Fox News has been using the tragic deaths of 53 migrants to cynically attack President Joe Biden for supposedly having open border policies (he does not) and shower praise on former President Donald Trump.
On June 27, 48 migrants were found dead in an overheated tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas, alongside 16 others who required immediate hospitalization. At least five more have died since the initial discovery. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg described it as “nothing short of a horrific human tragedy.” Some of the migrants were minors, and the group came from at least four Latin American countries. Four individuals have been arrested so far for human smuggling.
Fox News has dug its claws into this story, using it as a way to simultaneously bash Biden’s supposed “open border” policies and heap praise on Trump’s policies. Not only has the talking point about Biden’s “open borders” been repeatedly debunked, but the idea has no connection with the tractor-trailer deaths. NPR pointed out that the journey the migrants made likely involved a complex system of smugglers guiding migrants around checkpoints and into various vehicles. The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor wrote:
The deaths in San Antonio were far from an isolated occurrence, as the numbers of migrants attempting to cross in more dangerous and remote areas spikes. “Authorities have reported dozens who have died while trying to cross the Rio Grande,” my colleagues reported. “More migrants are falling from 30-foot segments of the border wall than ever before in the El Paso and San Diego areas. And the number of migrants found dead from heat exhaustion and exposure, primarily in Arizona and South Texas, has also jumped.”
At least 650 people died in 2021 attempting to cross Mexico's border with the United States, higher than in any year since 2014, they reported. The border is hardly open. But it's definitely dangerous.
During Trump’s presidency, as The Atlantic reported in 2019, human smuggling activity was “thriving” as Trump made the decision to cut millions of dollars from the Homeland Security Investigations section responsible for investigating such cases, focusing more attention on “coyotes.” Both Biden and Trump enforced Title 42 during their presidencies, blocking asylum-seekers for entering the country because of the pandemic. Though the Biden administration has tried to lift it, a federal judge blocked the effort in May. Some immigration advocates have blamed Title 42 for the deaths of the 53 migrants.
Here are examples of Fox News pinning the blame of these migrants' deaths on Biden’s nonexistent open border policy while giving accolades to Trump for his immigration policies:
- In a June 28 Fox and Friends segment discussing the migrant deaths, former Acting Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan lauded Trump for implementing “the most secure border” of Homan’s lifetime and saying that’s why he continues to “support” Trump to this day.
- On The Story with Martha MacCallum, The Federalist’s Ben Domenech blamed the deaths on Biden’s border “policy choice[s]” and said that “the Biden administration is enabling these cartels to profit from the sadness of these people.” Domenech told Democratic strategist Jose Aritsimuño, “This blood is on your hands and you know it.” Anchor Martha MacCallum also asserted that “obviously it [the border] is not closed.”
- During a June 29 segment of The Faulkner Focus on the migrant deaths, Fox’s Dagen McDowell claimed that saying the border is closed is a “new level of insanity” and that “it’s much worse than Putin's price hike because people are dying because of our border policies.”
- Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich connected the migrant deaths with Biden’s administration rolling back “a number of Trump administration policies that were in place that prevented this kind of behavior,” saying, “Open borders are inhumane borders.”
- On Hannity, Stephen Miller, architect of Trump’s immigration policies, praised Trump for building the “greatest border security regime in the history … of any country” and asserted that "record numbers” of migrant deaths are “enough to put Donald J. Trump back in the White House.”
- On the July 1 edition of America’s Newsroom, in a “straight news” segment on the deaths, guest co-anchor Mike Emanuel claimed, “Biden's open border policies encourage ruthless cartels to engage in dangerous human smuggling on a monumental scale.”