Immigration

Issues ››› Immigration
  • A dangerous anti-immigrant policy O'Reilly dreamed up on Fox's airtime could become the law of the land

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Congress is expected to vote on a new version of “Kate’s Law,” an anti-immigrant law that was first proposed by Bill O’Reilly when he was a Fox News host.  

    Named after Kate Steinle, a young woman who was fatally shot by an undocumented immigrant in 2015, O’Reilly’s proposed legislation was part of a wave of anti-immigrant reactions to Steinle’s death. Like others in right-wing media, O’Reilly immediately fixated on the alleged assailant’s immigration status and exploited Steinle to push his anti-immigration policy ideas to the forefront. Focusing on the fact that the shooter had been deported and repeatedly re-entered the country illegally, O’Reilly subsequently used his Fox News platform to launch a relentless lobbying campaign to pressure lawmakers into passing a law that would mandate a five-year minimum prison sentence for certain illegal re-entries. After he first proposed it on air, a Nexis search of transcripts of The O’Reilly Factor during the month of July in 2015 shows the former host devoted at least sixteen episodes to hyping his proposed policy.

    Ousted Fox News host Bill O’Reilly first proposed the original Kate’s Law on July 6, 2015, on his now-defunct show The O’Reilly Factor:

    The next day, O’Reilly proposed language about the mandatory minimums:

    O’Reilly’s campaign for Kate’s Law employed the familiar right-wing media tactic of wildly stereotyping and fear-mongering about immigrants. In the past, conservative media have used Ebola fears to cast immigrants as disease-carrying invaders and seized upon terror attacks in Europe to curry favor for President Trump’s ban on refugees. One of these outlets' favorite constructed narratives is the false link between immigrants and crime.

    Breitbart and others have endless caches of articles depicting immigrants as murderers. When two undocumented immigrants were initially accused of allegedly raping a girl in Rockville, Maryland, right-wing outlets led by Fox’s Tucker Carlson touted the story at length and then hardly whispered when both immigrants were cleared.

    Right-wing media’s supposed evidence of an immigrant-crime crisis holds no water when faced with statistics, but Republicans have ignored the facts and offer policy solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist. Now, in an environment riddled with conservative media lies about immigrants, O’Reilly’s anti-immigrant sentiments have a chance of being imminently voted on in Congress.

    The legislation the House is expected to vote on is different than O’Reilly’s original proposal, but would still lead to the overcriminalization of a problem of widespread immigrant crime that does not exist, by expanding the two-year maximum prison sentence for re-entering the country to a 10-year maximum and expanding the penalty for re-entry after being convicted of criminal offenses -- including nonviolent ones -- to up to 25 years.

    As The Daily Beast pointed out with O’Reilly’s original proposal, Kate’s Law “could sizably increase the prison population by forcing nonviolent offenders to spend years in prison—and, conservative criminal justice experts say, without having a sizable impact on how many deported immigrants unlawfully return to the United States.” Moving away from mandatory minimum sentences has gained bipartisan support, especially given that “skyrocketing federal prison budgets are stealing critical funding for investigators, police, and prosecutors,” which could have a negative impact on public safety, according to a study by the Families Against Mandatory Minimums. In fact, the libertarian Cato Institute already stated its opposition to the legislation, citing its outsized cost and low effectiveness.

    Because of a slow bipartisan move away from ineffective and wasteful sentencing policies, Kate’s Law was repeatedly killed in the Senate. But the fact that it has been brought to a vote multiple times shows the dangerous power that right-wing media’s xenophobia still wields over legislators

  • Trump champion Hugh Hewitt gets his own show on MSNBC

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Conservative talk radio host and Trump supporter Hugh Hewitt will host his own show on MSNBC. Hewitt, who has called himself a “‘reluctant Trump’ voter," has a history of flip-flopping on Trump and his policies. He's been critical of Trump, even calling on him to be removed as the nominee twice during the presidential campaign, but has also defended him during his campaign, transition, and presidency. Hewitt's record suggests he will simply serve as a Republican shill on MSNBC and will continue spreading his right-wing punditry and misinformation.

  • Visibility for immigrants in detention increasingly urgent in Trump era

    Univision sets an example for how to report on immigrant detention

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    New revelations from Univision’s exclusive report on a private immigration detention center demonstrate that a well-rounded investigative report of detention centers requires detainees’ perspectives, especially as the current administration continues to embolden private immigrant detention centers and strip detainees of protections.

    Univision correspondent Luis Megid spoke to two undocumented immigrants being held at Adelanto Detention Center in Adelanto, CA, the largest immigrant detention center on the West Coast, which is owned and operated by private prison company GEO Group. One detainee, Omar Riveras, talked about the night he was abruptly removed from his home. In a moment rarely seen in mainstream media outlets, an undocumented immigrant was presented with a face, a name, and a story, rather than just a slur of a label.

    Another detainee, who chose not to be identified by name, offered startling revelations about what immigrants face while detained at Adelanto, claiming that they are barred from using outdoor facilities and that “mistreatment is something that happens on a daily basis.” From the June 1 edition of Noticiero Univisión:

    Both testimonies shed light on the personal journeys of detained immigrants and on life inside detention centers, details that are too often left out of media reports. And notably, one detainee revealed that the experience inside Adelanto Detention Center may not be what GEO Group officials and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suggest.

    GEO Group has boasted about its spacious, clean facilities, but the private prison company has drawn backlash from undocumented immigrant detainees for years. Just this week, a hunger strike and sit-in protest at Adelanto turned violent when nine protesters requesting more reasonable bail and other basic accommodations, such as unused underwear and clean water, were pepper sprayed and beaten, they said. ICE is claiming that the strike is over, but groups in contact with the detainees are reporting that nearly 30 women have joined the ongoing hunger strike. La Opinión recently reported that ICE and GEO Group have recognized that officials used excessive force in their June 12 confrontation with protesters and that they would be launching an investigation into the matter.

    In the last three months, three immigrants have died at Adelanto. Detainees at another GEO Group facility have accused the facility of violating anti-slavery laws, and according to ICE statistics, the detention centers with the most complaints of sexual harassment are operated by GEO Group or CoreCivic, one of the other major private detention center companies. Other instances of abuse involve “significant and life-threatening delays or denials of medical and mental health care,” “verbal abuse, employee theft, retaliation, [and] abusive solitary confinement.”

    President Donald Trump’s misguided immigration policies are only serving to exacerbate the problem. A New York Times report suggests that the administration is considering rolling back basic standards for how undocumented immigrants are held in detention at a time when there is already “little accountability” for enforcing these standards, as the graph below indicates (data, graph, and information from Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), available at http://www.endisolation.org/resources/immigration-detention):

    At the same time, the administration is moving to end “catch-and-release,” a malignant term for the practice of allowing undocumented detainees out of the detention centers “while awaiting a deportation court hearing.” Arrests of noncriminal undocumented immigrants has “more than doubled” since Trump took office, and a White House memo called for nearly doubling the number of immigrants in detention to 80,000 per day. GEO Group was given the first immigrant detention center project in the Trump era.

    As right-wing media ramp up their efforts to sell Trump’s anti-immigrant crackdown as sound policy, journalists have an obligation to portray immigrant detention accurately.

    According to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), an organization that supports undocumented immigrant detainees, there was three times more reporting on immigrant detention in 2016 than in 2009, but “the complex realities of the detention system remain hidden from public view and there remains a dearth of first-hand migrant accounts.” CIVIC recommended that media should “increase their efforts to include first-hand migrant accounts in their reporting, and collaborate with organizations like CIVIC that serve migrants in detention and affected communities.”

    Reporting in recent years about Rikers Island prison serves as a case study of how first-hand testimonies from inmates or detainees can have a palpable effect on readers and decision-makers. Journalists who homed in on inmates’ stories brought the reality of violence at Rikers to the forefront of the conversation on prison and criminal justice reform, and their stories -- particularly The New Yorker’s profile of Kalief Browder -- put enormous pressure on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who eventually promised to close the prison. Documentaries depicting life at Rikers continue to put inmates' harrowing experiences at the top of peoples' minds.

    Journalists reporting on immigrant detention can also take cues from these reporters on how to overcome barriers in communicating with inmates. In Browder’s case, journalist Jennifer Gonnerman interviewed him after he was released from Rikers, sidestepping the problem of accessing the prison itself. Other reporters have suggested following “the paper trail” of documents that prisons are required to keep in order to tell a more detailed story.

    Spanish-language outlets often use telephone interviews with undocumented immigrant detainees to hear their stories directly or speak to detainees’ family members. Immigrant advocacy groups that are in frequent communication with detainees are also a valuable resource for reporters.

    While the stories of undocumented immigrants in detention usually do not make it into mainstream media, they have the power to impact even far-right conservatives.

    For the sake of transparency, accountability, and quality reporting on undocumented immigrant detention, it is critical that journalists overcome barriers to make the detainees’ voices heard.

  • Ahead of Megyn Kelly’s NBC Sunday Night debut, here’s the Fox News commentary she wants you to forget

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly debuts a new Sunday newsmagazine show on NBC on June 4. Kelly has promoted the show as an opportunity to show viewers “a range of emotion and personality” in a way that “wasn’t possible when I was in prime-time cable news." Media Matters has spent years chronicling what we did see from Kelly at Fox; here are the worst moments.

  • Fox uses “lousy” May jobs report to push Trump's job-killing economic agenda

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Fox News used the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) underwhelming jobs report for the month of May as proof that Congress needs to pass President Donald Trump’s trickle-down economic agenda that, in reality, would strip working- and middle-class Americans of basic public services and hand top income earners a gigantic tax cut.

    On June 2, BLS released its jobs report for May 2017, which estimated the United States added 138,000 new jobs last month while the unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.3 percent. The jobs number fell below economists’ expectations and The Washington Post declared that the report showed that the “job market stumble[d]” last month. While the number of new jobs reported was weaker than expected, The New York Times noted the overall health of the economy was still strong enough for the Federal Reserve to possibly raise interest rates and pointed out that wage growth was up 2.5 percent from this time last year.

    In response to this news, Fox pushed the absurd claim that the report is proof that big business needs Congress to pass Trump’s economic agenda of tax cuts and gutting consumer protections to stoke further economic growth and job creation. During the June 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, guest Steve Hilton, host of The Next Revolution, used the jobs report to claim the U.S. was in a “jobs crisis” and needed Trump’s economic agenda to be enacted. On Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney described the jobs number as “lousy” and “disappointing” while correspondent Ashley Webster claimed the jobs number shows the American economy is “in a holding patterning” that is “waiting on Washington” to act. Fellow Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo added that “what this jobs number tells us is that business is still cautious” and companies are “sitting on cash” because they are “strangled by all of the regulatory environment” and waiting for Congress to pass Trump’s agenda:

    In reality, Trump’s economic agenda has been described as a “repugnant grab bag” of tax cuts for top-income earners that guts funds for Medicaid, children’s health insurance, food assistance, medical research, disease prevention funding, disability insurance, and even college student financial aid while watering down consumer protections to give Wall Street investors a $100 billion windfall. Trump’s budget proposal to slash funding for vital health assistance programs has been described as “ruthless” and would exact a huge human cost from those who lose access to care.

    Far from being a jobs savior, Trump’s economic agenda has faced heavy criticism from economists for relying on “voodoo” economic theories that falsely claim tax cuts will lead to economic growth. Research from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service and Brookings Institution have found no link between tax cuts and economic growth. Economist Jason Furman has also slammed Trump’s tax cut agenda for proposing to add trillions of dollars to the federal debt in ways that could hamper economic growth. Trump’s tax proposals have been blasted by economists and experts across the political spectrum, who have argued that his restrictive approach to international trade and immigration, if enacted, may actually dampen economic activity. Even Trump’s proposals to reduce supposedly burdensome regulations in the financial industry fly in the face of facts -- Trump has proposed dismantling the Dodd-Frank Act, but the Government Accountability Office concluded in 2016 that Dodd-Frank protections have “contributed to the overall growth and stability in the U.S. economy.”

    Fox figures have attempted to use the monthly jobs report to advance the president’s agenda since he first took office. Fox used the reports to claim unearned victories for the president, and even once used a jobs report described as “weak” to declare it was “the most successful day” of Trump’s presidency. Last month, a Fox Business panel attempted to spin the April jobs report as a reason to pursue Trump’s tax and regulatory policies with no evidence to back up its claims. Next month will likely produce more of the same.

  • Sweden is the gateway to the “alt-right” anti-immigrant agenda in Europe

    Fake news is their method for attracting followers to the cause

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Sweden is known as a bastion of progressive values and policies, but underneath the dominant ideology, there is a motivated, well-connected nativist movement that has existed for decades and is now re-emerging, armed with fake news.

    With a population of just under 10 million, Sweden is a small, historically ethnically homogenous country that in recent years has accepted the largest number of asylum seekers per capita of any European nation. Sweden’s white nationalists, once relegated to the fringe, have been re-energized by a global so-called populist movement and a relatively progressive immigration policy that is anathema to their agenda. And there are signs that they may be succeeding in their efforts. Xenophobic hate crimes are up, stricter immigration policies have been imposed, and Sweden Democrats, the far-right political party, with ties to neo-Nazism is, for the first time ever, polling as the second most popular party in the country. To top it off, there is evidence that the media discourse on immigration has taken a dark turn to portray migrants “as a problem,” and fake news is on the rise.

    Enter the Swedish “alt-right,” a movement that sees progressivism as having been imported into Swedish society as an experiment in cultural Marxism and views Sweden’s relatively small size and homogeneity as having contributed to a sort of "unitarian zeitgeist" of liberal thought.* The members of this movement see it as a fight to “diversify” the Swedish media landscape while promoting a decidedly racist agenda. Together, these attributes have created an environment ripe for the spread of “alt-right” ideas, and the most well-known white nationalist of the American "alt-right" has taken notice.

    Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist “think tank” the National Policy Institute (NPI), after having been recently alienated from a movement he named, is looking for legitimacy in a country he has dubbed “the most alt-right.” According to BuzzFeed, Spencer recently began a partnership with two Swedish “alt-right” outlets, Arktos Media, a publishing house that prints white nationalist literature in English, and Red Ice, a Swedish white nationalist video and podcast platform that often features international guests. The partnership, the AltRight Corporation, which has been called an attempt at a “more ideological Breitbart,” also has its own website and, until May 23, also had its own podcast, AltRight Radio. Soundcloud has since banned the podcast for violating its hate speech policy. But this movement is not confined to the internet. For the past nine years, Sweden has hosted an “alt-right conference” which is attended by members and sympathizers from all over the world. One prominent American “alt-right” figure (whose name was not divulged) told AltRight.com’s Daniel Friberg that Sweden’s annual alt-right conference was the most “well-attended” he’d been to and, notably, the "most radical," too.*

    Migrant crime is a favorite topic of the “alt-right” in Sweden, in part because the outlets that promote this content know they’re speaking to an audience favorable to their ideological agenda, not facts. (Media Matters previously documented Breitbart's use of a racist meme to categorize stories about migrant crime in Sweden, most of which also had little basis in reality). Journalists know this is happening but remain ill-equipped to respond to it. A recent study found that eight out of 10 Swedes believe fake news is altering their “perception of basic facts.” Sweden has acknowledged the rise of “inaccurate information” and, in March, the country’s prime minister announced a plan to combat fake news ahead of Sweden’s 2018 general election. Yet, Sweden remains vulnerable to fake news and, as the education minister admits, there is “some naivety when it comes to the information society.” Often the flow of misinformation looks something like this: A Swedish or British tabloid reports on a study or crime with a sensational headline and few details or context; “alt-right” or far-right outlets cite the original source but add new details to further sensationalize the story; these outlets promote each other to amplify the story; and eventually the story makes its way to a more mainstream news outlet. Sometimes, the news that a story is false makes its way back to Swedish media, but by then, the damage is already done.

    Last year, American film producer Ami Horowitz made a deceptively edited film rife with false claims about migrant crime in Sweden. In February of this year, after having been promoted by U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail and conspiracy theorist website Infowars, he was invited for an interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson, not once but twice, and one of the segments was later cited by President Trump as the impetus for his fact-free suggestion that something “was happening last night” in Sweden, which he couched amid discussion of terror-hit cities. The interview received so much attention that the Swedish police and embassy pushed back, one Swedish newspaper responded by fact-checking each of Horowitz’s assertions, and another criticized Trump’s complicity in the “Sweden-bashing by the hard-core American right.” But how equipped is Sweden to deal with xenophobic fake news that doesn’t reach the pedestal of the president of the United States, and, thus, does not grab international attention?

    In another, more recent example, Swedish tabloid Dagens Nyheter published a study titled, "Young Men Who Commit Shootings Often Have A Foreign Background," which found that 90 out of 100 shooting suspects had at least one foreign-born parent. Of course, these findings are concerning, but a closer look illustrates problems that are not unique to Sweden: Unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, and mental illness were all identified by experts as important contributing factors to gun violence. It is also worth noting that almost half of the individuals counted in this study were merely suspected, not convicted, of perpetrating these crimes. Of course, this context was missing from the misleadingly titled article that notorious Islamophobe Virginia Hale later wrote for Breitbart. Alex Jones’ Infowars also engaged with the story, citing the Swedish fake news purveyor and “alt-right” outlet Fria Tider (which has been called the "Breitbart of Sweden"*) in its report, with an even more misleading headline: “SWEDEN: MIGRANTS RESPONSIBLE FOR 90% OF SHOOTINGS.” Both articles used the opportunity to push debunked claims about crime in Sweden.

    Though they’re false, these claims are repeated so often that they begin to exist as facts. For example, the fact-checking website Snopes has debunked many stories on Sweden and even issued a three-part series debunking the most common misleading narratives on Swedish migrant crime. But the narratives persist. There are a few reasons for this. It’s now widely known that sensational headlines get more clicks, and the effect is especially heightened when they play on a person’s deep-seated emotions like anger and anxiety. Sweden has not become the “rape capital of Europe,” but real or imagined, Sweden’s historically liberal refugee admissions policy has created enough tension to make people vulnerable to fake news about the population. Another universal reason for the rise of fake news, as it relates to Sweden, is disaffection from mainstream outlets and increasing preference for alternative sources. A 2016 study in Sweden found half of media consumers get their news from sources other than Sweden’s traditional news sources and around 20 percent have “no confidence” in them.

    There are uniquely Swedish reasons for why the country is susceptible to fake news. These include the well-intentioned ways crime is defined and reported and the language barriers to understanding Swedish news. For instance, according to a late 2015 internal memo, Swedish police were instructed not to report externally the ethnic or national origin of suspected criminals in order not to appear racist. The decision, while admirable and also not unique to Sweden, has raised suspicion. Many far-right outlets perceived the move as an attempted cover-up, and the controversy became so big that the Swedish government responded to the contention. Another Swedish practice that has unintentionally created the illusion of increased crime is the way Sweden defines and categorizes crime and the culture around crime reporting. For example, Sweden defines sexual assault much more broadly than the U.S. and other European countries do, and records every single offense as a separate crime, even if they are committed by the same perpetrator. The country has also created a culture in which victims are encouraged to report crimes rather than stigmatized. Sweden’s open and progressive crime reporting practices, when viewed comparatively, allow fake news purveyors to speculate on a suspected criminal’s ethnic background with impunity, as well as manufacture an inflated perception of criminality.

    From the reader’s perspective, the fact that most “alt-right” outlets and fake news purveyors link to Swedish language news stories in order to validate their claims forces even the most critical reader to either know Swedish or rely on rough translations to discern the validity of the source. Knowing this, outlets can wrongly attribute or incorrectly paraphrase quotations from Swedish sources that advance their narrative without fear of retribution.

    The intersection of fake news and the “alt-right” is a particularly troubling one. It is ever-shifting, beholden neither to facts nor ideology and, in the realm of the internet, almost totally unaccountable. What we do know is that its adherents are white men who are targeting everyone else, that it’s not going away, and that we must remain vigilant. Sweden is the favorite target of the American “alt-right” as it expands to Europe, desperately looking for legitimacy, and armed with total lies. 

    *These quotations were taken from the now-deleted AltRight Radio podcast, "Eurocentric #2: Killing Captain Sweden."