Spanish-language radio stations are echoing Fox News in drumming up immigration anxiety
Spanish-language radio stations like Americano Radio are a crucial cog in the echo chamber between the Republican Party, English-language right-wing media, and Latinos as they amplify attacks on migrants.
Fox News has relentlessly covered and supported the immigration stunts of right-wing Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, in an effort to continue driving the often false, anti-immigrant narratives that define the Republican platform. Spanish-language radio hosts have done the same, quickly adding their voices to the chorus supporting DeSantis' Martha’s Vineyard stunt, regurgitating talking points that blamed Biden’s immigration policy and supposed negligence at the border for catalyzing the stunt.
By September many of these same media figures – such as Americano Radio hosts Dania Alexandrino of Perspectiva USA, Freddy Silva of Entre Líneas, and Yali Nuñez of Entre Nosotras – had already joined Fox in drumming up anxiety about immigration and the border by suggesting asylum seekers are trafficking fentanyl. These are two distinct issues that are often conflated despite evidence disproving connections between asylum seekers and the flow of fentanyl into the United States. In fact, a report by Immigration Impact made it clear that “it’s not migrants bringing it across in backpacks, it’s mostly U.S. citizens and truckers smuggling it into the country through legal ports of entry.” The report continued:
In order to smuggle fentanyl through a port of entry, cartels hire primarily U.S. citizens, who are the least likely to attract heightened scrutiny when crossing into the United States. In 2018, 77% of all people sentenced on federal drug trafficking crimes were U.S. citizens.
The government’s own statistics bear this out. 95% of all fentanyl seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Fiscal Year 2021 occurred at a port of entry or a Border Patrol vehicle checkpoint.
Similarly, when the American Immigration Council analyzed every press release from CBP that mentioned fentanyl over a six-month period, the data was even more clear; out of 89 seizure events that the agency touted, just 3 involved undocumented immigrants.
Right-wing Spanish-language radio engaging with this anti-immigrant narrative is part of a larger pattern in which Spanish-language radio hosts imitate and amplify right-wing English-language conversations, whether that means spreading conspiracy theories, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, misinformation about gun safety, attacking abortion rights, or even nodding along while conservatives directly exploit and spread lies about undocumented migrants for political purposes.
Supporting DeSantis’ immigration stunt
Spanish-language radio hosts and their guests supported DeSantis for sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, rationalized his exploitation of migrants, and deflected criticism of the stunt. Hosts also claimed that Democrats’ outrage over DeSantis’ stunt has been unwarranted given that Democrats support immigration policies such as sanctuary cities.
- Alexandrino, host of En Perspectiva, praised DeSantis’ stunt, claiming that he did it to “expose the hypocrisy of the left, to show that leftists and Democrats are hypocrites, that only care about migrants when they can capitalize on them politically.” [En Perspectiva, 09/16/22]
- On Entre Nosotras, guest Leonardo Morales, editor of Diario las Americas, said that Democrats are attempting to categorize DeSantis’ stunt as a waste of taxpayer money while at the same time Democrats “are giving away money to Ukraine, and they’re going to give it to Taiwan.” He continued to claim that Democrats are trying to manipulate the conversation by focusing on the flight’s cost to taxpayers in Florida, rather than how much it has “cost taxpayers in the United States to let in 5 million immigrants into the country.” He continued to say that “the deportions that result because the discovery of drug traffickers, terrorists, criminals, and murderers.” [Entre Nosotras, 09/15/22]
- Carines Moncada defended DeSantis’ stunt on the Actualidad Radio’s Cada Tarde con Carines Moncada y Agustin Acosta. Moncada claimed that the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard signed a waiver approving their relocation elsewhere before the flight and therefore were not misled. [Cada Tarde, 09/15/22]
- On Facebook, Americano Media shared a subtitled clip of Desantis’ speech at the 2022 National Conservatism Conference, claiming his recent stunts were “to protect Florida from the Biden Administration's irresponsible decision to revert Trump’s policies.” [Americano Media, Facebook, 9/15/22]
- In an episode of Directo Al Punto shared on Facebook, panelists Peter Vivaldi and Angel Javier Rosario praised Desantis’s stunt. Host Ada Jitza claimed the influx of migrants at the southern border is an “invasion by design,” gesturing to the language associated with the “great replacement” conspiracy theory. [Directo Al Punto, 9/20/22, 9:01]
- On his show Cada Tarde, Acosta rhetorically asked if it is not fair for “the places that have proclaimed themselves as sanctuaries” to start welcoming migrants, and if it is not fair for migrants to “know the beauty of Martha’s Vineyard.” [Cada Tarde, 09/15/22]
- In response to a report about Republican governors sending migrants to sanctuary cities without notifying them, Moncada asked, “Has this administration been concerned about the number of migrants, of five million individuals who have entered through Texas, that have entered through Arizona?” She continued, “Have they been concerned about that during the past year and a half, or have they just chosen to ignore it? So now that they’re getting a taste of their own medicine.” [Cada Tarde, 09/15/22]
- Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican analyst, said on Cada Tarde that “sanctuary cities are sanctuaries until the immigrants start arriving.” [Cada Tarde, 09/15/22]
- Aguilar also noted later in the episode that Republicans have faced criticism for calling for the use of the national guard on the southern border. He claimed that Republicans are subject to a “double standard” because they are now complaining about the arrival of migrants in states like New York and Washington, where the total number of migrants does not exceed 10,000. [Cada Tarde, 09/15/22]
- Acosta stated on Cada Tarde, “The level of hypocrisy and farce of these characters is incredible. What's good for the rest of us isn't good for them.” He continued, “Biden has been spreading all these people around the country, often in secret. They have landed here on airplanes in the middle of the morning, so that they will not be seen, so that the press will not discover them. And now DeSantis is sending them 40-50, and they’re upset.” [Cada Tarde, 09/15/22]
- Jesus Marquez, host of Battleground Americano, said that DeSantis sent migrants to Martha’s Vineyard so that “the ruling elite who are sitting there right now on their throne can recognize that there is a problem.” [Battleground Americano, 09/16/22]
- On Facebook, Jitza deemed complaints about DeSantis’ inhumane stunt hypocritical, claiming that “Democratic multimillionaire elites … could easily accommodate illegals.” [Directo al Punto, Facebook, 9/17/22]
- On Facebook, Jitza also shared a translation of a DeSantis press conference in which he claims Democrats in sanctuary cities have shown how “their virtue signaling is a fraud.” [Directo al Punto, Facebook, 9/27/22]
Fearmongering about migrants and trafficking at the border
Hosts of these radio shows also sensationalized drug trafficking at the border, a disinformation tactic employed by conservatives which assumes that the increase in drugs seized at the border means that there are more drugs entering the country undetected. Right-wing media use the claim to fearmonger that migrants are trafficking drugs when they enter the country, despite evidence disproving that claim.
- Nuñez claimed it was essential to “highlight the humanitarian factor” with those seeking political asylum, but not with those who “are criminals and are bringing drugs into the country.” She went on to claim that the entry of fentanyl into the United States “is not [a result of] Republican policies,” but rather that they stem from left-wing politics. [Entre Nosotras, 7/8/22]
- On her show Perspectiva USA, host Alexandrino blamed migrant caravans for human trafficking and fentanyl smuggling and said it has increased with each caravan. [Perspectiva USA, 7/25/22]
- Alexandrino and her guests also talked about fentanyl and opioid statistics, tying these to the deaths of migrants and the amount of drugs captured at the border. The host then blamed the Biden administration’s immigration policies for what she claimed is a rise in drug trafficking into the United States. [Perspectiva USA, 7/26/22]
- Silva, host of Entre Líneas, also claimed that children are used “for prostitution or simply to be taken as mules, also carrying drugs, either inside or outside their clothes or however organized crime finds to pass the drug.” [Entre Líneas, 7/13,22].
- Silva also claimed that extralegal migration fosters and increases organized crime. He added that “the most serious problem is that we have people who are not being controlled who we do not know who they are. We do not know their criminal records. But we must also add to that that there is already established organized crime that has been operating for many years, which today is also strengthened by drug trafficking.” [Entre Líneas, 6/29/22].
- Actualidad Noticiosa guest Emilio Gonzalez, former director of USCIS, claimed that Biden's administration “opens the door” for illegal immigrants and encourages “human trafficking, sex trafficking, and drug trafficking.” Navarro agreed with Gonzalez adding that the border is a “disaster” to which Gonzalez responded with claims that Biden refuses to visit the border out of concern that reporters will criticize his leadership. [Actualidad Noticiosa, 7/26/22]
- Navarro claimed that Biden’s supposed open borders policy “is putting national security at risk, as well as the health of many American citizens” because numerous people are being killed by the introduction of significant amounts of fentanyl into the country. [Actualidad Noticiosa, 08/19/22]