Fox News Ignores Reality To Claim Obama Isn't Serious About Immigration Reform

Fox News figures have suggested that President Obama isn't serious about enacting comprehensive immigration reform and is instead “trying to shore up his base” among Hispanic voters. However, there has been a major increase in border security under Obama -- which Republicans say is their starting point for action on the issue.

Fox Figures Claim Obama Is Playing Politics On Immigration

WSJ's Riley: “This Was Essentially A Campaign Speech.” From Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley's appearance on Fox News' Journal Editorial Report:

PAUL GIGOT [host]: OK, Jason, alligators in the moat. The White House was pitching this as a speech as a way to get to mobilize Republicans, get them involved, get a bipartisan deal this year if possible. Did this speech help?

JASON RILEY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I don't think so. I think this was essentially a campaign speech --

GIGOT: Already.

RILEY: -- directed at Latinos, a group that gave Obama 68 percent of the vote in 2008, partly on the promise that he would address comprehensive immigration reform in his first year in office. And he's failed to do that. And his numbers have rapidly declined among that constituency, down something like 50 percentage points, from the mid 70's to just over 50 percent.

GIGOT: But, Jason, if this speech doesn't galvanize some kind of negotiation for a deal, then how does it help him fulfill that promise?

RILEY: Paul, when Obama is serious about addressing immigration reform, he'll do it in prime time from the Oval Office, not in the middle of the week in the afternoon when most people are at work. This is not a true effort to bring in bipartisan support. You also cannot call for bipartisan support and then mock your political opponents the way he did in the clip you just ran. Alligators and moats? This was not serious about seriously taking on the issues. [Fox News, Journal Editorial Report, 5/14/11, via Nexis]

Nauert: Obama Is “Really Trying To Shore Up His Base.” Adopting Republican guest Karen Hanretty's talking point, America's Newsroom guest co-host Heather Nauert said to radio host Alan Colmes, “What about that point? Because, Republicans of course in charge of the House. This thing's not likely to go anywhere. So is this simply just about politics? Because it's not likely to go through.” Nauert later said:

NAUERT: Alan, what about the point that Latino voters are frustrated, increasingly frustrated with this president. Karl Rove on earlier this morning, and he was on earlier talking about that, how the polls among Latinos have really gone down. So the president's really trying to shore up his base there. How successful do you think he might be? [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 5/11/11]

Hayes: Obama's Immigration Speech Is All About 2012 Hispanic Vote. After Special Report host Bret Baier mentioned the percentage of the Hispanic vote that went to Democrats since 2006, Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes said:

HAYES: Look, this is all about 2012 and the president's turnout in important state with high Hispanic population. If you go back and look at how the president did in states like Colorado and New Mexico and Nevada, Florida, Hispanic voters you can make the argument that Hispanic numbers put the president over the top in those states.

I think that is what this is all about. And that is why he is making the argument at this time despite the fact that no one in Washington thinks any of this is going anywhere.

And it's sort of ironic that you had, remember when Republicans came in, in this Congress and they had a vote on healthcare reform and Democrats were up in arms you'd do a show vote and take the vote you knew wasn't going to go anywhere. That is exactly what is happening here. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 5/10/11, via Nexis]

Bolling Labels Obama's Immigration Reform Speech A “Photo-op” And “A Campaign Stop.” From Eric Bolling's guest-hosting of Glenn Beck:

BOLLING: Hello. I'm Eric Bolling, in for Glenn Beck.

He's in Israel today. He'll be back tomorrow. But, today, President Obama, fresh off his bin Laden victory lap, has put the immigration debate back in the front burner. He offered a speech and grabbed the photo-op with the border city of El Paso, Texas.


BOLLING: Listen to what Mr. Obama had to say about his efforts to secure the border just moments ago.


OBAMA: They wanted more agents at the border. Well, we now have more boots on the ground, on the southwest border, than at any time in our history.

They wanted a fence. Well, the fence is --


OBAMA: The fence is now basically complete. All the stuff they asked for, we've done.


BOLLING: It sure sounds like a campaign stop, doesn't it? We thought so. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 5/10/11, via Nexis]

Rove Dismisses Obama's El Paso Visit As “A Political Speech.” Asked by America's Newsroom co-host Bill Hemmer about President Obama's new focus on comprehensive immigration reform, Fox News contributor Karl Rove said:

ROVE: This is more a political speech. I'm not certain this is where the president ought to be going in order to build on the image of being a strong leader. The odds of getting a comprehensive immigration reform are zero. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 5/10/11]

GOP Demands Border Security First

McCain: “No Point” To Reform “Unless You Can Have The Borders Secure First.” From an April 20, 2010, blog post from The Hill, quoting Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):

“I believe that we can convince our Republican colleagues that we have to secure the border first,” McCain said during an appearance on KFYI radio in Arizona. “There's no point of having immigration reform unless you can have the borders secure first.”

“That must be done for us to move forward with any immigration reform,” McCain added of immigration reform during a separate interview on KQTH radio. [The Hill, 4/20/10]

Rep. Lamar Smith: Action On Reform “Pointless” Until “We Secure The Border.” From a December 24, 2010, Washington Post article:

“It is pointless to talk about any new immigration bills that grant amnesty until we secure the border, since such bills will only encourage more illegal immigration,” incoming House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) said in a statement. [The Washington Post, 12/24/10]

Experts, Media Say Border Is “More Fortified Than Ever” Under Obama Administration

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

Wash. Post: “The Fact Is That The United States Has Established Tighter Control Of The Border Than At Any Time In Recent Memory.” A recent Washington Post editorial in response to President Obama's immigration speech stated:

In fact, Republican posturing on border security is deadly serious, and worse than the president suggested. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the border has become safer and less leaky, the GOP would have the nation believe the opposite.

Using such scare tactics, Republicans are trying to distort the debate on immigration and justify their opposition to reform.

Exhibit A for Republican distortion is Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who recently assigned a “failing grade” to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol efforts along the Mexican border. Mr. Smith based his “failing grade” on the fact that the Border Patrol classifies just 44 percent of the nearly 2,000-mile border as being under “operational control.” That sounds bad, until you ask what it actually means. The answer: not much.

A case in point is the Marfa sector, a 510-mile stretch of desolate terrain in southwestern Texas comprising more than a quarter of the frontier between the United States and Mexico. According to the Border Patrol, just 10 percent of the Marfa sector is under “operational control,” meaning agents can reliably stop crossers at or near the border.

But it also happens that the Marfa sector, owing to its isolation, sparse population and forbidding, deep river canyons, is the least crossed, sleepiest area of the entire southwest border. The Border Patrol arrests scarcely a dozen people a day along the entire length of the sector, despite (or because of) the 700 agents assigned there, triple the 2005 number.


The fact is that the United States has established tighter control of the border than at any time in recent memory. Serious crime is down dramatically in almost every major American town along the frontier. As Rep. Silvestre Reyes, an El Paso Democrat, pointed out, the six largest southwestern border cities have lower crime rates -- and, specifically, lower rates of murder, rape, robbery and burglary -- than the six largest cities in Ohio, home state of Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner, whose spokesman said last week that immigration reform was dead until violence at the border was checked. [The Washington Post, 5/14/11]

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]

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.

Border patrol stats

[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]