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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.