Fox News stoked fears of terrorism and distorted the facts surrounding the 9-11 attacks to slam the Obama administration's deferred action decision, with anchor Gregg Jarrett suggesting that President Obama “is making it easier for acts of terrorism to be committed.” Jarrett and guest Brad Blakeman, a Republican strategist and former Bush White House official, used the 9-11 hijackers as examples for what could possibly happen if undocumented youths are allowed to obtain driver's licenses under the plan.
Not only is it demeaning to compare undocumented youth who have grown up in the United States to the 9-11 hijackers; it's also ridiculous knowing the facts surrounding 9-11.
On June 15, the Obama administration announced an immigration plan that will give eligible undocumented youth a chance to avoid deportation and obtain a legal work permit. The program went into effect on Wednesday. Depending on the state, some undocumented youths will also be able to acquire driver's licenses and Social Security cards.
On America's Newsroom this morning, Jarrett and Blakeman seized on the possibility of undocumented youths obtaining state driver's licenses to link the youths to the 9-11 hijackers and fearmonger about the potential for more terrorist attacks. Blakeman asserted that the hijackers “used driver's licenses” to “get on planes,” and that they did so while here illegally.
Picking up the theme, Jarrett then said to Blakeman:
JARRETT: California, for example, is now using the president's executive decision on deferred status to give people who are here illegally a driver's license. Now the 9-11 hijackers, many of whom were here illegally as well, obtained state licenses using them to board the airplanes. Could one argue, Brad, that the president is making it easier for acts of terrorism to be committed? Do you worry about that?
In fact, at the time of the attacks, only two of the 19 hijackers were in violation of their immigration status for overstaying their visas, and none would have qualified under the deferred action program. The 9-11 hijackers entered the country legally on non-immigrant visas.
As the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks reported,18 of the hijackers received tourist visas and 1 was granted a student visa:
“A visitor with a tourist visa was usually admitted for a stay of six months. All but two of the hijackers were admitted for such stays. Hanjour had a student visa and was admitted for a stay of two years, and Suqami sought and was admitted for a stay of 20 days.”
Immigrants eligible for deferred action must have arrived in the United States before they were 16, “have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat,” and must have been in this country for at least five years.
By contrast, most of the hijackers were legally in the country on September 11, 2001, either on tourist or students visas. None arrived before they turned 16 and none had been in the country continuously for more than five years.
Furthermore, according to the 9-11 Commission, the 9-11 hijackers obtained driver's licenses and state IDs through fraudulent means, which will be very difficult to do under the deferred action program due to heightened background checks and scrutiny.
Indeed, as The Arizona Republic reported, “applications will be closely scrutinized for fraud” and “anyone caught lying could face criminal charges and swift deportation”:
On Tuesday, federal officials released a long-awaited list of 33 types of documents that undocumented immigrants can submit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to prove eligibility.
Administration officials say the documents are designed to be “independently verifiable” and will be carefully examined by fraud investigators. Applicants who submit questionable documents will be called in for interviews, the official said, pointing out that US- CIS has a division devoted exclusively to detecting and preventing fraud."
Officials say that anyone who engages in fraud will be referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and treated as a priority for immigration enforcement. They will also be subject to criminal prosecution.
This is not the first time Fox has perpetuated anti-immigrant sentiments or promoted fear of immigrants. Fox regularly uses loaded terms such as “illegals” and “anchor babies” to demonize undocumented immigrants and as recently as August 7, Fox's Todd Starnes compared them to “locusts” that “devour the fields.” Fox has also repeatedly insisted that immigrants are violent, despite data showing otherwise.