Fox News is reviving the pernicious smear that undocumented immigrants are criminals in order to attack the comprehensive immigration reform proposal being debated in the Senate. In fact, the legislation toughens provisions against those immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and bars them from gaining legal status; moreover, studies show that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans.
Fox News Claimed Hardened Criminals Could Be Granted Legal Status Under Senate Bill
William La Jeunesse: “Immigrants With Lengthy Criminal Records” Could Stay If They Have U.S. Dependents. On Fox News' America's Newsroom, correspondent William La Jeunesse pointed to two cases involving undocumented immigrants who were accused of killing police officers while driving drunk and claimed that “immigrants with lengthy criminal records may be allowed to stay if they have a spouse or child already in the U.S.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 6/17/13]
Megyn Kelly: Immigrants Who Have Been Convicted Of A Felony Could “Receive Special Consideration” To Stay In U.S. Under Senate Proposal. Fox News host Megyn Kelly claimed that under the bill being debated in the Senate, immigrants who have been convicted of felonies and are deportable could “receive special consideration” to stay in the country legally if they have dependents in the United States. [Fox News, America Live, 6/17/13]
In Fact, Senate Immigration Bill Toughens Provisions For Those Seeking Legal Status
Immigration Expert David Leopold: Senate Bill Bars Convicted Felons From Applying For Legal Status. In an email to Media Matters, immigration expert David Leopold, general counsel and past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, wrote that the Senate immigration bill has a provision which bars certain criminals from obtaining Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status:
§245B(b)(3)(A)(i) includes the following criminal bars.
- Any felony (other than state or local status-based immigration offenses);
- Aggravated felony under INA §101(a)(43);
- Three or more misdemeanors (other than minor traffic offenses or state/local status based or immigration offenses) where conviction occurred on different dates. May be waived for humanitarian purposes to ensure family unity, or if otherwise in the public interest.
- Foreign offenses (except purely political offenses) that would render the person inadmissible or deportable if committed in the U.S., with certain exceptions.
- Unlawful voting. [Statement to Media Matters, 6/17/13]
Leopold: “There Are No Waivers For Felons To Apply For RPI Status.” In an email to Media Matters, Leopold wrote that "[t]here are no waivers for felons to apply for RPI status." He went on to explain that the Senate bill grants waivers for deportees and those who have been convicted of three or more misdemeanors only for “humanitarian purposes to ensure family unity, or if otherwise in the public interest,” but that condition does not apply to those who have been convicted of felonies. [Statement to Media Matters, 6/17/13]
Human Rights Watch: Many Immigrants Deported For “Criminal Convictions, Including Minor Ones, Will Not Be Eligible To Return To The US, Regardless Of Their Family Ties.” In a fact sheet about the Senate immigration reform bill, Human Rights Watch explained that many undocumented immigrants who have been deported would not be eligible to apply for a waiver to return to the United States, even with families ties:
Currently, unauthorized immigrants who have been deported face bars to their reentry into the United States. The Senate bill would loosen this restriction in some cases, so that deportees may reunite with family in the US.
In general, RPI status is available only to unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States, if they did not enter after December 31, 2011. However, an individual ordered deported (or who left via voluntary departure) not currently present in the United States may apply for a waiver of the bar to RPI status if that person:
- is a spouse, parent, or child of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident; or
- would meet the requirements of legalization for DREAMers--that is, they came to the US before the age of 16 and received a high school degree or its equivalent (or entered before the age of 16 and were physically present in the US for three of the six years before enactment of the Senate bill.)
Such applicants, however, must continue to meet the other eligibility requirements for RPI status, as noted previously. As a result, many of those deported for criminal convictions, including minor ones, will not be eligible to return to the US, regardless of their family ties. [Human Rights Watch, 6/3/13]
The Immigration Bill Precludes The Admissibility Of Immigrants Who Have Been “Convicted Of Serious Criminal Offenses.” According to the Senate bill, immigrants “convicted of serious criminal offenses and domestic violence, stalking, child abuse and violation of protection orders” would be precluded from admissibility under this law. [Senate.gov, accessed 6/17/13]
Colorlines: Immigration Bill “Expands The Consequences Of Drunken Driving.” According to Colorlines, immigrants can already be deported for drunken driving convictions, however the bill would expand current policy to “automatically remove any immigrant with three or more DUI convictions,” as well as remove any immigrant who is convicted of a single DUI after the legislation is passed. [Colorlines, 4/17/13]
Fox Contributor Laura Ingraham Reinforced Myth About Immigration And Crime On Her Radio Show
Laura Ingraham Hosted Maria Espinoza To Claim Immigrants Commit A “Tremendous” Amount Of Crime. Laura Ingraham's guest Maria Espinoza, founder of the Remembrance Project, claimed undocumented immigrants commit a “tremendous amount of killings of Americans by ... driving drunk” and other crimes including “child molestation and rapes” :
INGRAHAM: So specifically what crimes are they [undocumented immigrants] committing supposedly?
ESPINOZA: Well Laura, in our research, we've found there's a tremendous amount of killings of Americans by illegal aliens driving drunk and that is kept secret. It takes -- it really stays local in different areas, in different states. And also, what we've found, high occurrences of child molestation and rapes. [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 6/17/13]
Maria Espinoza's Remembrance Project Linked To Nativist NumbersUSA. According to Right Wing Watch, Maria Espinoza is the director of the Remembrance Project which is “linked to the nativist NumbersUSA intended ” to honor and remember Americans who have been killed by illegal aliens." [Right Wing Watch, 5/22/13]
Immigrants Commit Crimes At Lower Rates Than Native-Born Population
Study: Incarceration Rates For Young Men Lowest For Immigrants. According to a study by the Immigration Policy Center, a division of the American Immigration Law Foundation, the incarceration rate of men aged 18 to 39 was five times higher for the native-born population than for immigrants:
Among men age 18-39 (who comprise the vast majority of the prison population), the 3.5 percent incarceration rate of the native-born in 2000 was 5 times higher than the 0.7 percent incarceration rate of the foreign-born. [American Immigration Law Foundation, Spring 2007]
Violent Crime Rate And Property Crime Rate Fell Despite Doubling Of Undocumented Population. According to a fact sheet from the Immigration Policy Center, despite the immigration population doubling between 1994 and 2005, violent crime decreased by 34.2 percent and property crime fell by 26.4 percent. [Immigration Policy Center, 10/25/08]
Immigrants From Countries That Account For Most Of The Undocumented Population Have Lower Incarceration Rates Than Native-Born Americans. According to a fact sheet from the Immigration Policy Center, incarceration rates for undocumented immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala who account for the majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States were lower than the native-born population. [Immigration Policy Center, 10/25/08]