Fox News is exploiting reporting on migrants being flown into New York for resettlement to spread panic and fear, suggesting to viewers that migrants pose a host of potential threats. But the resettlement is standard practice: Both the Biden and Trump administrations used such flights to resettle displaced migrant minors and families who faced inadequate housing in the area where they were being held.
Since the New York Post reported on October 18 that migrants are being flown into New York at night, Fox News has put its energy into portraying these flights as criminal and invasive to local communities. Prime-time host Tucker Carlson sensationalized this story back in July, inaccurately claiming that the Biden administration “operated in secrecy.”
Currently, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement is partnering with Catholic charity MercyFirst to provide residential services for migrant kids arriving on resettlement flights. Though this has become a standard practice in the past two presidential administrations, it is important to note that some of the conditions in which these minors are kept are questionable. The Biden administration has caught backlash for keeping migrant children in detention centers characterized by “horrific conditions,” and The New York Times described Trump’s policy as resettling families with children to “holding cells.”
This latest phase of coverage is only one instance in Fox News’ long history of disinformation and fearmongering levied at immigrants in the United States. A Media Matters study found that in a 12-week period between March and June, Fox News aired 693 anti-immigrant segments, 605 of which emphasized danger by framing immigration as a threat to Americans.
The hysteria that Fox brings to all stories involving immigration -- often colored by rhetoric steeped in open xenophobia and bigotry -- has real-world implications. The suspected shooter who committed the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting in 2019 shared a vocabulary with some of Fox News’ most virulent anti-immigrant hosts. As a New York Times investigation showed, in 2018, “references to an immigrant ‘invasion’ appear[ed] on more than 300 Fox News broadcasts” -- similar to the language the alleged shooter later used.
Here are some examples of Fox News warping the story of migrants being resettled via airplane in an attempt to agitate its audience into believing that immigration is something to fear.
- On October 19, Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that the flights were trying to drop migrants into areas with “working class school systems,” saying, “You’re paying taxes for people from other countries to come into your school system and sit next to your kid in an overcrowded classroom. So your kid’s education is diminished.” Kilmeade also baselessly suggested there’s a “perfect storm” of cartels getting money to bring migrant children across the border and “putting them in a suburb in America … and maybe those kids turn around and they send for their parents.”
- On America Reports, former acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan fearmongered about the way in which the Biden administration is handling the migrant flights, saying it is “actively facilitating cross-border crime -- human trafficking, child trafficking, sex trafficking.”
- The Five co-host Jesse Watters complained that while Americans cannot get flights because “they’re being canceled because of vax mandates,” immigrants are being provided “free flights, free food.”
- On October 20, Fox and Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said that she was worried about the “dangers” associated with the resettlement, claiming that some of the people on the flights were “men” and “not all children.”
- Brian Kilmeade attacked a charity currently helping out with the New York resettlement, comparing the charity’s activities to the organization “supporting the mob” and “supporting -- in the big picture -- illegal criminal activity.”
- On October 24, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo and her guest Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) agreed that the resettlement flights are a “massive problem” and a “security problem.”