Immigration Myths | Media Matters for America

Immigration Myths

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  • A Fox News anchor lied about immigrants during the town hall with Julian Castro

    Martha MacCallum echoed the false claim made by Trump 'border czar' pick and Fox contributor Tom Homan

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    During Fox News’ town hall with 2020 Democratic candidate Julian Castro, co-moderator Martha MacCallum falsely claimed that 90% of immigrants who are detained and then released “do not ever show up for their court date.” MacCallum’s comment echoed a stat also used by Fox opinion contributor Tom Homan, whom President Donald Trump recently named as his border czar.

    On the May 10 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Homan referenced congressional testimony that acting Executive Associate ICE Director Nathalie Asher gave two days earlier to comment that “almost nine out of 10” undocumented or asylum-seeking families “aren’t making it to court” for their hearings. However, the figure was only related to a Trump administration pilot program launched in late 2018 to expedite asylum cases; in contrast, per Asher’s testimony, the traditional program for these families “is effective in ensuring that its vetted participants show up to specified hearings” -- with just 27.4% of families failing to appear for their court dates. Multiple studies have also shown that over 90% of asylum-seekers in several categories actually do appear for their court hearings.

    Until Homan rejoins the Trump administration -- as the president announced during a June 14 Fox & Friends interview -- he is a Fox News contributor, a part of the “opinion” division that executives claim is separate from the “news” division. However, MacCallum, a Fox “news”-side anchor, repeated the same false claim during the town hall, noting that 90% of the people detained at the border “do not ever show up for their court date once they’ve been apprehended and released.” Castro said he wanted to “dispute” the figure and mentioned the Obama-era Family Case Management Program, which he said saw a “more than a 98% return rate” for immigrants going to court. MacCallum’s responded, “It doesn’t sound like there’s anyone that you wouldn’t let in. I mean, is there anyone you wouldn’t let in?”

    As with earlier Fox News Democratic town halls, Fox & Friends quickly used Castro’s appearance to attack him as a radical leftist, this time on immigration. Co-host Brian Kilmeade denounced Castro’s plan for what he called “wide-open borders” and mocked him for “going back in time to 1929” for mentioning that the U.S. traditionally didn’t criminalize people for crossing the border illegally but treated such acts as civil violations. And the clip reel the show assembled consistently cut Castro off mid-sentence, denying the audience his policy explanations and allowing the hosts to tear down a leftist caricature.

    Fox has been using its Democratic town halls to both attack liberals and keep the network financially sound amid controversy about its prime-time lineup pushing dangerous conspiracy theories and unabashed white supremacy. A Democratic town hall featuring a false anti-immigrant talking point from Fox News’ go-to immigration misinformer -- who is also a former and possibly returning Trump border official -- should be a red flag for any non-conservative considering appearing on the network.

  • Trump announced he is bringing Fox's Tom Homan back to the administration as a "border czar." Here's what you need to know about him.

    Meet Tom Homan, the source of Fox News’ bogus immigration talking points

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Update (6/14/19): President Trump announced in a June 14 interview on Fox & Friends that he was hiring Tom Homan back into his administration as a “border czar.” This piece has also been updated with additional information.

    Tom Homan, once President Donald Trump’s acting head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has become a major source of misinformation on Fox News about immigration. Homan associated himself with anti-immigrant bigotry during and after his tenure in government, left a legacy of cruel actions against immigrants, and continued espousing anti-immigrant rhetoric after joining Fox News as a contributor in August 2018.

    Homan is a major source of immigration misinformation at Fox

    Homan began appearing exclusively on Fox News in the latter months of his leadership of ICE and joined Fox as a contributor after he retired in June 2018. But even before his retreat to Fox, Homan spread and inspired misinformation in conservative media sphere.

    • In October 2017, Homan falsely suggested that an undocumented immigrant may have been responsible for the devastating wildfires in California, a claim that was repeated by right-wing websites. Local law enforcement officials were forced to debunk, what they called, Homan’s "inaccurate," "inflammatory," and "damaging" statement.

    • During February 2018, Homan went on Fox & Friends and falsely blamed the mayor of Oakland, CA, for the agency’s failure to arrest hundreds of immigrants it was seeking. Multiple Fox News shows parroted Homan’s claim after this Fox appearance. The claim also appeared in an official statement by the agency. An ICE spokesperson later resigned in protest over Homan’s lie.

    • Under Homan’s tenure at ICE, the agency often wrongly accused immigrants of being gang members as a pretext to arrest them. Fox hosts and guests also repeatedly mentioned gangs in the context of immigration. In August, Homan pushed other falsehoods about MS-13 and immigration.

    • In June 2018, Homan appeared on America’s Newsroom and used a misleading statistic about fake families at the border to justify Trump’s policy of taking children away from their parents in detention.

    • According to an April 2018 HuffPost profile of Homan, he repeatedly mislead about the risks of violence ICE officers faced. The narrative eventually reached Fox as host Trish Regan recently claimed that ICE officers are “risking their lives in many cases” while performing their duties, even though not a single ICE officer has been killed by an immigrant, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

    • In August 2018, weeks after Homan stepped down from ICE, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade credited him as the source of a misleading statistic about ICE arrests of immigrants under the Trump administration, falsely claiming that “nine out of every 10” immigrants that ICE arrests “have criminal records.”

    • Also in August 2018, Homan pushed the false smear on Fox & Friends that Democrats want “open borders,” which Fox figures often claim when discussing Democrats’ views on immigration. In November, he acknowledged that “with the help of Fox News,” he and Trump are getting the message across that some Democrats’ call for “abolishing ICE equals open borders.”

    • In January, Homan supported the Trump administration’s false claim that thousands of terrorists attempted to cross the southern border by insisting that “terrorists do come across that southern border” and that we should shift the focus away from “how many terrorists have been arrested entering the country illegally” to “how many did Border Patrol not catch.”

    • In March, Homan blamed California’s sanctuary law for the death of a police officer he referred to as “Singh.” A December 2018 Reason article about the killing of California police officer Ronil Singh by an immigrant named Gustavo Perez Arriaga explained that ICE never requested that Arriaga be held for deportation after his previous arrests -- meaning sanctuary policies had no role in the suspect’s presence in the country.

    • In June, Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt said families who are applying for asylum are “not showing up in court” for their hearings -- echoing a lie from Homan in May that “almost nine out of 10 families, aren't making it to court.”

    Not only has Homan appeared on the network nearly 150 times since August 2017, but Fox hosts also frequently cite him in their discussions on immigration, in interviews with other people, and even base entire segments on his words, marking him as perhaps Fox’s most prominent misinformer on immigration.

    Homan has also associated himself with anti-immigrant bigotry

    • In April 2017, several months after Homan took charge of ICE, he hired an analyst from an anti-immigrant hate group the Center for Immigration Studies as an adviser. Just days before he retired in June 2018, Homan also sat down for an interview at an event CIS hosted, where he dubiously linked sanctuary city policies to the increased security risk for immigration officers and called for changing asylum law to make it harder for asylum-seekers to obtain it.

    • During his time in government service, Homan reportedly used a slur in his work that glorified violence against immigrants, according to HuffPost.

    • In September 2018, following his retirement from ICE and the start of his employment at Fox News, Homan attended as a special honoree a conference organized by the anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America.

    Homan left a reproachful legacy at ICE by spreading fear among and about immigrants and defending Trump’s inhumane policies which led to immigrant deaths in detention

    • In June 2017, Homan said in congressional testimony all undocumented immigrants “should be afraid” of actions by the Trump administration.

    • In January 2018, Homan called for criminal charges against local government leaders of so-called sanctuary cities.

    • In June 2018, Homan defended Trump’s inhumane family separation policy and said “you’d have to put the blame on the parents” for immigration officials taking their children away.

    • Deportation of immigrants with no criminal convictions nearly tripled under Homan’s first year as acting ICE director, doubling the proportion of noncriminals that made up immigration arrests from 13% in 2016 to 26%.

    • ICE arrested for deportation several immigration activists, journalists, and ICE critics under Homan’s leadership, spurring accusations of improper politicization of immigration law enforcement.

    • Homan advocated for detention of migrants past current legal time limit, including for pregnant women.

    • Under Homan’s leadership, ICE stopped delaying deportations of individuals named in private congressional bills that would give them legal status.

    • The inspector general office at Department of Homeland Security started inspections of four ICE detention facilities when Homan was still leading ICE and found “immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards” including “nooses in detainee cells, overly restrictive segregation, inadequate medical care, unreported security incidents, and significant food safety issues.”

    • ICE reportedly committed numerous other abusive actions against immigrants under Homan’s leadership, including sexually abusing detainees, arresting immigrants who report domestic abuse, and allowing several immigrants to die in detention.

    Homan’s extreme anti-immigrant tendencies and defenses of Trump have continued since he joined Fox News

    • In August 2018, Homan joined other conservative media in politicizing the murder of a college student.

    • Also in August, Homan called for laws to “criminalize those who overstay a visa,” which is currently a civil violation.

    • In October 2018, Homan praised Trump for “pushing for the rule of law” and working to “enforce the laws on the book” amid reporting on intricate and fraudulent tax-dodging schemes used by the Trump family to pass along undertaxed inheritance.

    • Also in October, Homan laid the blame for a migrant caravan from Central America “at the feet of the Democratic Party up on the Hill” and accused Democrats of not caring about public safety.

    • In November 2018, Homan said “there should be fear in the immigrant community” of the Trump administration.

    • The same month, Homan expressed support for detaining asylum seekers in tent cities.

    • In late November, Homan criticized news organizations for showing migrant families being tear gassed by Border Patrol agents.

    • In December 2018, Homan was among the many right-wing media figures who urged Trump to veto spending bills that don’t fund a border wall and trigger a government shutdown.

    • In January, Homan repeatedly blamed the deaths of children in Department of Homeland Security custody on the absence of a full border wall, and later in May, he blamed additional detainees’ deaths on House Democrats.

    • In February, Homan openly became yet another Fox-based Trump sycophant, claiming he “is going to be recognized as one of the greatest presidents of our generation, if not the greatest” due to his harsh actions to curb immigration.

    • Also in February, Homan said Democrats are helping Mexican criminal organizations and cartels.

    • Later in February, Homan suggested Democrats don’t care if undocumented immigrants kill Americans.

    • At the beginning of March, Homan became yet another Fox personality to claim “we’re being invaded” by migrants.

    • In early March, Homan denied migrant children were being kept in cages, saying they are “chain-link dividers [that] go all the way up to the high ceiling.”

    • Later in March, Homan invoked the 9/11 terror attacks to bash New York City’s “sanctuary city” policy.

    • Homan repeatedly disparaged Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for highlighting ICE abuses of immigrant detainees.

    • In early April, Homan encouraged Trump to close the southern border.

    • He praised Trump’s threat to forcibly relocate detained immigrants to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions as “ingenious.” According to The Washington Post, ICE’s legal department had “rejected the idea as inappropriate.”

    • In May, Homan fearmongered that America “will lose the border” unless individual adults seeking asylum are locked up.

    • Homan also called for 100,000 immigrant families to be rounded up and deported.

    • In early June, Homan complained that Democrats prevented ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants willing to serve as sponsor parents of unaccompanied children.

    • Later in June, Homan supported Trump’s threat to levy tariffs on all Mexican goods unless it halts all people going through its territory on their way to the United States, even though he acknowledged the tariffs will harm the American economy.

    • Homan said Democrats “should be ashamed of themselves” for extending health coverage to some undocumented immigrants in California.

    This post was originally published June 12.

  • The hate, lies, and misinformation of Laura Ingraham

    ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET & REBECCA MARTIN

    Laura Ingraham has a long history of spreading hate speech, from her prime-time Fox News show, former radio show, and, now, new podcast. Ingraham has made scores of racist and anti-immigrant statements, including echoing white supremacists. On numerous occasions, she has propagated the popular white nationalist “replacement theory,” wherein non-white citizens “replace” white citizens. More recently, Ingraham came under fire for defending white nationalist Paul Nehlen. In the past, advertisers have fled from her show after Ingraham mocked a Parkland school shooting survivor and when she attacked the concept of diversity, saying, “Massive demographic changes have been foisted upon the American people, and they are changes that none of us ever voted for, and most of us don't like.”

  • Fox personalities in the news and opinion divisions fearmonger that asylum-seekers could “fundamentally change the sovereignty of our country”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the May 28 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, “straight news” correspondent Griff Jenkins -- filling in as co-host -- claimed that “the Border Patrol says behind closed doors … once we just release [migrant or asylum-seeking] adult single males into the community, it is going to fundamentally change the sovereignty of our country on that border.” Jenkins also said that he “wish[es] they would say it publicly more often.” 

    Later in the day, another Fox News personality made a similar point. Outnumbered co-host Harris Faulkner, who also anchors the companion "news" show Outnumbered Overtime, discussed the possibility of Transportation Security Administration agents joining Border Patrol on the border "to keep that line, that sovereignty down there," again suggesting that immigration is a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

    On the May 23 edition of Outnumbered Overtime, Fox News contributor and former acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan similarly claimed that “if we fail to detain [adult individual asylum-seekers] until they see a judge, you will lose the border … [and] you’re going to see an unprecedented surge of all sorts of chaos on the border.” Faulkner commented that Homan’s comment “gives me chills.”  

    Fox News has consistently driven the nativist narrative that immigration “is a flat-out invasion” of the United States. Fox & Friends has played a key role in driving the misinformation. Co-host Steve Doocy recently praised Jenkins for a report fearmongering about “rumors of ebola” in a migrant caravan; Jenkins had reported on the rumors but had debunked them in the same report. 

    As The Washington Post reported, the “militaristic ‘invasion’ metaphor” is “one of the oldest and most persistent anti-immigration metaphors in the country’s history, employed to oppose Irish Catholics, Asians, Latinos, Germans, Jews and just about everyone except white Protestants of English ancestry who now lives in America.” Framing immigration as an “invasion” erases the individual stories and reasons people have for seeking to live in the United States, replacing it with an imaginary, monolithic “army” seeking to destroy the country.  

  • Tucker Carlson's descent into white supremacy: A timeline

    ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ

    Since the early days of his tenure as a Fox prime-time host, Tucker Carlson’s unabashed championing of white grievances earned him the accolades of neo-Nazis, who praised him as a “one man gas chamber” and complimented the way he “lampshad[ed] Jews on national television.” While Carlson claims to have nothing in common with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, he constantly echoes their talking points on his show and was very reluctant to condemn white supremacists following their deadly 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, VA. In fact, Carlson’s racist roots can be traced back more than a decade.

    Here’s a timeline of the public devolution of Tucker Carlson’s thinly veiled racism into full-throated white supremacy (this list will be continually updated):

  • Fox contributor falsely claims “almost 9 out of 10 families” applying for asylum “aren’t making it to court” for their hearings

    Former acting ICE Director Tom Homan cited congressional testimony that actually proves him wrong. The vast majority of families applying for asylum appear for their court cases.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox News contributor and former acting ICE Director Tom Homan, in an effort to inflate problems at the southern border, claimed “86%, almost 9 out of 10 families, aren't making it to court” for their asylum hearings, citing congressional testimony.

    But the testimony Homan appears to be referring to actually showed that most such families do show up for their court cases -- which lines up with studies and results from an Obama administration program where the vast majority of families over a period of 10 years attended their hearings. The numbers Homan gave referred only to a pilot program launched by the Trump administration in late 2018.

    On May 8, Acting Executive Associate ICE Director Nathalie Asher testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that 87.5 percent of removal orders for cases in a limited Department of Justice pilot program to expedite family asylum cases within a year “were issued in absentia” when the persons didn’t appear for their cases. However, immigration lawyers say that this Trump administration pilot program could violate immigrants’ due process rights.

    Asher’s testimony also stated that in fiscal year 2018, just 27.4% of family units failed to appear for their court dates -- far less than the “almost 9 out of 10 families” Homan claimed. Asher even admitted that the traditional program for these families “is effective in ensuring that its vetted participants show up to specified hearings.”

    Other data also show that a sizeable majority of immigrants in recent years who are not detained attend their immigration court proceedings. Family units applying for asylum that participated in an Obama administration pilot program had nearly perfect attendance for their ICE check-ins and court hearings -- but the Trump administration canceled that program. And multiple studies and analyses have shown that the rate for several categories of asylum seekers had court hearing attendance rates of over 90%. Homan, who regularly appears on Fox to misinform on immigration and advocate for harsh measures against asylum seekers, has the numbers completely backwards.

    From the May 10 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (ANCHOR): So, the situation on the border apparently getting worse. More than 100,000 illegal immigrants were either apprehended or turned away at the southern border in one month, in the month of April. Tom Homan, retired ICE director and a Fox News contributor. Sir, thanks for coming back here. Administration's looking for some more money, let me get to that in a moment. There was a big hearing yesterday on the Hill. We had a member of the Border Patrol on out air last hour. He's just saying that Congress doesn't care because Congress isn't getting it done. Now you see the numbers from April and they tell you what?

    TOM HOMAN (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Well look, I've been saying for months Congress doesn't care. Look, I think their resistance to Trump, they want to see -- they want to see this president fail on his number one campaign promise. I've said it many times, they're putting their hatred of this president above their responsibilities to secure this border. They can't be ignorant to what's happening. All you got to do is watch the videos, watch the numbers. The borders -- I've done this 34 years. This is unprecedented. I've never seen it this bad on the border. And they're sitting there watching the parade go by. Nothing is happening, and it's terrible. The morale of the Border Patrol is going downhill. More people are being released. As of yesterday's testimony, 86%, almost 9 out of 10 families, aren't making it to court. They don't show up. They become a fugitive and they hide in the United States waiting for the next DACA or waiting for the next amnesty. It's terrible, it's out of control. Worst I've ever seen it in my entire career.

  • CNN and MSNBC downplay a call at Trump's rally to shoot migrants, likening it to HBO's Veep

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    After President Donald Trump laughed at a suggestion made at his campaign rally that migrants crossing the border should be shot, CNN and MSNBC both aired a clip from HBO’s political satire Veep that appeared to trivialize the dangers of the president’s words that could potentially incite violence.

    At a May 8 campaign rally in Panama City Beach, FL, Trump noted that Border Patrol agents are not allowed to use weapons to stop migrants and asked the rowdy crowd, “How do you stop these people?”

    “Shoot them!” an attendee yelled, and the crowd laughed and cheered.

    Trump also laughed before saying, "That's only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”

    While the president stopped short of explicitly supporting the suggestion to open fire on migrants at the border, The Washington Post noted, “His joking response raised concerns that he was tacitly encouraging extrajudicial killings and brutality against asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants.” The May 8 rally comes less than a month after a border militia group calling itself the United Constitutional Patriots drew national attention for reportedly detaining “hundreds” of migrants, including several children, at gunpoint on the U.S.-Mexico border. The group’s leader was later arrested by the FBI on charges of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition. He had previously claimed that the group was training to assassinate prominent Democratic leaders. According to a police report obtained by The Young Turks, one militia member asked why the group was “just apprehending” migrants against their will “and not lining them up and shooting them,” adding, “We have to go back to Hitler days and put them all in a gas chamber.” The police report was filed by a fellow militia member who felt he had witnessed “terroristic threats” among the group.

    But some media coverage of the president's rally ignored this serious potential for violence against migrants. On CNN’s New Day, co-anchors John Berman and Alisyn Camerota aired the footage from Trump’s rally, immediately followed by a scene from HBO’s Veep, an American political satire that has drawn attention for its chaotic plotline that appears to be strikingly similar to the politics of today. In the clip, a presidential candidate is giving a speech when an attendee suggests that people should shoot immigrants, to which he seemingly agrees. When the clip finished, Berman laughed at the comparison, saying, “Veep was shot months ago and there’s almost no discernible difference between the events.” 

    From the May 9 edition of CNN’s New Day:

    On MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber, host Ari Melber began his segment by quoting poet Oscar Wilde that, “life imitates art far more than art imitates life,” adding that this is “clearly the case on HBO’s hit political series Veep.” Melber then aired the same Veep clip and hosted the shows creators to discuss their method behind writing Veep. The 10-minute segment focused far more on Veep’s similarities to contemporary politics than on the harmful impact of Trump’s words.

    From the May 9 edition of MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber: