Fox Uses Misleading Report From Anti-Immigrant Group To Stoke Fears Of Violent Undocumented Immigrants

Fox News used a misleading report from the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) to accuse the Obama administration of “destabilizing the nation” by releasing undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds. In fact, data show that the Obama administration has met its enforcement mandate to prioritize the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions, which has resulted in a substantial increase of such deportations.

CIS Report: ICE Released 68,000 Undocumented Immigrants With Criminal Convictions

CIS: Findings “Raise Further Alarm Over The Obama Administration's Pending Review Of Deportation Practices.” A misleading report by the CIS based on data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) metrics claimed that 68,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal convictions were released by ICE instead of deported. CIS asserted that the findings “raise further alarm over the Obama administration's pending review of deportation practices.”:

A review of internal ICE metrics for 2013 reveals that hundreds of thousands of deportable aliens who were identified in the interior of the country were released instead of removed under the administration's sweeping “prosecutorial discretion” guidelines.


Many of the aliens ignored by ICE were convicted criminals. In 2013, ICE agents released 68,000 aliens with criminal convictions, or 35 percent of all criminal aliens they reported encountering. The criminal alien releases typically occur without formal notice to local law enforcement agencies and victims.

These findings raise further alarm over the Obama administration's pending review of deportation practices, which reportedly may further expand the administration's abuse of “prosecutorial discretion”. Interior enforcement activity has already declined 40 percent since the imposition of “prosecutorial discretion” policies in 2011. Rather than accelerating this decline, there is an urgent need to review and reverse the public safety and fiscal harm cause by the president's policies. [Center for Immigration Studies, March 2014]

Fox Hyped CIS Report To Accuse Obama Of “Unleashing” Violent Undocumented Immigrants Into U.S. Communities

Fox's Starnes: “Obama Unleashes Hordes of Dangerous Illegals Onto American Streets.” Fox News Radio reporter Todd Starnes used the CIS report to assert that the findings represented “indisputable proof that the Obama Administration is destabilizing the nation by allowing hordes of dangerous illegal aliens to invade the country.” In an online post for Fox News Radio, Starnes continued:

It's beyond frightening to imagine that our own government as unleashed this kind of evil on our streets. And heaven forbid, these illegals harm our wives and children. Should that happen, their blood is on the Obama Administration's hands. [, 3/31/14]

FoxNews.Com: “Are America's Streets Threatened By A Criminal Alien 'Crisis'?” A March 31 graphic asked, “Are America's Streets Threatened by a Criminal Alien 'Crisis'?” linking to an article highlighting the CIS study.

 [, accessed 3/31/14]

  • FoxNews.Com: "Enforcement 'Crisis'? Documents Show 68,000 'Criminal Aliens' Released Last Year."  A March 31 article highlighted the CIS report and claimed ICE “is letting thousands who have a criminal record off the hook.”:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement released 68,000 foreign nationals who had criminal convictions last year instead of pursuing deportation, according to newly uncovered documents -- a statistic one senator said represents an enforcement “crisis.” 

The internal documents were obtained and published by the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates stricter immigration enforcement. According to the documents and the group's analysis, ICE agents reported encountering 193,000 “criminal aliens” in 2013, but only targeted 125,000 for deportation. 

A total of 67,879 were released. 

CIS called it a “large-scale abuse of authority.”


Indeed, the documents show that those with a criminal record are for more likely to be targeted for deportation than those without one. But they also show the agency is letting thousands who have a criminal record off the hook.  [Fox, 3/31/14]

Fox Guest Larson: This President Is The “Releaser-In-Chief.” On the March 31 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum moderated a discussion between radio hosts Leslie Marshall and Lars Larson. During the debate, Larson called Obama the “releaser-in-chief” who allows criminals to go free because “he's been begging for amnesty since he came into office.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom3/31/14, via Media Matters]

Fox's Childers: “Is This Putting Our National Security At Risk?” On the March 31 edition of Fox & Friends First, co-host Heather Childers referenced the CIS study, asking, “Is this putting our nation -- national security at risk?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends First3/31/14]

CIS Report Has Been Criticized For Its Misleading Data

American Immigration Council: "New Report from Center for Immigration Studies on Deportation Data Misleads and Misinforms." The American Immigration Council's executive Director, Benjamin Johnson, denounced the CIS report in a March 31 press release:

A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) makes a range of false claims about deportation data. First their claim that out of 722,000 “potentially deportable aliens” encountered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement only 195,000 were charged is completely misleading.  As a result of dragnet programs like Secure Communities, any foreign-born individual that that comes into contact with law-enforcement likely falls into 722,000 number cited by CIS.  Thus, this number includes immigrants (including long time permanent residents) whose interaction with law enforcement was so minor that they are not even legally subject to removal.  In fact, that data likely includes U.S. citizens as well.  


Furthermore, the report claims ICE “released” 68,000 “criminal aliens” yet fails to explain that being released is not the equivalent of being set-free. Being released from ICE custody often means being issued a notice to appear in court, released with an ankle bracelet or released under an order of supervision. These details were conveniently left out of the CIS analysis.

Understanding deportation data is important in the current debate over immigration reform. However, reports full of false and misleading data do nothing to move the discussion forward and pave the way for further polarization and inaction. [American Immigration Council, 3/31/14]

Since 2008, Deportations Of Undocumented Immigrants With Criminal Records Have Nearly Doubled

Bipartisan Policy Center: Deportations Of Undocumented Immigrants With Criminal Records Have Nearly Doubled. A March 13 issue brief released by the Bipartisan Policy Institute reported that “since 2008, the share of deported immigrants that ICE classifies as 'criminal aliens' has nearly doubled from 31 percent to 59 percent.”

 [Bipartisan Policy Center, 3/13/14]

ICE: 82 Percent Of Undocumented Immigrants Deported Had Been Previously Convicted Of A Crime. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released their FY 2013 ICE Immigration Removals where they reported 133,551 removals of individuals in the U.S. The report noted that “82 percent of all interior removals had been previously convicted of a crime” (emphasis added):

In FY 2013:

• ICE conducted a total of 368,644 removals.

• ICE conducted 133,551 removals of individuals apprehended in the interior of the U.S.

      o 82 percent of all interior removals had been previously convicted of a crime.

• ICE conducted 235,093 removals of individuals apprehended along our borders while attempting

to unlawfully enter the U.S.1

• 59 percent of all ICE removals, a total of 216,810, had been previously convicted of a crime.

     o ICE apprehended and removed 110,115 criminals removed from the interior of the U.S.

     o ICE removed 106,695 criminals apprehended at the border while attempting to unlawfully  enter the U.S.

• 98 percent of all ICE FY 2013 removals, a total of 360,313, met one or more of ICE's stated civil immigration enforcement priorities.

• Of the 151,834 removals of individuals without a criminal conviction, 84 percent, or 128,398, were apprehended at the border while attempting to unlawfully enter the U.S. and 95 percent fell within one of ICE's stated immigration enforcement priorities. [, accessed 3/31/14]

ICE Prioritizes Detention And Arrest Of Undocumented Immigrants With Criminal Records

ICE: Criminal Alien Program Prioritizes Detention And Arrests Using A “Risk-Based Approach.” In a March 29, 2011 fact sheet on ICE's Criminal Alien Program (CAP), ICE explained that the program prioritizes the arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds:

CAP prioritizes the detention and arrest of criminal aliens using a risk-based approach. The program identifies all criminal aliens in jails and prisons throughout the United States and initiates removal proceedings based on their perceived threat to the community. [, 3/29/11]

 CIS Is An Anti-Immigration Organization 

The Center For Immigration Studies Is Part Of An Anti-Immigrant Network. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Although you'd never know it to read its materials, CIS was started in 1985 by a Michigan ophthalmologist named John Tanton -- a man known for his racist statements about Latinos, his decades-long flirtation with white nationalists and Holocaust deniers, and his publication of ugly racist materials. CIS' creation was part of a carefully thought-out strategy aimed at creating a set of complementary institutions to cultivate the nativist cause -- groups including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA. As is shown in Tanton's correspondence, lodged in the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Tanton came up with the idea in the early 1980s for “a small think tank” that would “wage the war of ideas.”

And while Tanton never actually ran CIS, his correspondence shows that as late as 1994, nine years after it was started, Tanton, who remains on FAIR's board of directors today, saw himself as setting the “proper roles for FAIR and CIS.” He raised millions of dollars for the think tank and published the writings of top CIS officials in his racist journal, The Social Contract. He maneuvered a friend on to the board of CIS -- a man who shared his interest in eugenics and who attended events with Tanton where white nationalists gave presentations. Through it all, CIS pumped out study after study aimed at highlighting immigration's negative effects.


In 2007, a year before his comments on Washington Mutual, Krikorian accepted an invitation to speak at the Michigan State University chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. It apparently didn't bother him that MSU-YAF had been widely covered in the media for a series of nasty stunts -- staging a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,” holding a “Koran Desecration” competition, and posting “Gays Spread AIDS” fliers across campus. He also didn't seem to mind being part of the same speakers series that included Nick Griffin, a Holocaust denier who heads the extremist British National Party, and Jared Taylor, who says blacks are incapable of civilization. [Southern Poverty Law Center, February 2009]

CIS Studies Often Reach Baseless Conclusions. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (emphasis added):

[CIS] studies have hardly been neutral. One of them concludes that because foreign women (“Third World gold-diggers”) can obtain work permits by marrying American citizens, it's obvious that fraudulent marriage applications are “prevalent among terrorists.” Another claims that because many immigrants have worked in Georgia since 2000, it's clear that unemployment among less educated native workers is up. A third says that because immigration levels have been high recently, immigrants make up a growing share of those drawing welfare.

But every one these claims, each of them at the heart of a different recent report from CIS, are either false or virtually without any supporting evidence. That came to fore again last September, when CIS organized a panel to accompany the release of yet another new report, this one claiming that municipalities in substantial numbers were permitting non-citizens to vote. When challenged, the panelists could only come up with a single possible example of the purported trend.

“CIS' attempts to blame immigrants for all of the U.S.'s problems have been laughable,” said Angela Kelley of the Immigration Policy Center, a Washington, D.C., organization that uses well-known scholars to produce reports on immigration-related issues and has debunked many of the studies issued by CIS. “It is clear that CIS is not interested in serious research or getting the facts straight.”[Southern Poverty Law Center, February 2009]