year 2012, “there were approximately 469,157 fugitive alien cases -- a decrease of more than 10,616 since the beginning of the fiscal year.” ICE defines a fugitive as an individual “who has failed to leave the United States based upon a final order of removal, deportation or exclusion, or who has failed to report to ICE after receiving notice to do so.”

In a June 2007 article, ABC News reported on ICE's efforts to crack down on those who ignored their final deportation orders, writing that, at the time, the number was growing at an “average rate of about 68,000 per year”:

Fugitive aliens are typically people in the United States illegally who have ignored their final deportation orders. The number of those individuals has grown steadily over the last several years, at an average rate of about 68,000 per year -- or more than 5,600 per month.

The total backlog of fugitive aliens has soared to more than 630,000. But over the last two months, the number actually dropped by 500, according to ICE.

“ICE has been working aggressively to improve the systems that help us identify, target and remove fugitive aliens from the United States,” said Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE.

The agency tripled the number of its Fugitive Operation Teams, groups that find and arrest individuals identified as fugitive aliens, from 18 teams in 2005 to its present 61. ICE plans to add 14 more teams by the end of September.

In February, the Justice Department stated that 8,103 orders of deportation were given in fiscal year 2012 to immigrants “released on bond or on their own recognizance” who failed to appear at their immigration hearings.