fox news immigration
Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Border deal sponsors went on Fox News to debunk a false claim about the bill. Fox kept spreading it.

The network continues to spread the falsehood that border deal will allow 5,000 migrants across the border every day. The bill would actually trigger a wave of new border restrictions.

Over the weekend, bipartisan congressional negotiations unveiled a border control bill that would toughen asylum standards, hire thousands of new officers to fast-track the case process, and likely impose an emergency shutdown of the U.S. border. Even though the bill reads like a right-wing policymakers’ wish list, Fox News is pushing for the bill’s defeat and spreading a false claim that one of its provisions would allow for 5,000 migrants to cross the southern border each day.

In reality, the provision in question would force federal authorities to automatically reject asylum applicants when border encounters reach certain levels.

Furthermore, when the bill’s sponsors have actually gone on Fox News in order to explain this misconception, the network has repaid them by repeating the falsehood and attacking them across its programming.

  • The bill’s border shutdown provision is triggered by migrant encounters, not migrant admissions

    • The bill’s provision would require the secretary of Homeland Security to shut down claims for asylum along most of the southern border. The Associated Press explained that the secretary would have the power to “prohibit entry for most individuals if an average of more than 4,000 people per day try to enter the country unlawfully over the course of a week. If the number reaches 5,000 or if 8,500 try to enter unlawfully in a single day, use of the authority would be mandatory. … If the proposal were passed into law, the new authority could be triggered almost immediately.” [The Associated Press, 2/5/24]

    • Theresa Cardinal Brown, a senior adviser for immigration and border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said the bill would “allow for summary deportations of migrants and deny them the chance to apply for any way to stay in the U.S. other than very limited circumstances.” “We already have more than 5,000 illegal crossings happening,” Brown told The New York Times. “We aren’t ‘allowing it’; it is happening, and we then have to deal with it.” [The New York Times, 2/5/24]

    • Under the emergency authority, migrants would only be able to apply for asylum at official ports of entry. Politico reported: “DHS would still consider asylum requests from people crossing at legal ports of entry during those periods of ‘border shutdown’ — just not in between those ports. Officials would have to process at least 1,400 asylum requests per day under those terms.” [Politico, 2/5/24]

    • NBC News: “Only unaccompanied minors would be able to cross between ports of entry.” Furthermore, “Any migrant who tried to cross illegally two or more times during a border emergency would be barred from the U.S. for a year.” [, 2/4/24]

    • Lead Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said the bill “is not designed to let 5,000 people in, it is designed to close the border and turn 5,000 people around.” Lankford further told reporters on Monday, “It’s been said wrong so many times that people immediately just go back to, ‘this lets 5,000 people in a day,’ which is just factually wrong, but if you say it enough, it just sounds true.” [The Associated Press, 2/5/24]

  • Bill sponsors attempted to correct the falsehood by appearing on Fox News

    • Lankford told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto: “This 5,000 number has been a misnomer. It’s been either misunderstood or deliberately misinterpreted.” “So the last four months — every single day but seven in the last four months — we have had more than 5,000 people,” Lankford explained. “That means every day in the last four months, we would have turned everyone around.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 2/5/24]
  • Video file

    Citation From the February 5, 2024, edition of Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto

  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), one of the bill’s key negotiators, also explained the “border emergency” provision to Fox anchor Bret Baier. She said, “To prevent what's currently occurring, which is mass numbers of people being released into the interior, we created this authority, the border emergency authority that says, ‘Nope, we just shut it down.’ Because it's too many people for us to process that quickly, and turn away.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 2/5/24]

  • Video file

    Citation From the February 5, 2024, edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier

  • Fox News keeps spreading the false claim, and attacked Lankford for debunking it

    • Former Trump administration official Stephen Miller criticized the border compromise and advised that Republicans should force Democrats to defend “permanent invasion” levels of immigration in November. Appearing with Fox prime-time host and longtime Trump adviser Sean Hannity, Miller said: “The correct position as a matter of policy, politics, and morality is, illegal aliens go home. You don't get 1,000. You don't get 2,000. You don't get 5,000.” He continued, “If you break our laws and violate our sovereignty, you go home. You don’t pass go, you don’t get $200, and you certainly don’t become a citizen. And make [Democratic senators] Jon Tester, make Sharrod Brown, make Senator Rosen of Nevada defend the Joe Biden policy of permanent invasion levels of illegal immigration.” [Fox News, Hannity, 2/5/24]
    • Fox host Laura Ingraham mocked Lankford’s statements about the provision during his previous Fox appearances. “I thought that the 5,000 migrants can come in, welcome, that that trigger was just an ‘internet rumor,’” Ingraham said, referring to a phrase Lankford had used on Fox News Sunday. Ingraham then added, “Well, in the first place, given the damage and strain Biden has already inflicted on all of you in America with the millions of migrants that have been allowed in, we shouldn't be allowing even one migrant into the country, let alone 5,000 ‘encounters’ a day. It's a joke.” [Mediaite, 1/28/24; Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 2/5/25]
    • Fox News contributor Tom Shillue compared the bill to allowing shoplifters to “steal 5,000 a day” and falsely depicted the 5,000 migrant encounters as actual migrant admissions. Fox News host Greg Gutfeld admitted, “I'm not sure it's 5,000 a day. But it's not my problem not to know that,” and insisted he would not read the bill to find out. “I’m not playing that game,” he said. [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 2/5/24]
    • Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins claimed that “border officials” said the bill “sends a message around the world that says, ‘Hey, come on over, we’re letting in 4,999 a day.’” Jenkins did not correct the point that this is not how the bill works, instead reiterating the idea, “But the fact that we wouldn't allow a single person in this legislation to illegally cross is preposterous and that's the message I'm getting from the border agents.” (Jenkins also did not mention that the Border Patrol union endorsed the bill, arguing that it “will drop illegal border crossings nationwide.”) [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/6/24;, 2/5/24]
    • Shortly after interviewing Lankford about the bill, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo ridiculed his debunking of the 5,000-migrant claim. After replaying a clip of Lankford’s appearance from earlier in the program, Bartiromo said: “You know, when you have to explain something that seems more complicated than it actually is, I have to question it.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria Bartiromo, 2/6/24]