Enforcement | Media Matters for America


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  • As the movement to abolish ICE gains mainstream support, Fox News goes into attack mode

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News is scrambling in response to the grass-roots movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has begun seeping into mainstream progressive and Democratic politics. On the evening of June 28, all three of the network’s prime-time shows aired segments attacking the Abolish ICE movement, as did Fox & Friends the next morning.

    As the Trump administration is stepping up mass deportations, separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, and interning immigrant children in cages, calls to abolish ICE have spread from a grass-roots Twitter phenomenon to the political mainstream. Multiple candidates for prominent elected positions have endorsed the movement, including New York congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist who ran on the issue leading up to her upset primary win over Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY). Elected Democrats are also beginning to endorse the movement. In the House, three Democrats support abolishing ICE and a fourth, Rep. Mark Pocan (WI), introduced legislation to abolish ICE and investigate possibilities for “a humane immigration enforcement system.” And in the Senate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) endorsed abolishing ICE, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) said, “We need to probably think about starting from scratch.” Even some ICE agents themselves have called for the agency to be dissolved.

    Meanwhile, on Fox, the network’s stars were allied in their defense of ICE. After a brief update on the June 28 mass shooting at an Annapolis, MD, newspaper, Tucker Carlson -- who uses his platform to promote white nationalism -- opened his show by denouncing #AbolishICE as an “ideological revolution on the left” and fearmongering about the criminals and drugs that he claimed would flood the country without ICE. 

    Sean Hannity suggested that members of “the left” are attacking ICE because special counsel Robert Mueller has produced “literally zero evidence that the president ever did anything wrong” in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, causing progressives to “unravel.

    Laura Ingraham complained that “Occupy ICE protesters want to, again, make it impossible for our immigration investigators to do their jobs.” And she ridiculed protesters in Washington, D.C., who were calling for abolishment of ICE as “Jiffy Pop” on account of the “tin foil robes” they wore, which were intended to resemble the foil blankets ICE is giving detained children. 

    And Acting ICE Director Tom Homan appeared on Fox & Friends, his favorite safe space, using the Annapolis shooting to argue that anti-ICE protesters “should be respecting law enforcement across the board,” including ICE agents. Homan also said the protesters “need to educate themselves” about ICE’s activities and that they are seeking “better rules for illegal alien families than we have for U.S. citizen families.” 

    Fox has long led the media charge to defend ICE and its actions, frequently using the violent gang MS-13 to demonize all immigrants. (ICE also mislabels some immigrants as gang members in order to deport them.) Along with the hosts’ efforts, guests on the network lie and mislead about immigration issues to defend the agency’s critical role in President Donald Trump’s agenda of implementing mass deportations.

  • Fox News suggested Trump could take on prison reform, but his administration’s policies are worsening mass incarceration

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After President Donald Trump commuted the excessive sentence for a nonviolent, first-time drug offender, Fox News speculated that he could lead an initiative for bipartisan prison reform. In reality, the drug policies enacted by the Trump administration are more likely to worsen mass incarceration.

    After Trump met with celebrity Kim Kardashian West on June 6, he commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who had spent 21 years in prison for two drug charges. The Johnson commutation, part of Trump’s arbitrary clemency spree, led Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer to suggest that the government could do “prison reform under this president.” Fox headlines anchor Carley Shimkus responded, saying that according to the ACLU, “there’s 3,000 nonviolent, first-time offenders in prison right now” and that there could be “some common ground” across the political spectrum on this issue because “this is something that the anthem-kneelers are always preaching about.”

    In reality, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has adopted several policies that will actually worsen mass incarceration, especially for the nonviolent, first-time offenders Shimkus was talking about. 

    Even before he was in office, analysts predicted that Trump would grow the federal prison population. Although that population has been decreasing since 2013, the rate of decrease has slowed significantly under the Trump administration. According to Bureau of Prisons statistics, the total number of federal inmates dropped by only around 6,500 in 2017, as opposed to more than 13,500 the year before. Since the current number of federal inmates is already only around 1,500 lower than last year’s total, Trump seems likely to preside over the first growth in federal prison populations in half a decade.

    Contributing to Trump’s reversal of declining prison populations is his punitive immigration and drug policies. Trump’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has made a very high-profile habit of imprisoning immigrants (or people who simply appear to be immigrants) and trying to deport them, including by falsely accusing them of being affiliated with gangs. 

    On drugs, the Trump administration’s extremely regressive policies have flown under the radar and allowed Trump to grab occasional credit for entertaining “prison reform,” even as he and Sessions shovel more people into the maw of mass incarceration. Sessions’ tenure as attorney general makes a mockery of the concept of criminal justice reform; he threatened to prosecute marijuana businesses operating legally under state law and reversed an Obama-era guideline to avoid pursuing charges for first-time nonviolent drug offenders that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences, instructing prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible.

    In addition, Sessions ended an Obama-era program investigating abusive police forces, and his Department of Justice made a months-long attempt to federally prosecute a woman for laughing at him. On Trump’s part, his administration has been an unprecedented boon for the scourge that is private prisons, he has reauthorized police departments to use military surplus gear and weapons, and Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a desire to execute drug dealers.

  • NY Times Cites Anti-Immigrant Groups, Doesn't Mention Their Ties To White Supremacists

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    A New York Times article cited anti-immigrant groups Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) and ignored their ties to nativists while reporting on sanctuary cities’ efforts to combat costly federal immigration proposals.

    The November 27 Times report cited FAIR president Dan Stein and Center for Immigration Studies director of policy Jessica Vaughan. Both took the opportunity to advocate for President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities unless they enforce immigration policy, a role that historically falls under the responsibility of the federal government. The article identified FAIR as a group that “opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants” and said the Center for Immigration Studies “supports reduced immigration.”

    FAIR, which has already influenced Trump’s immigration proposals, has ties to white supremacists and was labeled an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The founder of FAIR also helped launch the Center for Immigration Studies, which, like FAIR, uses the veneer of impartiality to inject lies about immigration into mainstream media. By including commentary from nativist groups while failing to properly identify them, the Times is recycling misinformation and robbing its audience of essential context. From the November 27 New York Times report:

    Across the nation, officials in sanctuary cities are gearing up to oppose President-elect Donald J. Trump if he follows through on a campaign promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants. They are promising to maintain their policies of limiting local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agents.


    Supporters of tougher immigration policies, however, expect a swift response. Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants, predicted “a very aggressive, no-holds-barred support for using the full power of the federal government to discourage this kind of interference.”

    “These local politicians take it upon themselves to allow people who have been here for a long time to stay here and receive services,” Mr. Stein said. “The Trump administration is basically saying, ‘If you want to accommodate, don’t expect the rest of us to pay for your services.’”

    Some believe Mr. Trump could go further than simply pulling federal funding, perhaps fighting such policies in court or even prosecuting city leaders.

    “This is uncharted territory in some ways, to see if they’re just playing chicken, or see if they will relent,” said Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports reduced immigration.

    Cities have “gotten away with this for a long time because the federal government has never attempted to crack down on them,” Ms. Vaughan said. [The New York Times, 11/27/16]

  • Fox News Cherry-Picks From Obama's Town Hall To Suggest He's Illegally Enforcing Immigration Policy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Fox News cherry-picked from President Obama's statements at a town hall event to falsely suggest Obama is illegally enforcing his immigration directives in violation of a court order temporarily blocking the directives from going into effect -- but the Obama administration has already suspended implementation of the executive action to comply with the ruling.

    On February 25, Obama spoke "directly to the Latino community" at an MSNBC town hall. Speaking with Telemundo and MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart, the president discussed the implications of the recent halt on his immigration actions put in place by a federal judge in Texas, a ruling that is currently being appealed by the Department of Justice.

    During the February 26 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News anchor Heather Nauert played an out-of-context clip of the president's remarks at the town hall, suggesting he was illegally enforcing the immigration actions at issue in the Texas case. Nauert claimed that Obama was "warning" Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents who did not follow his executive action and aired a clip of Obama saying:

    OBAMA: The bottom line is, is that, if somebody's working for ICE and there's a policy and they don't follow the policy, there're going to be consequences to it.

    After airing the clip of Obama's remarks, Nauert alleged that "there's just one problem" with Obama saying ICE agents would have to follow his directives -- "a federal judge has issued a ruling halting the executive immigration order in its tracks": 

    Later in the program, host Steve Doocy again played the cropped clip of Obama's remarks and claimed that the president was "essentially threatening ICE agents." Doocy added that Obama's policy was to "let everybody stay, but the laws say, if you're in the country illegally, you should be deported":

    But the full context of Obama's statements show the president was speaking broadly about ICE agents following policies that are in place, making clear that a federal judge has currently blocked his most recent executive order. In the portion of the town hall directly prior to the remarks Fox aired, Obama told Díaz-Balart that while the administration appeals the Texas ruling, agents are expected to prioritize deportations properly and consistently with existing directives provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the administration (emphasis added):

    DIAZ-BALART (Reading question from social media): How do you guarantee that an immigrant who is in the middle of legalizing his status, that he or she is not going to be deported by ICE? Mr. President, my husband was deported during the process, and this, she says, happened just last week.

    OBAMA: You know, I would have to know the details of exactly what happened. But what I can tell you is that, until we pass a law through Congress, the executive actions that we've taken are not going to be permanent. They're temporary. We are now implementing a new prioritization. There are going to be some jurisdictions, and there may be individual ICE officials, or border patrol, who aren't paying attention to our new directives. But they're going to be answerable to the head of the Department of Homeland Security, because he's been very clear about what our priorities should be. And I've been very clear about what our priorities should be.

    And the -- I don't know what the particular circumstances here are. But what I can tell you is, people who have signed up, for example, under my executive action in DACA, there are seven, 800,000 people who have signed up. They haven't had problems. It's worked. So we know how to make this work. Right now we've got a judge who's blocking it from working. And in the interim, until we can actually process all these applications, then what we're going to do is do what we can in terms of making sure that we're prioritizing it properly.

    But the challenge is still going to be that not only do we have to win this legal fight, which we are appealing very aggressively, but ultimately we're still going to have to pass a law through Congress. The bottom line is, Jose, that I'm using all of the legal power vested in me in order to solve this problem. And, you know, one of the things about living in a democracy is that we have separation of powers, we have Congress, we have the judicial branch. And, you know, right now, we've got some disagreements with some members of Congress, and some members of the judiciary in terms of what should be done. But what I'm confident about is ultimately this is going to get done. And the reason it's going to get done is it's the right thing to do. And it is who we are as a people.

    DIAZ-BALART: But what are the consequences? Because, how do you -- how do you ensure that ICE agents or border patrol won't be deporting people like this? I mean, what are the consequences?

    OBAMA: Look, the bottom line is that if somebody's working for ICE and there's a policy, and they don't follow the policy, there are going to be consequences to it. So I can't speak to a specific problem. What I can talk about is what's true in the government generally. In the U.S. military when you get an order, you're expected to follow it. It doesn't mean that everybody follows the order. If they don't, they've got a problem. And the same is going to be true with respect to the policies that we're putting forward.

    The Obama administration has already delayed the implementation of their executive action on immigration in response to the court's ruling on the matter. As The New York Times explained, "administration officials ... postponed President Obama's sweeping executive actions on immigration indefinitely, saying they had no choice but to comply" with the judge's order to halt the policy.