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Andrea Austria / Media Matters

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Right-wing media spiraled over Biden’s latest immigration order to prevent family separations

Right-wing media had a meltdown after President Joe Biden issued an executive order to protect undocumented family members of American citizens while they apply for legal status. They claimed Biden was somehow “rewarding” illegal immigration and parroted debunked claims that it would threaten U.S. safety and jobs.

  • Biden issued a new executive order protecting undocumented children and spouses of U.S. citizens while they’re applying for legal status

    • On June 18, Biden unveiled a new executive order aimed at protecting the undocumented spouses and stepchildren of American citizens. This policy allows participants to remain in the country while they apply for legal residency, helping to prevent family separations. [PBS News, 6/18/24]
    • While this action will have a major impact on 500,000 American families, it is a relatively small change to existing immigration law. The qualifying participants could already apply for legal residency, but this policy removes the roadblock that requires them to leave the country in order to do so. [CNN, 6/18/24]
    • Right-wing media improperly framed this as a major change that will increase illegal border crossings and so-called “migrant crime.” In reality, this executive order is a very narrow change that aims to keep families together as they navigate the existing legal process. And despite right-wing media fearmongering about “migrant crime,” migrants are no more likely to commit crime than people born in the United States. [CNN, 2/27/24; Media Matters, 3/13/24]
    • The full breadth of Biden’s immigration policy actually limits future immigration, contrary to right-wing media’s assertions of an “open border.” Biden’s new policy applies only to those who have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more, and he severely limited asylum access through another executive order just two weeks prior. [White House, 6/18/24; Media Matters, 2/9/24; NBC News, 6/4/24]
  • Right-wing media accused Biden of rewarding illegal immigration

    • Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum claimed Biden’s policy rewards undocumented immigrants for crossing illegally. While introducing a segment on the new executive order, MacCallum said, “This afternoon, President Biden will mark the 12th anniversary of DACA with a new policy rewarding some migrants who came to the United States illegally.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom6/18/24]
    • Fox News host Brian Kilmeade called the executive action a reward for breaking U.S. laws. Kilmeade stated, “Now, I'm going to tell 500,000 individuals who came here illegally, ‘You matter. I heard you found love in your life. Now you can stay.’ So, you’re rewarding them for breaking our laws. Unlike DACA, where you say, ‘Well, I was two years old, my parents brought me over.’ Your heart can kind of go out for them and say maybe those are the first people you could address. But they broke our laws, and you're rewarding them?” [Fox News, Outnumbered6/18/24]
    • National Review argued the executive order was “rewarding yet another generation of lawbreakers” with “lawless mass amnesty.” The editorial also claimed, “That Biden’s response to this has been to announce the ultra vires amnesty of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants is not solely bad politics; it is an affront to our constitutional system, to our democracy, and to the claim that nobody is above the law.” [National Review, 6/19/24]
    • Writing for the Daily Signal, the Heritage Foundation’s Simon Hawkinson claimed the executive order is an “unauthorized attempt to grant a back-door amnesty to half a million or more people living illegally in the United States.” Hawkinson wrote, “‘Parole in place’ will allow foreign nationals living here illegally to jump ahead of millions who are patiently waiting legally in line in their home countries to join family or get jobs in America.” [The Daily Signal, 6/18/24
    • On Fox, retired Border Patrol agent Chris Clem argued that Biden’s executive order is “normalizing bad behavior.” Clem said, “Why are we allowing people to just violate the law? Again, this administration is normalizing bad behavior, especially when it comes down to illegal immigrants and border crossings.” [Fox News, America Reports6/18/24]
  • Right-wing media fearmongered that this policy shift will harm the U.S.

    • When talking about the executive order, Fox anchor Harris Faulkner raised concerns about migrant crime and questioned whether the qualifying migrants have been properly vetted, even though the policy requires participants to have been in the country for at least 10 years. Faulkner stated, “These people are already living here among us, and this president just told hundreds of thousands, potentially, of some of them — we don’t know who all those people are, by the way — that they can stay. Now, that's not everybody. Maybe some of those married folk we’ve vetted and we know who they are, but some of them we don’t, and statistically just do the math of how many people are coming across the border.” Faulkner also baselessly suggested Biden is helping migrants become citizens in order to help him win reelection, asking “If you get a half million people to benefit from your policy and it's going to be a tight election, do you think that helps? Do you think turning them into Americans helps?” [Fox News, Outnumbered6/19/24]
    • Over a chyron claiming “Biden is letting ungrateful illegals enter America,” Newsmax host Todd Starnes complained that the new order is giving “dangerous illegals” a pathway to citizenship. Starnes stated, “He's now preparing to offer legal status to illegals who have lived in the United States for 10 years. Meanwhile, we're getting countless reports of illegals committing heinous crimes — illegals who should not have been here in the first place.” The host continued, “Well, he wants to give more illegals, dangerous illegals, a pathway to citizenship.” [Newsmax, Prime News6/17/24]
    • Fox host Jesse Watters complained that “Biden wants to give his 10 million migrants your job so he can say he saved the economy.” Watters said, “This week, Biden gave amnesty to half a million illegals and said it’s going to make us all rich.” He later added, “There are only two groups of people making money off migrants — Biden's donors and the cartel.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime6/19/24]
    • Faulkner agreed with National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto that the executive order will lead to “more marriage fraud and immigration fraud.” Del Cueto claimed Biden is “sending the word out saying, ‘Hey, come one, come all,’ and you’re exposing it for more individuals to come up here. You’re really opening up for more fraud, to be honest, more marriage fraud and immigration fraud. So he is just creating a bigger problem.” Faulkner replied, “Yeah, I could see some fraud happening there.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus6/18/24]