Immigration Reform | Media Matters for America

Immigration Reform

Issues ››› Immigration Reform
  • Laura Ingraham and John Lott tout Lott's debunked study attacking undocumented immigrants

    Lott regularly uses flawed research methods to push his right-wing agenda; this latest study is no exception

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox News host Laura Ingraham hosted John Lott, president of the conservative Crime Prevention Research Center, to defend his report alleging that undocumented immigrants in Arizona commit more crimes -- and more dangerous crimes -- than other Arizonans. But the report, which contradicts virtually every other study, failed to accurately distinguish between undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents and ignored other factors that likely skewed the results.

    Lott’s report, published January 30 and which purported to “separate non-U.S. citizens by whether they are illegal or legal residents,” claimed that “undocumented immigrants are at least 142% more likely to be convicted of a crime than other Arizonans.” The report also claimed, that “There are several reasons that these numbers are likely to underestimate the share of crime committed by undocumented immigrants.” In response, the libertarian think tank Cato Institute pointed out that the dataset Lott used in fact “does not allow him or anybody else to identify illegal immigrants” (emphasis original). According to Cato immigration policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh, Lott “erroneously assumed” that the data he used, from a category “called ‘non-US citizen and deportable,’ only counted illegal immigrants.” Put another way, he “mistakenly chose a variable that combines an unknown number of legal immigrants with an unknown number of illegal immigrants.”

    Latino Decision’s Jose Marichal also noted that Lott’s findings contradict “the academic consensus that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than the general population.”

    On February 6, Ingraham gave Lott a platform to respond to criticisms of his report. He disagreed with Cato’s assertion that he had mistakenly attributed crimes of legal permanent residents to undocumented immigrants, arguing that he used “pre-sentencing reports that” determine “what their citizenship status is.” However, there is no mention of “pre-sentencing reports” in Lott’s study, and he has demonstrated in the past that he has no qualms about pushing blatant lies to support his research. Lott suspiciously ignored that aspect of Cato’s criticism in his written response.

    Lott also claimed that other studies that contradict his findings on this issue are unreliable because, he argued, they “completely mix together legal and illegal immigrants, or they do surveys.” But nearly every reliable study that has examined the crime rate of immigrant populations, undocumented and otherwise, has consistently found that immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S.-born citizens; none of these studies relied solely on surveys.

    Lott regularly publishes skewed research that supports his conservative agenda, particularly on gun issues. Nonetheless, Fox and other right-wing media outlets treat him as a legitimate figure, and as result, public institutions occasionally have embraced his error-filled work. According to Will Gaona, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Arizona chapter, Lott is currently authoring a publicly-funded report for Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (APAAC).

    Lott published his flawed report amid immigration negotiations in Congress that will decide the fate of millions of immigrants, some of whom have lived in the U.S. since childhood. With the help of his conservative media echo chamber, Lott may be aiding the implementation of public policies that are not based in reality.

  • Fox is spinning a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers as a "major concession." It's not.

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Over the past week, Fox hosts and pundits have insisted that the White House gave a “major concession” by including a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in its immigration proposal, ignoring the draconian aspects of the plan.

    On the January 27 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Pete Hegseth exclaimed, “For conservatives, citizenship and 1.8 [million] DACA recipients is a lot more than people expected this White House to give … They made that concession out of the gate.” Tucker Carlson echoed that sentiment on his show, claiming that “the White House’s proposed immigration deal gives a major concession to Democrats: amnesty.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has pushed the “huge concession” line multiple times. Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen was the latest to make the misleading claim on the January 31 edition of America’s Newsroom:

    First off, the proposal grants the Trump administration $25 billion for a border wall, a number that has been criticized as “a bloated increase from the $18 billion the White House called for just at the start of the year.”

    And as the libertarian think tank Cato Institute points out, “The new plan [cuts] the number of legal immigrants by up to 44 percent or half a million immigrants annually—the largest policy-driven legal immigration cut since the 1920s.”

    The proposal also pits “immigrants against one another” as it limits the scope of family reunification policies, preventing immigrants who have obtained citizenship from sponsoring certain family members and likely deterring skilled immigrants who are considering relocating to the United States. The White House proposal also expedites deportations for undocumented immigrants, effectively “strip[ping] all those people, if caught by the federal government, of their right to a deportation hearing before a judge.”

    Fox's servile "major concession" drumbeat is just another example of the network sacrificing context to push the White House’s agenda.

  • Fox News happily helps Trump administration in a highly misleading effort to blame immigrants for terrorism

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On January 16, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report in concert with the Department of Justice (DOJ) alleging that, among other things, “three out of every four, or 402, individuals convicted of international terrorism-related charges in U.S. federal courts between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2016 were foreign-born.” Fox News immediately promoted the study over criticism from homeland security experts, and then went silent about the report’s integrity after it was revealed that the administration had sidestepped DHS experts and statistics to produce it.

    Reporting on the study on the day of its release, The New York Times noted that “the 11-page report, parts of which were confusing and in some respects misleading, highlighted cases in which immigrants were linked to terrorism plots.” MSNBC security analyst Matthew Miller was one of the first to point out that the report “includes people who committed terrorist acts overseas, were arrested overseas and brought here to face trial” and explained that “it also doesn’t count incidents of domestic terrorism,” meaning terrorists who are American citizens and who perpetrated attacks on U.S. soil were excluded.

    Essentially, the report focused on international terrorism, but the way it was presented suggested that immigrants were disproportionately responsible for domestic terrorism, particularly because it was published amid immigration policy negotiations. Adding to the confusion, President Donald Trump tweeted a deceptive summary of the report, excluding the word “international”:

    As criticism around the study mounted, Fox reported on its findings by uncritically parroting the Trump administration line. Fox’s Bret Baier commented that the report includes “some amazing statistics, and scary ones.” Sandra Smith also promoted the misleading study without mentioning its many flaws. Peter Doocy pointed to the study as justification for why “the White House is not budging on immigration talks.” Fox host Julie Banderas used the report to fearmonger about “convicted terrorists in this country who have come over as young adults, if not children, and their families brought them over here, and they went ahead and killed Americans,” even though U.S. vetting procedures make the possibility of that happening incredibly rare. Tucker Carlson, who regularly uses his platform for anti-immigrant misinformation, also gladly hyped the details of the report, declaring, “According to federal numbers released today, America's terror threat is clearly, among other things, an immigration issue”:

    But yesterday, the Daily Beast revealed that career experts at DHS told DOJ officials that DHS does “not track or correlate international terrorism data by citizenship or country of origin, and have warned the Trump administration that doing so risks a misleading portrait of both terrorism and immigration.” As explained by Spencer Ackerman, “The result was that the document released last week did not include the contributions of those career DHS officials tasked with providing professional and objective analysis. They were not asked to participate, and so the document did not reflect their input.” In short, on top of the flawed methodology and cherry-picked statistics, the Trump administration willfully sidestepped homeland security experts to produce a report that would vindicate the president’s insistence on linking immigration to crime and terrorism.

    Fox News is ignoring this glaring problem with the report, demonstrating once again that the network prioritizes its anti-immigration agenda over honesty in reporting.

  • On Fox & Friends, Kris Kobach pushes study from discredited figure to claim Dreamers are prone to violence

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Kris Kobach, Kansas Republican secretary of state and anti-immigration activist, pushed a highly dubious study from criminologist John Lott on Fox & Friends to suggest that recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are highly prone to criminal activity.

    Kobach referenced Lott’s recent study about crime in Arizona to suggest that DACA recipients’ “criminality is twice that of the comparable American population.” Lott is a discredited figure whose studies have been debunked by academics and dismissed by experts.The study also contradicts years of sociological research finding that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens and ignores the fact that in Arizona, “people who look ‘foreign’ are more likely to be stopped for minor infractions,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). And according to ThinkProgress, “roughly 0.3 percent” of DACA recipients have been “involved in criminal behavior.” During the segment, Kobach listed other lies about DACA, such as calling it "amnesty" and saying that DACA recipients take jobs away from U.S. citizens.

    From the January 17 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Kris, you know what the raging debate now is. The Democrats want DACA. The Republicans say in exchange for legitimate border security, end of chain migration, end of the lottery system. And we're going to be looking at a lockout because no one can agree. What's your solution?

    KRIS KOBACH: DACA, the amnesty for nearly a million illegal aliens -- the average age is 24. Their criminality is twice that of the comparable American population. We just saw a study out of Arizona. It's bad for America. So if we were to grant a DACA amnesty, you'd have to have, in my opinion, all the things that President Trump outlined and you just mentioned, plus E-Verify. E-Verify right now is only mandatory in a few states. You'd have to make it mandatory everywhere to ensure that the flood of illegal aliens who are going to come in -- every time we have an amnesty, it brings another flood of illegal aliens -- we've got to make sure that they aren’t stealing jobs from Americans as well. So you'd have to have E-Verify in addition to all those other law enforcement measures.