Sinclair Broadcast Group has given Mark Morgan, a senior fellow at the extremist anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, three opportunities in the past week to further spread his lies about immigration to local TV stations around the country. These appearances included a prerecorded national news package aired during dozens of local news broadcasts that didn’t disclose his affiliation with FAIR, and two live interviews on Sinclair’s morning news program The National Desk, which airs on 68 Sinclair-owned or -operated stations -- and the anchor mentioned his FAIR affiliation during only one of them.
FAIR is one of a trio of nativist organizations founded by white nationalist and eugenicist John Tanton, who explicitly wanted to keep the U.S. a majority-white country through limiting immigration. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center -- which has designated FAIR as an anti-immigrant hate group -- one of FAIR’s main goals is “upending the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended a decades-long, racist quota system that limited immigration mostly to northern Europeans.” Sadly, Sinclair is not alone in promoting this nativist organization -- local news outlets at the border, national news organizations including The Associated Press, and Nexstar Media Group have also often cited FAIR and other such groups in their immigration coverage.
Morgan, who was Trump's acting chief of Customs and Border Protection, used his perch on Sinclair’s programming to demean immigrants, make false claims about immigration statistics and policies, and rehash old right-wing media myths. During his two interviews on The National Desk, he repeatedly used the dehumanizing term “catch and release” to describe President Joe Biden’s immigration policies. The term is generally used to refer to any policy that allows immigrants to be released from detention while their cases are being processed -- but using the term in an immigration context “essentially reduces the apprehension and incarceration of human beings to a sport,” as explained in the book Governing Immigration Through Crime: A Reader. In both interviews for The National Desk, Morgan also referred to Biden’s immigration policies as “open borders,” which is highly misleading given that border enforcement and immigration laws still exist under the Biden administration.
During Morgan’s February 16 interview, he also lied when he claimed that “85 to 90%” of unauthorized immigrants who are released from detention fail to appear for their immigration court hearings. In fact, data show that a sizable majority of immigrants in recent years who are not detained attended their immigration court proceedings. Family units applying for asylum that participated in an Obama administration pilot program had nearly perfect attendance for their Immigration and Customs Enforcement check-ins and court hearings -- but the Trump administration canceled that program. And multiple studies and analyses have shown that several categories of asylum-seekers had court hearing attendance rates of over 90%.
Morgan also claimed that “the overwhelming majority of the asylum claims are not good; they’re fraudulent.” But PolitiFact has debunked similar claims, citing immigration law experts who say that some asylum cases can be meritorious but fail due to lack of a lawyer, and other cases “can be closed or dismissed for many reasons, none of which invalidate an individual’s claim.” Morgan also used that interview to push old right-wing lies about sanctuary cities.
During the second The National Desk interview on February 23, anchor Jan Jeffcoat asked, “Are we testing these migrants for COVID as they’re entering the United States?” Morgan replied that “right now they are not being tested,” but neither noted that there was not universal testing when he was in charge either. The Customs and Border Protection agency told PolitiFact “that it does initial inspections for symptoms or risk factors associated with COVID-19, and ‘pursuant to longstanding infectious disease protocols,’ refers immigrants who might have an infectious disease to local clinics or hospitals ‘for appropriate medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.’” CBP added that “procedures for COVID-19 have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic,” when Morgan was still running the agency.
Morgan’s third Sinclair appearance this past week was in a national news package from correspondent Kristine Frazao, who quoted his fearmongering about unauthorized immigrants getting a job, paying taxes, and starting a family. Morgan also misleadingly claimed “there are multiple studies” showing up to 22 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. -- but that figure comes from a single study by MIT, and the Pew Research Center’s most recent estimate is that there are 10.5 million.