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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Trump regurgitated right-wing media’s anti-migrant falsehoods at the debate

During the June 27 CNN presidential election debate between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, Trump made false and misleading claims about immigration and migrants seemingly drawn straight from the right-wing media echo chambers.

Trump falsely claimed that Biden “wants open borders” and “wants our country to … be destroyed,” as migrants are supposedly violent criminals stealing American jobs. He also pushed the “great replacement” theory, saying Biden wants to import migrants to vote Democratic.  

Below are some of Trump’s debate claims and recent instances of right-wing media making the same points.

  • Claim: Biden has opened up the border

    • During the debate, Trump claimed that Biden “decided to open up our border, open up our country” and said he wants “open borders.” [CNN 6/27/24]
    • Numerous debunks have explained that the U.S. border is not open. [NPR, 6/28/24; The Nation, 11/22/23; Axios, 10/17/23; Newsweek, 1/24/22]
    • Fox News host Sean Hannity claimed that “there are terror cells here because of [Biden’s] wide-open borders — 11 million unvetted people from countries with terrorist ties and our top geopolitical foes.” Hannity also said Biden has “blood on his hands.” [Fox News, Hannity, 6/24/24
    • After the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo suggested it could be due to a “wide-open border.” Although she acknowledged that the White House issued a statement “saying that there is no indication of a nefarious intent,” she went on to discuss “the potential for wrongdoing or potential for foul play given the wide-open border.” [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 3/26/24
    • Fox guest T.W. Shannon said that Biden’s “open border” is “poisoning the bloodline in this country because we’re allowing illegals to vote.” [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 4/10/24]
    • Fox guest Sheriff Mark Dannels said that we’ve had “three and a half years of leaving the border open.” He continued, “People come into the country that don't respect our cultures, our rule of law, and the people within.” [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 6/21/24]
    • The Real America’s Voice X account posted, “Joe Biden and his administration, along with Obama, are using the open border as a tool to allow millions of immigrants and God only knows how many terrorists in to the country.” [Twitter/X, 6/19/24]
    • Fox News contributor Larry Kudlow penned a Fox News online op-ed titled “Biden's open border is killing innocent Americans.” Kudlow claimed, “Brutal gang warfare has come across the southern border into our sanctuary cities where blue state mayors and governors will not, in most cases, cooperate with border authorities to deport them.” [Fox News, 6/18/24]
  • Claim: Biden wants to import migrants as voters

    • At the debate, Trump claimed Biden “wants open borders. He wants our country to either be destroyed or he wants to pick up those people as voters." [CBS News, 6/28/24]
    • In recent years, right-wing media have been pushing the xenophobic “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which alleges that “elites” encourage illegal immigration to bring nonwhite people into the country to “replace” white voters. This false narrative has led to real-world violence, including mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. [Media Matters, 5/15/23, 1/12/24; Southern Poverty Law Center, 5/12/23]
    • Fox News contributor Paul Mauro asked, “Does it not seem like we’ve hit a point where somebody in Washington has made a decision that there is an acceptable level of collateral damage in order to get a permanent Democratic voting bloc into this country?” The discussion was around the killing of 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray that led to the arrest of two recent Venezuelan migrants. Mauro also suggested that if migrants “were calculated to vote Republican, the [border] wall would be 60 feet high.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/21/24; The New York Times, 6/25/24]
    • Turning Post USA’s Charlie Kirk claimed that “the left” “won't stop until you and your children and your children's children are eliminated.” Kirk also said, “They hate those of you that own land and have guns and believe in a better country, and they have a plan to try and get rid of you.” [Real America’s Voice, The Charlie Kirk Show, 3/1/24]
    • Fox host Jesse Watters alleged that the “far left”  wants an “illegal alien nation where they can blow up the welfare state and just increase their political power. Same with the corporate class.” [Fox News, The Five, 6/12/24]
    • Pro-Trump troll Laura Loomer claimed that “to the radical left, the replacement of the American core is essential to their ideology and their communist takeover of America.” She went on to say that Biden and the radical left view “traditional America” as something to be “destroyed and relegated to the dustbin of history.” [Rumble, Loomer Unleashed, 6/6/24]
  • Claim: Migrants are violent criminals, and millions are coming from jails and mental institutions in South America

    • Trump said at the debate, “Because of his [Biden’s] ridiculous, insane and very stupid policies, people are coming in and killing our citizens at a level we’ve never — we call it migrant crime. I’d call it Biden-migrant crime.” [The New York Times, 6/27/24]
    • Trump also said that Biden “allowed millions of people to come in here from prisons, jails, and mental institutions — to come into our country and destroy our country.” Trump made similar claims on at least three occasions in 2023, according to CNN, which reported that he “claimed the leaders of unnamed South American countries are deliberately emptying their ‘insane asylums’ and ‘mental institutions’ to send the patients to the United States as migrants.” His campaign was unsuccessful in finding evidence for the claim. Trump made a similar claim in February, saying that “jails … throughout the world” are “emptying out” because countries are “dumping” migrants here and that others are coming from “mental institutions and … insane asylums.” [The New York Times, 6/27/24; CNN, 4/29/23, 2/29/24]
    •  Studies show no link between immigration and high levels of crime, and evidence shows immigrants are less likely to commit crime than U.S.-born citizens. According to the Brennan Center, “Numerous studies show that immigration is not linked to higher levels of crime, but rather the opposite. Studies [also show] … 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.” [NPR, 3/8/24; Brennan Center for Justice, 5/29/24]
    • Border security expert Adam Isacson told PolitiFact that “‘millions’ would mean one in eight was someone released from a jail or a mental institution, a claim too ridiculous to dignify.” He also said that it “‘strains belief’ … that someone with serious mental illness could navigate the route to the U.S. after release from an institution.” [Politifact, 6/6/24]
    • Former Trump adviser Stephen Miller claimed on Fox that migrants are “above the law” and “being dumped into this country by the millions as they rape and pillage and murder.” Miller continued, “Joe Biden’s flying them in day after day, busing them in, escorting them in to rape and pillage and murder more Americans.” [Fox News, Jesse Watters Primetime, 6/21/24]
    • Loomer said the migrant “invaders” “just disappear … only to be seen again when their faces are plastered on the news after they commit heinous crimes like murder, rape, human trafficking, assault, and drug dealing.” Loomer also suggested that Democrats embrace immigration because they want “white America” to be “punished by being replaced.” [Rumble, Loomer Unleashed, 6/7/24]
    • Tomi Lahren of Fox’s OutKick said that migrants including men from “Venezuelan gangs” in the U.S. are “preying on young women” and targeting them because they are “the most vulnerable among us.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 6/21/24]
    • Watters said Biden is “catching and releasing killers and rapists,” saying they’re “serial sexual predators, they’re serial killers, and they don't belong here. These are third world animals.” Watters also claimed, “Biden migrants are exploding all inside our country like IEDs. It feels like a terror attack to me.” [Fox News, The Five, 6/21/24]
    • In a discussion about the killing of 12-year-old Jocelyn Nungaray, whose alleged attackers were migrants, Fox news host Lawrence Jones claimed, “They’ve emptied the jails and now we have to deal with it.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/26/24]
    • Jones also complained that people are calling “the former president crazy for saying they were emptying their jails, and what do you know, Venezuela, crime rate is going down.” While talking about the killing of Rachel Morin, allegedly by an immigrant, Jones continued, “There is actual proof of people that have criminal records, that have committed murders in their country now coming to our country to do the same thing.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/21/24]
    • Fox News contributor Tyrus claimed,“They are emptying their jails and their psych asylums to America and we don't have asylums for anybody.” He added: “The floodgates are wide open.” [Fox News, Gutfeld!, 6/24/24]
  • Claim: Migrants are stealing jobs from Americans

    • In the debate, Trump claimed that migrants “are taking Black jobs and they’re taking Hispanic jobs. And you haven’t seen it yet.” [The New York Times, 6/27/24]
    • Research is mixed on the impacts of migrants on jobs, but some research shows that “immigrants raise wages and boost the employment of U.S.-born workers.” Forbes reported on research that looked at 2000-2019, also noting: “Even simulations for the most recent 2019-2022 period suggest small positive effects on wages of non-college natives and no significant crowding out effects on employment.” Additionally, as Brookings senior fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown explained in 2017, “Undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that native-born workers are not willing to do.” The New York Times’ fact check of the debate says that “whether or not immigrants depress wages or displace some workers has been examined by economists for decades, and there is no clear conclusion.” [Forbes, 5/1/24; Brookings Institution, 8/24/17; The New York Times, 6/27/24]
    • Right-wing media have been lying for at least a decade about migrants stealing jobs from U.S. workers. Media Matters reports from 2013 and 2015 gathered right-wing media commentary claiming migrants steal U.S. worker jobs, countering that “there is no evidence that immigrants crowd out U.S.-born workers in either the short or long run.” [Media Matters, 2/1/13, 10/27/15]
    • Right-wing influencer Amuse posted that “military aged” Chinese migrants “are here to steal our jobs, our information, our welfare benefits, our elections, and our freedom.” [Twitter/X, 2/5/24]
    • Fox Business host Sean Duffy said, “The Biden White House keeps bragging about the strong economy, pointing to the job market as evidence, … but a closer look under the hood reveals that all those job gains — they’re going to immigrants.” Duffy’s co-host Dagen McDowell further added: “Why are all the jobs going to these people and not people born here in the United States? Hmm. Is it DEI? Maybe.” [Fox Business, The Bottom Line, 2/14/24
    • The Center for Immigration Studies’ Steven Camarota wrote a piece for The New York Post complaining that “job gains are going to immigrants, and keeping young US-born men out of the workforce.” Camarota further claimed, “Allowing millions of immigrants into the country to fill lower-wage jobs means we have little incentive to undertake the difficult task of getting more men back into jobs.” [The New York Post, 2/13/24]
    • Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo said, “When you look at the jobs numbers, they look really strong -- they do -- every month. We seem to have a strong jobs market. But when you peel back the onion, a lot of those jobs are going to noncitizens; a lot of those jobs are part time.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 6/20/24]