Immigration Reform | Media Matters for America

Immigration Reform

Issues ››› Immigration Reform
  • Stephen Miller accused Jim Acosta of "cosmopolitan bias," here is the term's ugly history

    In Politico Magazine, analyst Jeff Greenfield explains "The Ugly History of Stephen Miller's 'Cosmopolitan' Epithet"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In Politico Magazine political analyst Jeff Greenfield explained how President Donald Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller’s invocation of the word “cosmopolitan” in a White House press briefing to attack a reporter connected him to a long history of the term being weaponized by “anti-Democratic political movements,” often with clear anti-Semitic undertones.

    During an August 2 White House press briefing, Miller defended the president’s support of the RAISE Act, a Republican-sponsored immigration proposal that would prioritize immigration based on the "skills" immigrants bring to the country and favor English speakers over non-English speaking immigrants. Miller, who once reportedly told a classmate they could no longer be friends because his classmate was Latino, has a long history of promoting anti-immigrant policies. Miller also has a close relationship with former Breitbart executive chair and current White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and shares the same extreme nationalist ideology with him. During a contentious back-and-forth with CNN’s Jim Acosta over the RAISE Act in the press briefing, Miller accused Acosta of harboring “cosmopolitan bias.”  

    As Greenfield explained, the word “cosmopolitan” is something of a “cousin to ‘elitist,’ but with a more sinister undertone.” The word has come to represent “people or movements that are unmoored to the traditions and beliefs of a nation,” and has long been a favorite of “nationalist political figures” as a means of delegitimizing and attacking opposition forces. As Greenfield noted, the term was invoked by Josef Stalin to “purge” the Soviet Union of “dissident voices,” and has often carried strong anti-Semitic connotations. From the August 3 article:

    When TV news viewers saw Trump adviser Stephen Miller accuse Jim Acosta of harboring a “cosmopolitan bias” during Wednesday’s news conference, they might have wondered whether he was accusing the CNN White House reporter of an excessive fondness for the cocktail made famous on “Sex and the City.” It’s a term that’s seldom been heard in American political discourse. But to supporters of the Miller-Bannon worldview, it was a cause for celebration. Breitbart, where Steve Bannon reigned before becoming Trump’s chief political strategist, trumpeted Miller’s “evisceration” of Acosta and put the term in its headline. So did white nationalist Richard Spencer, who hailed Miller’s dust-up with Acosta as “a triumph.”

    [...]

    So what is a “cosmopolitan”? It’s a cousin to “elitist,” but with a more sinister undertone. It’s a way of branding people or movements that are unmoored to the traditions and beliefs of a nation, and identify more with like-minded people regardless of their nationality. (In this sense, the revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine might have been an early American cosmopolitan, when he declared: “The world is my country; all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”). In the eyes of their foes, “cosmopolitans” tend to cluster in the universities, the arts and in urban centers, where familiarity with diversity makes for a high comfort level with “untraditional” ideas and lives.

    [...]

    One reason why “cosmopolitan” is an unnerving term is that it was the key to an attempt by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to purge the culture of dissident voices. In a 1946 speech, he deplored works in which “the positive Soviet hero is derided and inferior before all things foreign and cosmopolitanism that we all fought against from the time of Lenin, characteristic of the political leftovers, is many times applauded.” It was part of a yearslong campaigned aimed at writers, theater critics, scientists and others who were connected with “bourgeois Western influences.” Not so incidentally, many of these “cosmopolitans” were Jewish, and official Soviet propaganda for a time devoted significant energy into “unmasking” the Jewish identities of writers who published under pseudonyms.

    What makes this history relevant is that, all across Europe, nationalist political figures are still making the same kinds of arguments—usually but not always stripped of blatant anti-Semitism—to constrict the flow of ideas and the boundaries of free political expression. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, has more and more embraced this idea that unpatriotic forces threaten the nation.

  • How nativist groups are taking down DACA

    Conservative and mainstream media have facilitated nativist groups’ influence in the immigration debate

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The “nativist lobby,” which consists of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and NumbersUSA, has consistently opposed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows undocumented immigrants to live, work, and go to school in the United States without fear of deportation and it has used both right-wing and mainstream media outlets to rally support for its message. The Trump administration’s lack of support for the program and a threat by 10 Republican states’ officials to sue the federal government if it doesn’t rescind DACA by September has now aligned with the nativists' demands, meaning protection for over 800,000 undocumented immigrants could soon come to an end. 

  • Media Fall For And Reinforce Trump’s Spin On “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Multiple media outlets and figures uncritically reported on President Donald Trump’s planned executive order promoting policies that encourage the federal government to “buy American” and “hire American” wherever possible. These outlets and figures did not note that the executive order only calls for a review of current policy, and does not meaningfully change it, and some other outlets buried those crucial details in their reporting.

  • How Trump Manipulates Media Coverage Of His Immigration Policies

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Leading up to his joint address to Congress, media outlets helped President Donald Trump misleadingly cast himself as sympathetic to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, known as “Dreamers,” and other immigrants. Trump’s manipulation tactics became evident again when media outlets uncritically parroted his claim that he was open to comprehensive immigration reform hours before he gave his address, which demonized immigrants as criminals and falsely claimed that they are a drain on the economy. As the Trump White House once again steps up its efforts to misrepresent its immigration stance, it is important media not be spun again.

  • Tucker Carlson Hosted Anti-Muslim Columnist Who Has Called For Gunships To Stop Refugees

    Trump Has Praised Katie Hopkins’ Columns

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY & BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted UK Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins who wrote a column allegedly detailing the many women in Sweden who fear being assaulted by immigrants. Hopkins’ writing and tweets exemplify hate-mongering anti-Muslim bigotry and in the past she has called for the murder of refugees and referred to them as “cockroaches.”

  • On CNN, Hate Group Leader Praises Efforts To “Reclaim Our Schools” With Mass Deportations

    FAIR President: “If You Enforce These Laws, We Can Reclaim Our Schools, Our Hospitals, And Our Communities”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN’s New Day hosted Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigrant hate group the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), to discuss President Donald Trump’s planned mass deportations, which he characterized as a move to “reclaim our schools, our hospitals, and our communities once again for the American people.” Co-host Alisyn Camerota introduced Stein simply as “the president of the Federation for Immigration Reform” and as someone who supports Mr. Trump’s moves on immigration,” without mentioning FAIR’s track record of nativist bigotry. 

    FAIR, which helped influence Trump’s approach to immigration, including his planned mass deportations and Muslim registry, has ties to white supremacy through its founder, who also founded the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). FAIR has been described as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for its “ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists.” FAIR uses a veneer of impartiality to inject absurd myths into the immigration debate, assisted in large part by the media outlets that regularly cite them without mentioning their extremism. In the Trump era, it is more important than ever for media to properly label these hate groups and not afford them presumed respectability. From the February 22 edition of CNN’s New Day, which also featured Andre Segura of the American Civil Liberties Union:

    ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): What is your biggest concern about the new guidelines as Mr. Trump has laid them out?

    ANDRE SEGURA: Where do we start? This is bringing to life President Trump's worst and most divisive campaign rhetoric. Like I’ve said before on this program, we have to take the president at his word, and he's going to bring these things to life. 10,000 new ICE agents throughout the interior. I think people have a misconception that this is not going to affect them in their daily lives. But when you have more ICE agents throughout the country, when you have more state and local officers doing immigration enforcement, you're going to see an uptick in racial profiling. Communities are going to become less safe. 

    CAMEROTA: Dan, what do you like about it? 

    DAN STEIN: Look, people come here illegally, that doesn't mean they just have the right to stay. You take a look at all of these orders, if you're here illegally, you need to be thinking about going out and buying some luggage. Because as Spicer made it clear, Trump administration says if you're here illegally you remain deportable with the exception of the so-called DACA group, and that's a dramatic change. Look, nobody ever decided in this country that immigration was unlimited, that you can break the immigration law and then demand to stay. That you could jump in front of the line, in front of millions of people who respect our laws all over the world and just come in and say, “OK, I'm here, I don't have to go.” If we -- if you enforce these laws, we can reclaim our schools, our hospitals, and our communities once again for the American people. 

  • The Breitbart Clauses In Trump’s Executive Orders

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump last week include clauses that seem designed to provide Breitbart.com and other xenophobic right-wing media outlets with fearmongering content about the supposed criminality and dangerousness of immigrants, particularly Muslim ones.

    The orders create a feedback loop between the Trump administration and the right-wing media: Both want to crack down on immigration and immigrants, so the administration is providing its media allies with fuel to inflame their audience, building support among Trump’s base for those policy shifts.

    A little-noticed clause in Trump’s executive order temporarily banning nationals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States and barring admission of refugees, signed Friday, states that in order to “be more transparent with the American people,” the federal government will release biannual reports detailing terrorism-related offenses and gender-based violence and honor killings committed in the U.S. by foreign nationals.

    Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement likewise included a clause calling for the weekly publication of “a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens” in jurisdictions that don’t honor federal requests to hold arrestees in jail due to their immigration status (so-called “sanctuary cities”).

    Critics note that the data does not support the implication that “large numbers of foreigners are coming to the United States and committing acts of terrorism here.” Likewise, studies show immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.

    But the purpose of these orders is not to provide the American people with accurate information in proper context. It’s to scare the hell out of them -- particularly Trump’s base -- by taking advantage of a network of right-wing outlets that have spent years driving their audiences into a frenzy with horror stories of crimes committed by foreign nationals.

    Steve Bannon is the nexus point for this strategy. As Trump’s chief strategist, he reportedly helped draft the Muslim ban. And before joining the Trump campaign, he helped turn Breitbart, where he served as chairman, into the “platform for the alt-right,” in part by driving these xenophobic storylines.

    The website infamously has a tag devoted to “Black Crime” that aggregated stories of offenses committed by African-Americans. They’ve used similar practices to dehumanize undocumented immigrants and Muslims living in the United States and abroad.

    Breitbart aggregates reports of Muslim “honor killings” from around the globe. As with “black crime,” they have an entire tag devoted to the subject. They have a similar tag for stories about child marriage in Muslim countries. And one detailing instances of “female genital mutilation.” They also regularly suggest that American Muslims are secret operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Breitbart’s reports often portray Muslim refugees as disease-carrying criminals who are a danger to the countries in which they seek asylum, and specifically to those countries’ women. As they have sought to expand their presence in Europe, the website has frequently attacked Muslim communities in European nations and highlighted friction between those communities and white Europeans.

    Here are some headlines Breitbart has published about Islam, Muslims, and refugees:

    Likewise, Breitbart regularly aggregates reporting on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. Their singular focus creates the false impression that such crimes are far more prevalent than the data show. Here are some Breitbart headlines on undocumented immigrants:

    Thanks to Bannon and Trump, Breitbart’s efforts to stoke fears about refugees, Muslims, and immigrants will have the official aid and imprimatur of the federal government.

    The actual numbers of cases the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department will report will likely end up being relatively low. But because they will come in a steady stream, on a weekly or semi-annual basis, the reports will generate a regular set of fresh news hooks for right-wing media to stoke outrage.

    This creates a synergy between the right-wing media and the Trump administration. The Trump administration wants excuses to limit immigration and crack down on undocumented immigrants, so they need an inflamed base focused on those issues.

    Outlets like Breitbart want to be able to report horror stories about refugees, American Muslims, and undocumented immigrants, both for ideological reasons, and presumably because such stories get good traffic with Trump’s base.

    By making the information available, Trump and Bannon help those outlets, and thus gain momentum to push even harsher anti-immigrant policies.

  • Univision Lifts Up Nativist Center For Immigration Studies As Credible Source

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Univision’s daily email brief cited the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), an anti-immigrant nativist group that often peddles in misinformation, continuing the leading Spanish-language media outlet’s pattern of promoting anti-immigrant groups and failing to label them as such.

    The December 5 edition of Univision’s Daily Brief claimed, “New government data by the Center for Immigration Studies shows more than three million new documented and undocumented immigrants settled in the United States in 2014 and 2015 — a 39 percent increase over the prior two years.”

    CIS is one of three anti-immigrant groups, all spearheaded by retired ophthalmologist John Tanton, that use the veneer of impartiality to inundate media outlets with false statistics and misinformation about immigrants. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated CIS -- along with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and NumbersUSA, both also founded by Tanton -- as anti-immigrant white nativist groups for their ties to racist extremists. CIS’ Jessica Vaughan, a right-wing media regular, has used her media platform to misinform about sanctuary cities and peddle lies about undocumented immigrants voting and being released to commit violent crimes.

    Some media outlets, like The Daily Beast, have reported on this “shady network” of anti-immigrant groups that bolster right-wing media talking points and routinely creep into mainstream media, noting that their problematic studies are often characterized by a lack of context. Univision’s propensity to cite CIS and FAIR contributes to this dangerous media pattern and threatens the integrity of immigration information.