Fox News incorrectly claimed that children crossing the U.S. border to flee violence in Central America are getting a “free ride” into the United States and are being allowed to stay despite evidence showing that these children are immediately put into deportation proceedings and are not eligible for any of the Obama administration's deportation relief programs.
This year, precipitated by growing violence in Central America, thousands of migrant children have entered the U.S. and have been held in various locations in border states, including temporary housing in Arizona. Estimates have varied on the number that is expected to cross this year, with The New York Times reporting that some federal officials predict at least 60,000 unaccompanied minors will attempt to cross into the U.S. by the end of this fiscal year.
Fox News has capitalized on the situation to attack the Obama administration and incorrectly claim his administration's immigration policies are to blame for the rise, while falsely claiming these children would receive a free pass into the U.S.
On the June 17 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer used the border crossings by unaccompanied migrant children to claim that the president was doing nothing about the situation. Fox contributor David Webb agreed, blaming the Obama administration for exacerbating “a human crisis” by “actively promoting” their “open borders approach”:
On the June 17 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade blamed the immigration policies of the Obama administration for encouraging the surge in illegal immigration by unaccompanied children, insisting “these orders that allow these people to flock here came from Washington.” Kilmeade also claimed illegal immigrants are being given a “free ride,” saying “its unbelievable this has to happen”:
On the June 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy blamed the Obama administration policies for encouraging illegal immigration and for giving children crossing the border illegally a “pass.” Responding to the current humanitarian crisis-levels of migrant children entering the United States, Doocy said “the administration created it.” Doocy claimed Obama's lax immigration policies encourage more children to cross the border illegally, insisting that “because the way the law is right now, if somebody who is a child asks to come across, for the most part they give them a pass.”
But contrary to Fox News' callous coverage, the Obama administration has not offered a “pass” to children crossing the border illegally, nor can its policies be blamed for encouraging illegal immigration.
The majority of apprehended child migrants are not given a free pass, but instead are immediately put into deportation proceedings. The Department of Homeland Security has emphasized that these children are not eligible for relief but, along with all “those apprehended at the border,” are prioritized for removal, “regardless of age.” Mother Jones reported that “those coming from Mexico are taken straight back across. The rest are referred to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (rather than being put in immigration detention with adults) and placed in temporary shelters while their deportation proceedings get under way.” Obama administration official Cecila Muñoz confirmed to Univision that children apprehended at the border are immediately put into deportation proceedings.
In addition, right-wing media claims that children are being drawn to illegally enter the United states by promise of relief are misleading. The Obama White House has made it clear that children who have recently crossed the border illegally are not eligible for legal status under the administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), as the program applies only to immigrants who arrived in 2007 or earlier.
Fox News' blame of the Obama administration's policies for the handling of the children that have been arrested is also baseless. United States rules on dealing with child migrants was passed in a series of laws by Congress in 2008, including the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The law requires Border Patrol to take children migrants that are not from Mexico into custody, to screen them, and to transfer them to the Department of Health and Human Services to be placed with a relative or in long-term foster care. As Vox points out, evidence that this law would inspire further illegal immigration by children is ambiguous at best. A San Diego State University researcher found that only 15 of the 400 migrants interviewed were aware that unaccompanied children are treated differently under U.S. immigration law.