Research/Study Research/Study

Right-wing media recycled a years-old DACA smear to fearmonger about migrant crime

Right-wing media have once again latched onto a five-year-old U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report to fearmonger about migrant crime. The right-wing wire service The Center Square circulated the report, which was published in 2019.

  • In 2019, right-wing media misrepresented a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services report to allege that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients had “criminal backgrounds”

    • On November 13, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released an update of the “DACA Requestors with an IDENT Response” report, meaning they have been arrested or apprehended for a criminal or immigration-related offense. According to the report, “an IDENT response indicates that an alien, in this case a DACA requestor, was arrested or apprehended for a criminal offense or an immigration-related civil offense. The report clarified that not all responses included the “disposition of the arrest or apprehension such as conviction, acquittal, dismissal or lessening of charges.” [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 11/13/19]

    • At the time, authorities noted that “the majority of the arrests were for non-violent acts such as driving and immigration-related offenses. 765,166 people have been approved for DACA; 90 percent of them have not been arrested.” USCIS also “made it clear that their report does not mean those arrests led to a conviction or jail time.” Furthermore, the DACA program barred anyone with a felony conviction and/or some serious misdemeanors from participating. [CBS News, 12/1/19]

    • After the National Review wrote that “about ten percent of total DACA recipients” had an arrest record, the article included a tweet from then-President Donald Trump alleging DACA recipients had “criminal backgrounds.” In the tweet, Trump alleged “many of the people in DACA” are “hardened criminals.” [National Review, 11/18/19]

    • A Newsmax article claimed the report was “backing up” Trump’s tweet. “With arrest offenses including murder, rape, assault, and battery, nearly 110,000 Dreamers had criminal records, according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) report Saturday, backing up a tweeted claim by President Donald Trump earlier in the week,” Newsmax wrote. [Newsmax, 11/17/19]

    • The anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies conflated arrest records with “criminality” in a piece titled “USCIS Releases Interesting Data on DACA Criminality.” [Center for Immigration Studies, 11/20/19; Media Matters, 3/23/17]

    • Right-wing activist Tom Fitton’s group Judicial Watch inaccurately claimed the report claimed “more than 100,000 illegal immigrants” in the DACA program “have criminal histories.” [Judicial Watch, 11/19/19]

    • A Breitbart article cited the USCIS report to fear monger about undocumented immigration. Author Neil Muro wrote, “When politicians and law-enforcement officials allow illegals to stay in the United States, they are also making the decision to allow subsequent crimes against Americans and immigrants.” [Breitbart, 11/16/19]

  • A right-wing wire service recycled the years-old report in a recent article fearmongering about the criminal status of DACA recipients, which prominent right-wing news outlet the New York Post picked up

    • The Center Square, a right-wing wire service, originally circulated the article. The Center Square targets underfunded local news outlets to push right-wing rhetoric in local news. This piece was published in at least five different local outlets. [The Center Square, 6/19/24; KPC News, 6/19/24; The Herald Palladium, 6/19/24; Miami County Republic, 6/19/24; The Tennessee Star, 6/23/24; The Ohio Star, 6/23/24; Media Matters, 6/20/23]

    • The New York Post republished the Center Square article fearmongering about migrants accepted into the DACA program. The article referenced the five-year-old USCIS report documenting the number of DACA applicants with a history of “arrests” or “apprehensions.” Less than 48 hours later, the Post published another article on the report under a slightly different heading. [ New York Post, 6/19/24, 6/21/24; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 11/13/19]

    • The Post articles focused on the number of DACA applicants who have been arrested and approved for DACA, not on the outcomes of the cases. Those requesting DACA status would not receive the status if they have been convicted of “a felony, a significant misdemeanor, or three or more non-significant misdemeanors” or if they are “deemed to pose a threat to national security or public safety.” [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 11/13/19, accessed 6/25/24]

  • Claims about a “migrant crime wave” are false

    • Right-wing media have relentlessly fearmongered about migrant crime. [Media Matters, 3/11/24, 3/13/24, 3/14/24, 6/25/24

    • Research does not support the notion of a migrant crime wave. Numerous studies show that “immigration is associated with lower crime rates and an increase in structural factors — such as social connection and economic opportunity — that are linked to neighborhood safety.” Additionally, studies found that “undocumented immigration does not increase violent crime,” including in sanctuary cities. [The Brennan Center for Justice, 5/29/24]

  • Right-wing personalities and outlets parroted the five-year-old report in recent immigration coverage

    • Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed that 79,000 DACA recipients “were released into the U.S., despite the fact that they had arrest records.” “79,000 illegal foreign nationals with prior arrest records, including violent crimes, were granted DACA status,” Hannity said on his radio show. He also used the old DACA data to fearmonger about terrorism: “Is it any surprise that we have known ISIS — you know, people with known ISIS ties now finally being arrested? Is anybody convinced they got all of them?” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 6/20/24]

    • In a segment listing various misleading stories about immigration, Infowars host Alex Jones cited the Center Square article, claiming that “nearly 80,000 DACA … recipients admitted to the U.S. in first five years of program had arrest records, including rape, arson, you name it.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 6/20/24]

    • Newsmax host Rob Schmitt cited vague “stats” and “government numbers” to claim that “about 80,000 DACA recipients admitted early on in the process were given status here despite arrest records.” Over a chyron reading “The DACA ‘kids’ are no saints,” Schmitt said, “More than 10% of DACA kids have criminal records at that point, with those numbers, and our leaders just simply don't care.” [Newsmax, Rob Schmitt Tonight, 6/20/24]

    • Right-wing publication TheBlaze cited “a recently released report” in an article titled “USCIS approved nearly 80,000 DACA requestors with arrests, including for violent crimes.” The article used the old data to cast doubt on the Biden administration’s executive actions expanding DACA: “The Biden administration framed the executive action as a plan to ‘keep families together.’” [The Blaze, 6/20/24]

    • Former Trump official Sebastian Gorka republished The Center Square’s original article, adding his own commentary chastising President Joe Biden for “giving blanket amnesty to the spouses of illegal aliens.” He continued, complaining about “how much of a burden these illegals are on our society.” [Sebastian Gorka, 6/20/24]

    • John Solomon’s Just the News reprinted The Center Square’s article. [Just the News, 6/20/24]

    • In an article headlined “79,000 DACA Recipients Had Arrest Records in First 5 Years,” cited the New York Post article, failing to mention that the USCIS data was five years old. [Newsmax, 6/22/24]