Fox Seizes On Immigrant Bust To Criticize Obama's Immigration Record

Fox & Friends seized on a story of over 500 migrants who were caught packed into trucks in Mexico to attack President Obama's claim that “far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.” But immigration data supports Obama's claim that illegal border crossings have decreased.

Authorities Caught Over 500 Immigrants Packed Into Trucks In Chiapas, Mexico

AP: Police In Chiapas, Mexico Find “513 Migrants...Inside Two Trailer Trucks Bound For The United States.” A May 17 Associated Press article reported:

Police in Mexico's southern Chiapas state found 513 migrants on Tuesday inside two trailer trucks bound for the United States.


Chiapas state police discovered the migrants while using X-ray equipment on the trucks at a checkpoint in the outskirts of city of Tuxtla Gutierrez, the National Immigration Institute said in a statement.

Police also arrested four people accused of smuggling the migrants, who are from Central and South America and Asia, Chiapas state prosecutors said in a statement.

The alleged smugglers tried to escape police but were chased down and captured, prosecutors said.

The immigration institute said 410 of the migrants were from Guatemala, 47 from El Salvador, 32 from Ecuador, 12 from India, six from Nepal, three from China and one each from Japan, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. There were 32 women and four children among them. [CBS News, 5/17/11]

Fox & Friends Uses Capture To Attack Obama's Recent Immigration Speech

Doocy: “Just Last Week...The President Told Us Far Fewer People Were Trying To Sneak Into The United States. If That's True, Then What's This?” On the May 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said “it was just last week that the president told us far fewer people were trying to sneak into the United States. If that's true, then what's this? Dozens of immigrants cramped into a truck headed into the United States.” Doocy showed an x-ray image of the truck and said: “Yep, that's a semi.” The Fox & Friends co-hosts repeated this claim several times during the course of the show. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/19/11]

In Fact, Obama Is Right That “Far Fewer People Are Attempting To Cross The Border Illegally”

Obama: “Far Fewer People Are Attempting To Cross The Border Illegally.” In a May 10 speech on comprehensive immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, President Obama noted that “far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally.” From the president's May 10 speech:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: So, here's the point. I want everybody to listen carefully to this. We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement. All the stuff they asked for, we've done. But even though we've answered these concerns, I've got to say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time.


[T]he measures we've put in place are getting results. Over the past two and a half years, we've seized 31 percent more drugs, 75 percent more currency, 64 percent more weapons than ever before. (Applause.) And even as we have stepped up patrols, apprehensions along the border have been cut by nearly 40 percent from two years ago. That means far fewer people are attempting to cross the border illegally. [White House, 5/10/11]

CNN: “Border Arrests Of Undocumented Immigrants Down 58% In Five Years.” A May 12 CNN article noted that arrests of people attempting to cross the border illegally has dropped 58% since 2006, including a drop from 705,005 in 2008 to 447,731 in 2010. From CNN:

By at least one measure, illegal immigration is not the problem that it used to be for the United States -- the number of arrests of people trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally has decreased sharply in the last five years, according to federal statistics.

In fiscal year 2006 there were 1,071,972 arrests of undocumented immigrants in the multi-state border area, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The number had fallen to 705,005 in 2008, and last year's figure was 447,731, CBP data shows. Those figures represent a 58% decrease from 2006 to 2010.


Although many agree that the system is “broken,” as President Obama called it, a close look at the number of arrests of people trying to cross the border illegally shows that sharp decrease in the last five years.

Several factors have contributed to the decrease in the number of arrests of would-be immigrants. The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border has doubled in roughly the same period in which arrests have decreased. In 2004, there were 11,000 agents patrolling the border, according to CBP. Now the number is getting close to 22,000. [CNN, 5/12/11]

PolitiFact: "[Border Patrol] Manpower Has Roughly Doubled Since 2004, As Obama Said In His Speech At El Paso." PolitiFact rated Obama's statement that "[t]he Border Patrol has 20,000 agents -- more than twice as many as there were in 2004" as “true.” From PolitiFact:

In a speech on immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, President Barack Obama boasted about an unprecedented number of border security agents along the U.S. border with Mexico, but he said critics probably still won't be satisfied.

“Under Secretary Napolitano's leadership, we have strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible,” Obama said in his May 10, 2011, speech. “They wanted more agents on the border. Well, we now have more boots on the ground on the southwest border than at any time in our history. The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents -- more than twice as many as there were in 2004, a buildup that began under President Bush and that we have continued.”


In March 2011, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report, “Border Security: DHS Progress and Challenges in Securing the U.S. Southwest and Northern Borders,” in conjunction with testimony from GAO Director Richard Stana.

The report confirmed that personnel and other resources to stop illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border have increased dramatically in recent years. In 2004, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was created, reorganizing several federal agencies under a single roof. That year, the agency had 10,500 agents to patrol land borders. That number now stands at nearly 21,000.

In other words, manpower has roughly doubled since 2004, as Obama said in his speech in El Paso. Again, that trend began under President Bush, whom Obama credited, but it continued under Obama. We rate Obama's statement True. [PolitiFact, 5/10/11]

AP: “The U.S.-Mexico Border Is More Fortified Now Than It Was Even Five Years Ago.” A June 23, 2010, Associated Press article noted: “You wouldn't know it from the public debate, but the U.S.-Mexico border is more fortified now than it was even five years ago. Far more agents patrol it, more fences, barriers and technology protect it and taxpayers are spending billions more to reinforce it.” [AP, 6/23/10]

U.S. Border Patrol Chief: There Are Currently More Border Patrol Agents “Than Ever Before In The History Of This Country.” The Obama administration has been increasing the number of Border Patrol officers on the southern border. During a July 2010 hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security, U.S. Border Patrol chief Michael Fisher said, “Currently we have over 20,000 Border Patrol Agents nationwide, more than ever before in the history of the country.”

Based on Department of Homeland Security data, The Arizona Republic created the following chart showing the increase in border patrol agents since 2001:


[House Homeland Security Committee Hearing, 7/22/10; The Arizona Republic, 5/26/10]

Obama Signed $600 Million Border Security Bill For More Border Patrol Agents And Customs Inspectors. On August 13, 2010, Obama signed a $600 million border security bill to “fund some 1,500 new border patrol agents, customs inspectors and other law enforcement officials along the border, as well as two more unmanned aerial 'drones' to monitor border activities.” [Reuters, 8/13/10]

Seizures Of Drugs, Weapons Along Border Have Increased. According to data reported by USA Today, "[w]eapons seizures rose 28% and illicit-currency seizures were up 35% in fiscal 2009 and 2010." [USA Today, 2/9/11]

Deportations Have Increased Under Obama. According to data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), nearly 100,000 more people were deported by ICE in both 2009 and 2010 than in 2007. [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, accessed 2/14/11]

Deportations Of Convicted Criminals Are At Their Highest Levels. According to AZ Fact Check -- a project of The Arizona Republic,, 12 News, and Arizona State University -- “ICE has removal numbers immediately available for only the past 10 fiscal years, and according to those figures, the most convicted criminals were indeed removed in fiscal 2010.” [AZ Fact Check, 2/9/11]

Illegal Immigration Fell In FY 2010 Due To “Economic Distress” And “Changes In The Level Of Immigration Enforcement.” In a study on the national and state trends of the unauthorized immigrant population in the United States, Pew Hispanic Center found that “economic distress” and “changes in the level of immigration enforcement” led to a decrease in the number of undocumented immigrants crossing into the United States. From Pew Hispanic Center:

The decline in the population of unauthorized immigrants from its peak in 2007 appears due mainly to a decrease in the number from Mexico, which went down to 6.5 million in 2010 from 7 million in 2007. Mexicans remain the largest group of unauthorized immigrants, accounting for 58% of the total.

  • The number of unauthorized immigrants decreased from 2007 to 2010 in Colorado, Florida, New York and Virginia. The combined population in three contiguous Mountain West states-Arizona, Nevada and Utah-also declined.
  • In contrast to the national trend, the combined unauthorized immigrant population in three contiguous West South Central states-Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas-grew from 2007 to 2010.
  • Although the number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. is below 2007 levels, it has tripled since 1990, when it was 3.5 million and grown by a third since 2000, when it was 8.4 million.

The estimates are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, augmented with the Pew Hispanic Center's analysis of the demographic characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population using a “residual estimation methodology.”

Although the estimates indicate trends in the size and composition of the unauthorized-immigrant population, they are not designed to answer the question of why these changes occurred. There are many possible factors. The deep recession that began in the U.S. economy officially ended in 2009, but recovery has been slow to take hold and unemployment remains high. Immigration flows have tended to decrease in previous periods of economic distress.

The period covered by this analysis also has been accompanied by changes in the level of immigration enforcement and in enforcement strategies, not only by the federal government but also at state and local levels. Immigration also is subject to pressure by demographic and economic conditions in sending countries. This analysis does not attempt to quantify the relative impact of these forces on levels of unauthorized immigration. [Pew Hispanic Center, 2/1/11]

Fox Falsely Claims Incident Was A “Major Border Breach”

On-Screen Text Falsely Declares Incident Was A “Major Border Breach.” During the segment, the on-screen text called the incident a “major border breach.” From Fox & Friends:


[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/19/11]

In Fact, The Trucks Were Found And Stopped In Southern Mexico. As CNN reported, “X-ray equipment detected the immigrants at checkpoints in the southern state of Chiapas, the state attorney general's office said. The drivers of both trucks sped away after authorities ordered them to stop, but police apprehended them nearby.” [CNN, 5/17/11]

Fox Has A History Of Misinforming About Obama's Immigration Record

Fox Uses White House Meeting On Immigration Reform To Insult Undocumented Immigrants And Border Security. On April 19, Fox News' “straight news” programs used a White House meeting on immigration reform to fearmonger about immigration and bash Obama's record on border security and immigration. [Media Matters, 4/20/11]

Fox & Friends Falsely Suggested Obama Refuses To Secure Border. In October, 2010, Fox & Friends hosted Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and agreed with his false suggestion that Obama has not worked to secure the border with Mexico. [Media Matters, 10/13/10]

Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim Obama Said Border Security Is “Impossible.” In July, 2010, right-wing media distorted one of Obama's immigration speeches to claim that he said border security is impossible. In fact, Obama said our immigration problems can't be solved “only with fences and border patrols” and that other measures are needed to reduce the incentives for illegal immigration, a view that has also been expressed by many experts and several Republicans. [Media Matters, 7/20/10]

Right-Wing Media Figures Have Repeatedly Distorted Obama's Record On Border Security. Right-wing media figures have a history of falsely portraying Obama as weak on border security. [Media Matters, 7/1/10, 7/29/10, 8/4/10]