After reports surfaced that President Donald Trump planned to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, media outlets covering the story resorted to quoting representatives of the hate groups Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), as well as the nativist group NumbersUSA. Media outlets failed to properly contextualize these groups’ racist origins and practices, inappropriately characterizing them as reasonable voices in the debate over DACA.
Donald Trump decides to end DACA
NY Times: “Trump Moves to End DACA.” On September 5, President Donald Trump “ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action” called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) “that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation,” The New York Times reported. In his written statement, Trump also called DACA an “amnesty-first approach” and asked Congress to replace the program with new legislation by March 5, 2018. From the Times report:
President Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, calling the program an “amnesty-first approach” and urging Congress to replace it with legislation before it begins phasing out on March 5, 2018.
The statement was released shortly after Mr. Trump, who had called the issue a personal dilemma, dispatched his attorney general to announce that the government will no longer accept new applications from undocumented immigrants to shield them from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Administration officials said the roughly 800,000 current beneficiaries of the program — brought to the United States illegally as children — will not be immediately affected by what they called an “orderly wind down” of former President Barack Obama’s policy. [The New York Times, 9/5/17]
In seeking “balanced coverage,” media outlets uplift and whitewash anti-immigrant groups
Seeking “balanced coverage," media outlets gave a platform to, and failed to properly identify, anti-immigrant nativist or hate groups. Media Matters found that since Trump’s plans to end DACA were first reported on Sunday, September 3, over 20 print and online media outlets have featured quotes from one of three anti-immigrant nativist or hate groups. Representatives of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) were quoted 12 times, ones from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) were quoted 14 times, and those from NumbersUSA were quoted nine times. No outlet identified any of the groups as part of the nativist lobby or identified CIS and FAIR as hate groups. When media outlets did identify the groups’ hardline anti-immigrant stance, it was usually with softer terminology; The Washington Post called CIS’ executive director an “immigration hawk,” The Associated Press described FAIR as “a group that pushes for strict immigration policies,” USA Today described NumbersUSA as “an organization that seeks to reduce immigration to the U.S.,” and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by billionaire Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson, called CIS “pro-enforcement.” There were multiple instances where the groups were not identified with anything other than their names, such as in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. Similarly, the Post quoted a NumbersUSA representative in one of its stories without explaining the group’s nativist ideology. [The Washington Post, 9/5/17, 9/4/17; Associated Press, 9/6/17; USA Today, 9/5/17; Las Vegas Review-Journal, 9/3/17; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/4/17]
Cable news shows also lifted up hate groups without properly identifying them. Media Matters found that representatives from FAIR and CIS were hosted or quoted on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News during discussions of DACA. On CNN, FAIR President Dan Stein was featured as part of a two-person panel, wherein co-host Alisyn Camerota introduced Stein and his hate group simply by name. Similarly, when CIS’ Mark Krikorian appeared on CNN Newsroom, he was simply introduced by name without host Brooke Baldwin mentioning CIS’ hate group status. Krikorian used the platform to push the myth that DACA recipients were taking well-paid American jobs. On MSNBC Live, a correspondent quoted FAIR while identifying the group only as “critics of DACA.” And on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson introduced Krikorian by name and title, but didn’t mention the group’s status as a “hate group.” [CNN, New Day, 9/4/17; CNN, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, 9/5/17; MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 9/4/17; Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/5/17]
FAIR, CIS, and NumbersUSA comprise the “nativist lobby” with FAIR and CIS labeled as “hate groups” by the SPLC
CIS and FAIR are anti-immigrant nativist groups that SPLC has labeled as “hate groups.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has extensively researched CIS, FAIR, and NumbersUSA, outlining their insidious anti-immigrant agenda and their ties to white nationalists and white supremacists. All three groups were founded by John Tanton, who, according to the SPLC, “has for decades been at the heart of the white nationalist scene,” and who believes that in order to maintain American culture, “a European-American majority” is required. Currently, FAIR and CIS are considered to be hate groups by SPLC. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 1/31/09, 3/23/17, 8/10/12]
FAIR was founded by white nationalists with the mission of “severely limit[ing] immigration into the United States.” Despite FAIR’s attempts to cover up its nativist agenda, the group’s leaders have been quoted making comments about the supposed inferiority of Latino immigrants, which first prompted the SPLC to designate the organization a “hate group.” FAIR has been listed as a “hate group” by SPLC since 2008 “because of its virulent and false attacks on non-white immigrants.” SPLC noted that FAIR “promotes hatred of immigrants, especially non-white ones,” adding, “By defending racism, encouraging xenophobia and nativism, and giving its all to efforts to keep America white, FAIR has more than earned its place in the pantheon of hate groups.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/10/12]
CIS “frequently manipulate[s] data” and uses media to spew its racist message. SPLC has outlined a number of studies that demonstrate how CIS manipulates data to subvert positive aspects of immigration. According to SPLC, the claims at the center of most CIS studies “are either false or virtually without any supporting evidence.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 1/31/09]
NumbersUSA is “the country’s largest grassroots restrictive immigration group” and has ties to white nationalists. Conservatives and progressives alike have denounced NumbersUSA for its racist roots, but its membership has increased over the years as a result of its efforts to appear credible and unbiased. Nonetheless, some conservatives have pushed back against the group’s influence on immigration policy. Alfonso Aguilar of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles once explained, “If these groups can be unmasked, then the bulk of the opposition to immigration reform on the conservative side will wither away." As reported by SPLC, NumbersUSA's executive director, Roy Beck, edited Tanton’s book The Immigration Invasion, which was “so raw in its nativism that Canadian authorities banned it as hate literature. Beck has also written for and edited Tanton’s white nationalist quarterly, The Social Contract. He was still the magazine’s Washington editor in 1998 when the journal published what may have been its most lurid edition ever, ‘Europhobia: The Hostility to European-Descended Americans.’” In 1996, Beck also addressed a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist hate group that has referred to blacks as a “retrograde species of humanity.” [Media Matters, 2/21/13; Southern Poverty Law Center, 5/25/11]