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  • Claim that 80 percent of migrants in caravan are "military-aged" men can be traced back to a Fox News contributor

    Fox News contributor Sara Carter’s claim that the majority of migrants are men has spread among right-wing media, who are now calling the men “military-aged”

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Misinformation and false claims surrounding the migrant caravan headed toward the United States have been making rounds on right-wing media outlets. Now, Fox News has introduced the idea that "80 percent" of the migrants -- many of whom appear to be refugees -- traveling within the caravan are men, an unverified claim that has made its way to other right-wing media outlets, with some now calling them "military-aged."

    The migrant caravan first began to gain attention in mid-October, when its size had increased from roughly 160 to over 7,000 people, according to CNBC. It has since been reported that this figure dropped to 4,000 people. The group is currently in southern Mexico and isn’t expected to reach the U.S. border for weeks, if at all. Nonetheless, Fox News seized on the caravan as this year’s pre-election story -- just as it did on the Ebola story before 2014 midterm elections -- to stoke fear among the Republican base. The network also brought it to the attention of President Donald Trump, who has since successfully manipulated other media outlets into excessively covering the caravan. Fox News has now introduced the claim that a majority of the migrants are young men.

    • Fox News contributor Sara Carter initially tweeted that it was "mostly men now crossing the #Guatamalen (sic) border.
    • Carter then claimed on Hannity that while on the ground in Guatemala, she saw “very few women and children, and an enormous amount of men.”
    • Carter repeated this claim on Hannity the following evening, saying, “The majority of people that were in the caravan … were men. There were a few hundred women.”
    • Jesse Watters claimed on Fox News’ The Five that “80 percent of those people in the migrant caravan are males under the age of 35.”
    • Watters repeated the statistic again the following day on Fox News’ The Story with Martha McCallum, claiming that while Democrats were saying it comprised all women and children, the caravan is “actually 80 percent men.”
    • Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said Carter told him “almost everybody she saw were males.” He also said Carter told him that “she didn’t see any babies. She saw one baby carriage. She walked up real quick and it was somebody’s luggage in a baby carriage.”
    • Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell claimed on Fox Business’ Lou Dobbs Tonight that, while on the ground in Guatemala, he observed that “it’s an overwhelmingly male caravan. … The women and children are super minority.”
    • Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka claimed on Fox & Friends that “80 percent of the caravan are military-aged males,” citing Carter and Farrell.
    • By Monday, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade had raised the percentage, asserting that “85 percent evidently are men” when asking a guest about the threat that the migrants pose.

    Other right-wing media outlets have adopted this talking point, citing Fox as the source. Alex Jones’ Infowars quoted Fox News as saying, “‘About 80 percent’ of migrant caravan ‘are men under the age of 35.’” The Daily Wire wrote, “Fox News also noted this week that approximately ‘80 percent’ of the people traveling in the caravan ‘are men under the age of 35.’” Gateway Pundit wrote that the caravan "Includes Military-Aged Male Migrants From Bangladesh, Haiti and Congo" in a post that embedded Carter's original tweet. The unverified statistic made its way to various other right-wing media outlets as well.

    Other media outlets have not confirmed this claim, and other reports contradict Fox’s accounts of the caravan’s members. Vox has reported that half of the migrants within the caravan are women and girls. Univision noted during a field visit that there were a large number of families, single mothers, and children, as well as older adults and people with disabilities in the caravan. And UNICEF reported in a press release that "an estimated 2,300 children traveling with [the] migrant caravan in Mexico need protection and essential services."

  • 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.

  • The big problem with the term “catch and release”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Over the past few months, as President Donald Trump’s administration works to dismantle protections for asylum-seeking immigrants, the use of the term “catch and release” -- a dehumanizing phrase that describes U.S. policies meant to provide certain rights to vulnerable immigrants -- has skyrocketed on cable news networks.

    “Catch and release” is generally used to refer to any policy that allows immigrants to be released from detention while their cases are being processed. These so-called “catch and release” policies recognize the basic humanitarian rights of unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, and families with children. One such policy prohibits the detention of families for more than 20 days and enforces other standards for detention; another bars the U.S. government from deporting people back to places where they could be harmed or killed; and a third awards “more cautious asylum hearing proceedings for [unaccompanied children], because it is thought that they are more likely to be victims of human trafficking.” Experts have noted that rolling back these protections would lead to severe trauma for immigrants (and benefits for the private prison industry.)

    Many observers have pointed out that the term “catch and release” evokes imagery of a fish or other animal being hunted and then released. The book Governing Immigration Through Crime: A Reader explains the disparaging effect of the term:

    Although the term catch and release appears benign, it actually serves to dehumanize immigrants. The term comes from sport fishing, where it refers to the practice of catching fish and then throwing them back into the water. Using such a term in the context of immigration policing essentially reduces the apprehension and incarceration of human beings to a sport.

    But as the Trump administration continues to pick away at these protections, cable news outlets have ramped up their use of the phrase, with Fox News leading the way. An analysis of use of the term “catch and release” on cable news by the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive demonstrates a huge spike in the term’s prevalence throughout 2018 compared to previous years. Notably, on June 25, use of the term “catch and release” was the highest it has been since at least 2009 across MSNBC, Fox, and CNN:

    Fox and other right-wing outlets have weaponized the phrase to fearmonger about a foreign invasion at the southern border, spreading misinformation about the policy and its effects.

    The Trump administration’s policies to curtail immigrant protections have not deterred immigrants from making the journey to the southern border, as the administration had claimed. In fact, the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors at the border jumped 50 percent in May, shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared an end to so-called catch and release policies. Even so, Fox has argued that the policies encourage unbridled immigration to the U.S.

    Alleged smugglers reportedly make up only .61 percent of the total number of family units apprehended at the border. Nevertheless, Breitbart.com and Fox have pushed the administration’s misleading claim that protections for immigrants enable human smuggling.

    Asylum seekers face a rigorous vetting process to prove their claims and, all too often, those with genuine fear of return are denied asylum. Yet Laura Ingraham argues that immigrants are taking advantage of the policies to falsely claim asylum with the expectation that they will be released and be able to disappear into the system.

    In 2017, 60,000 immigrants attended their court hearings after they were released from custody at the border, compared to 40,000 who did not, and only 25 percent of cases were decided without a defendant in 2016. Yet, right-wing media have perpetuated the myth that the majority of immigrants do not show up for their court dates.

    Like the terms “illegal immigrant” and “chain migration,” “catch and release” is just another tool that nativists use to dehumanize immigrants. And at a time when the president of the United States has painted immigrants as “animals” and immigration as an infestation, mainstream media should avoid using language that might serve to legitimize this deceptive narrative.

  • Media help GOP brand their bill that would drastically cut legal immigration as “moderate,” “a compromise”

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Tomorrow, President Donald Trump will meet with House Republicans to discuss two immigration bills; both would drastically cut legal immigration and fail to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, but media outlets have borrowed language from conservatives to brand one of them a “compromise” or “moderate” option.

    The first bill, spearheaded by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), would cut legal immigration by 40 percent according to some calculations, by ending the diversity visa lottery and ending the family-based immigration system. The bill would also make it easier to deport noncriminal undocumented immigrants by making their presence in the country itself a criminal offense, fund the border wall, crack down on so-called sanctuary cities, and abandon plans for a previously discussed pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

    The second bill, which was brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and agreed upon by a group of conservatives and Republican moderates, is being promoted as a “compromise.” While it would not go as far as the Goodlatte bill, the Ryan bill would also reduce legal immigration by ending the diversity visa lottery and some forms of family-based immigration, allow for broader immigration enforcement, and fund the border wall. Unlike the other bill, this proposal would offer Dreamers a long pathway to citizenship. Contrary to what Republicans have claimed, it would not address the dire situation at the border, where immigrant children are being separated from their parents.

    It is misleading to label such a proposal a “compromise” without making note of the fact that only hard-line conservatives and Republican moderates had arrived at a consensus; the extreme terms of the bill only serve to isolate progressives and immigrant rights activists. During a call with immigrant advocacy groups, Patrice Lawrence, the national policy and advocacy director for UndocuBlack Network, explained, “The recent White House 2.0 or Ryan Bill is the furthest thing from compromise and will not benefit Dreamers in any way.” Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant group America’s Voice, noted that the so-called “compromise” bill “is worse than the White House proposal that was soundly defeated on the Senate floor. This bill is incredibly stingy to Dreamers, it turbocharges deportations, it eviscerates asylum, and it calls for the construction of [a] stupid and unnecessary border wall.”

    Nonetheless, many media outlets have been downplaying the bill’s anti-immigrant provisions. Throughout the day, CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip has called the Ryan bill “a compromise” and a “moderate” bill. Speaking to two Democratic congressmen yesterday, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt referred to the proposal as “a compromise bill on immigration [that] would deal with Dreamers” and incorrectly reported that part of the legislation would deal with “prohibiting the separation of children from their parents.” Fox has called the legislation a “consensus bill” and “a moderate one,” and at one point the network hosted an anti-immigration advocate, Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, who complained that the bill would not go far enough. Meanwhile, many other outlets ran with the Republican lie that the Ryan bill would stop the practice of separating families.

  • Trump's border wall proposal is exactly what Ann Coulter pitched on Fox News Saturday night

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    On March 25, President Donald Trump released a cryptic tweet proposing to use funds dedicated to national defense to build a wall along the southern border, a plan conservative commentator Ann Coulter had proposed hours earlier on one of Trump’s favorite Fox News shows, Justice with Judge Jeanine.

    On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted:

    The tweet was widely interpreted as a proposal to use military funding to build a border wall, a proposal Coulter had made the night before on Justice with Judge Jeanine. The show's host, Jeanine Pirro, is a longtime friend of Trump’s and has earned a special place on his watch list through her fawning coverage.

    JEANINE PIRRO (HOST): What can the president do? What can the president do as commander-in-chief?

    ANN COULTER: Look, on the day after his inauguration, it's his authority under the Constitution that cannot be taken away from him by any legislature, by any court -- I'm quite confident the Supreme Court would uphold this -- to defend our borders. I mean, he has -- the last war that had a declaration of war from Congress in it was World War II, and we engage in a lot of military actions around the world. I think it can be done right on our border as part of the defense. Have the Seabees do it. But if he needs to --

    PIRRO: OK, so where does he get the money? Where does he get the money to build the wall that you can say he can build as national defense. Where does he take the money from?

    COULTER: The same place Reagan took the money to invade Grenada. The same place he took the money to bomb Syria. He has money to spend on national defense, and this is a much bigger problem of national defense. This is our people being attacked with chemical warfare, not allegedly Syrians.

  • An anti-immigrant hate group lobbying director is now a senior adviser at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Robert Law, a senior policy adviser to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), previously worked as a lobbying director for the anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). While at FAIR, Law denigrated Dreamers, argued that the United States should end birthright citizenship, and recommended that the government reduce the number of refugees and immigrants coming into the country. 

    Law quietly joined the agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in October after serving as FAIR’s director of government relations, according to his LinkedIn profile. Aside from his networking page, Law’s appointment does not appear to have been publicly announced. His name appears in ProPublica's Trump Town database of admistration appointees.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated FAIR as a hate group, writing: “One of the group’s main goals is upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans.” FAIR was founded by John Tanton, who, the civil rights group wrote, “has white nationalist beliefs and has written that to maintain American culture, ‘a European-American majority’ is required.” Tanton remains on the group’s board of advisors. The Anti-Defamation League has also criticized FAIR, describing it as “an extreme anti-immigrant group.”

    FAIR’s staff appears regularly in media outlets despite its hate group designation. Other members of the Trump administration have connections to the group. For example, former FAIR executive director Julie Kirchner is the ombudsman for USCIS after previously working as an adviser for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at DHS.

    In an email to Media Matters, a FAIR spokesperson criticized SPLC and categorically rejected the hate group designation, writing, in part, “There is an ongoing effort by organizations with opposing views on immigration to try to discredit groups like FAIR that seek enforcement of immigration laws and overall limits on U.S. immigration.”

    In a 2016 newsletter, FAIR stated that Law headed its "three-person Federal Government Relations department" and that his “passion for the immigration issue began a decade ago when he learned that Bank of America worked to help illegal immigrants get mortgages. Outraged, he marched down to the local branch and closed his account.”

    USCIS is an agency that, according to its mission statement, “administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.” The agency recently changed its mission statement to remove a passage noting that the United States is “a nation of immigrants.” USCIS did not respond to requests for comment from Media Matters about Law.

    Law co-authored FAIR’s November 2016 “Immigration Priorities for the 2017 Presidential Transition” report, which provided a blueprint of the nativist policies the group pushes. The report began by blaming “Illegal immigration and unchecked legal immigration” for much of the problems in the country:

    Illegal immigration and unchecked legal immigration are detrimental to the quality of life in the United States. The American family is increasingly bearing the costs of urban sprawl, environmental degradation, traffic congestion, increased crime, overburdened health care, overwhelmed public schools and debt-ridden state and municipal governments—all results of uncontrolled immigration. The fiscal costs of immigration, legal and illegal, have always been substantial, but with the recent economic downturn, these costs have become even more burdensome. The social, cultural and political costs are being felt more acutely as we receive immigrants in numbers too large to be successfully incorporated into our way of life and assimilated into our communities.

    The report recommended that the United States stop birthright citizenship, “end free health care for illegal aliens,” revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, “reduce the size of the refugee cohort admitted to the U.S. each year,” and “limit overall immigration,” among other proposals.

    Law frequently served up anti-immigrant rhetoric in the media during his time at FAIR as a opinion contributor for several months to The Hill. He criticized sanctuary citiesattacked so-called “chain migration”; and praised President Donald Trump for his efforts “to reverse the damage done by his predecessor and restore the rule of law” regarding immigration. Those columns also frequently used the anti-immigrant slur “illegal alien” to demean undocumented immigrants.

    Law has also been a harsh critic of DACA, claiming that the program’s creation was “Obama’s decision to unilaterally grant amnesty to a portion of the illegal alien population” and that it was “unconstitutional.”

    He also criticized politicians for employing the “brilliant marketing campaign painting a picture of Dreamers as a sympathetic group” and complained about Dreamers being marketed as “American in every way except on paper”:

    For decades, politicians such as Pelosi, Schumer, and authors of the current DREAM Act, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have orchestrated a brilliant marketing campaign painting a picture of Dreamers as a sympathetic group. You are undoubtedly familiar with the deceptive phrases they use ad nauseum: “brought here through no fault of their own;” “American in every way except on paper;” and “we can’t deport these children.” (The average beneficiary of DACA today is 25-years-old).

    What they are demanding, in essence, is immigration anarchy.

    During a FAIR podcast appearance last year, Law said granting “amnesty” to DACA recipients is “rewarding their parents for their lawless behavior. Their parents made a choice to bring them here and defy our immigration laws and just because you have children doesn’t mean that you have a human shield that exempts you from any form of enforcement.”

    Law has also gone after Republicans for purportedly not being sufficiently anti-immigrant, calling House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and John McCain (R-AZ) “pro-amnesty” and claiming that Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) is “eager to sell out the American people.”

    USCIS is headed by immigration lawyer L. Francis Cissna. His nomination was opposed by numerous immigration advocacy groups due to his record on immigration. Law, however, praised his future agency head and criticized Sen. Tillis for putting a hold (later removed) on the nomination.