Immigration | Media Matters for America

Immigration

Tags ››› Immigration
  • Right-wing media attempt to distract from family separation policy by attacking abortion rights instead

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE TULBERT


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Following the Trump administration’s implementation of a policy requiring the separation of immigrant children from their parents as they cross the border, some self-described “pro-life” organizations and media figures have failed to denounce this policy. Others, though, have seemingly attempted to distract from the outrage about the policy by making outlandish and inaccurate comparisons to abortion.

    • Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said the outrage over the Trump’s administration policy was a “manufactured crisis” and pointed to Democratic support for Planned Parenthood as a sign of hypocrisy. Limbaugh said, “You want to talk about separating families, look no further than the abortion mills of Planned Parenthood.”
    • On the June 18 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, host Tucker Carlson attacked Democrats for opposing the Trump administration’s policy, saying that the “same people who support third-term, post-viability abortion for purposes of sex selection” were “lecturing” others about “the holiness of children.”
    • Liz Wheeler, host of One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler, dismissed the focus on Trump’s policy during the June 13 edition of her show, saying, “If you care so much about exploited and abused children, where’s your outrage about the 1 million unborn children who are aborted every single year in our country?” Wheeler then pivoted to discussing a made-up story about Planned Parenthood, asking, “Where is your outrage that Democrats in Congress refuse to call for an investigation into this pattern of Planned Parenthood covering up the sexual abuse of children?”
    • On NBC’s Meet the Press, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, defended the policy by alluding to abortion saying that “nobody likes seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms, from their mothers’ wombs, frankly, but we have to make sure that [Department of Homeland Security] laws are understood.”
    • On Westword One’s The Mark Levin Show, host Mark Levin said that “suddenly the Democrats care about children.” He went on to claim inaccurately that “when it comes to abortion,” Democrats support it “right up to the last second. It can be eight months, 29 days, and they still support abortion.”
    • Anti-abortion outlet Life News responded to a tweet from Planned Parenthood saying children shouldn’t be separated from their parents by saying that Planned Parenthood was “ignoring how its own practices permanently and violently separate children from their fathers and mothers” and that the organization “does that 876 times a day in abortions.”

    • An article on CRTV’s Louder with Crowder website claimed that Planned Parenthood “separates babies from mothers every day. With surgical brutality. These babies are not being stored in chain-linked cages, waiting for processing. Planned Parenthood stores their children in jars. A calvarium in one jar, legs in another. Parts shipped, and sold, separately.”
    • The Daily Wire’s Paul Bois attacked U2's Bono for supporting legalized abortion access in Ireland while criticizing Trump's policy of separating families at the border.

    • Yahoo! Lifestyle picked up the framing from anti-abortion outlets in an article headlined “Planned Parenthood called hypocritical for protesting Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy.” The article highlighted several anti-abortion tweets suggesting that abortion is worse than the Trump administration’s policy.

    Anti-abortion organizations, politicians, and media figures also adopted this farcical comparison on social media

  • On Fox, ICE director defends tearing asylum-seeking families apart using a misleading statistic on human smuggling

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    The acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, appeared on Fox News June 19 to defend the Trump administration’s policy of separating the children and parents of asylum-seeking families at the border, pushing the misleading talking point that “there's a 300 percent increase on people claiming family units that aren't family units.” According to a Washington Post reporter, while it is true the number of adults arriving at the border with children not their own has increased by about 315 percent, these cases make up only .61 percent of the total number of family units apprehended at the border.

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also used the misleading statistic at a White House press briefing, arguing that immigrant children arriving at the southern border are being used as “pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers.”

    But The Washington Post’s Philip Bump obtained the full data behind the statistic and found that the claim overstates the problem of human smuggling at the border. “In other words,” Bump wrote, “for every 1,000 families that approached the border in the first five months of this fiscal year, only six allegedly involved individuals pretending to be a child’s parents.”

    From the June 19 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

    BILL HEMMER (CO-HOST): Did you see [Sen.] Ted Cruz [(R-TX)]'s idea? He's got a proposal floating out there. More immigration judges, maybe more beds, et cetera. That would help process the system faster. And then you only separate families in the event that there is, I think, aggravated criminal activity or potential harm. I believe that's the way it's phrased. What do you think of Senator Cruz's idea, sir?

    THOMAS HOMAN (ACTING ICE DIRECTOR): I haven't seen his bill, but you know what, we got to talk about that because we've seen over a 300 percent increase on people claiming to be parents of children, and they're not. These children are being used by the criminal organizations as pawns and being rented to claim as family units so they don't get detained. So -- I haven't seen that legislation. We need to make sure, number one, we protect these children being used by these criminal organizations as bait. There's a 300 percent increase on people claiming family units that aren't family units.

    Homan has a history of retreating to Fox to defend his agency’s ruthless, anti-immigrant practices. In March, one ICE spokesperson quit after Homan mandated ICE field offices lie about the number of undocumented immigrants able to evade arrest after being warned of an upcoming ICE raid by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. The number of failed arrests was vastly overstated, but Fox News repeatedly broadcast the erroneous figure before it was proved untrue, and Media Matters did not find any instance in which the network corrected the information.

  • Fox Business smears White House reporter for playing audio of crying detained children

    Larry O'Connor complains reporters covering Trump's family separation policy are "short on facts," but he misrepresents the ProPublica article he's criticizing

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    An audio recording from ProPublica of young detained children at the border crying out for their parents, along with Border Patrol agents apparently joking about the children’s cries, received widespread attention after it was released on June 18. A Fox Business segment went after New York magazine reporter Olivia Nuzzi for playing the audio during a White House press briefing, with the host at first criticizing it as “unverified” before his guest slimed reporters in general and then lied about the ProPublica story accompanying the audio.

    The Trump administration enacted a new policy of prosecuting everyone who crosses the border without authorization and has taken the children away from family groups that cross the border and detained them separately from their parents. Conservative media have been scrambling to lie about it, downplay the effect of sticking young children in camps away from their parents, and even justify it by preying on racial fears. And on the June 19 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Company, guest Larry O’Connor smeared “political reporters here in Washington” for “finding a slimier place in the gutter to dwell” by covering this Trump policy, especially for playing the ProPublica audio. He accused reporters of being “short on facts” on this issue, before lying about ProPublica’s coverage:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced the press, called on Congress to act. One reporter played the sound of migrant children crying -- the audio of course not verified, but it was played anyway in the middle of a press conference … . Joining us now, Washington Times associate editor Larry O'Connor. Larry, I see plenty of emotion from the media and from Democrats, but I do not see any of them offering a solution. What say you?

    LARRY O'CONNOR: Yeah. And they're also short on facts. You know, Stuart, the moment you think that the political reporters here in Washington have reached the lowest depths of cynical deceit in their campaign against this president, they find a slimier place in the gutter to dwell, and we saw that yesterday in this press briefing. That audio that they played -- first of all, it’s completely unverified, those children who were crying, except for one child. ProPublica obtained this audio, they published it, and if you dive deep into their article, tons of paragraphs down to the bottom, they talk about this one El Salvadoran girl that is on this tape. Well, yeah, she was separated by her parents. Her parents actually separated her from themselves. They gave this girl to a smuggler, a human smuggler in El Salvador, and sent her on this 2,000-mile treacherous, deadly journey to America. That's not the Americans government, that's not the Trump administration. We need some facts in this. This is an important issue. There are children at stake. But all of the mess and the noise that we're getting from journalists, that's not helping anything.

    Contrary to O'Connor’s allegation, the ProPublica article makes clear that the 6-year-old girl's parents did not "separate her from themselves" -- the Trump administration’s new policy did that. According to the girl's aunt, the girl was with her mother the entire journey until they got to the border and were separated there.

    From the article (emphasis added):

    The aunt said what made the call even more painful was that there was nothing she could do. She and her 9-year-old daughter are seeking asylum in the United States after immigrating here two years ago for the exact same reasons and on the exact same route as her sister and her niece. They are from a small town called Armenia, about an hour’s drive northwest of the Salvadoran capital, but well within reach of its crippling crime waves. She said gangs were everywhere in El Salvador: “They’re on the buses. They’re in the banks. They’re in schools. They’re in the police. There’s nowhere for normal people to feel safe.”

    She said her niece and sister set out for the United States over a month ago. They paid a smuggler $7,000 to guide them through Guatemala, and Mexico and across the border into the United States. Now, she said, all the risk and investment seem lost.

    The aunt said she worried that any attempt to intervene in her niece’s situation would put hers and her daughter’s asylum case at risk, particularly since the Trump administration overturned asylum protections for victims of gang and domestic violence. She said she’s managed to speak to her sister, who has been moved to an immigration detention facility near Port Isabel, Texas. And she keeps in touch with her niece, Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, by telephone. Mother and daughter, however, have not been able to speak to one another.

    O’Connor concluded the segment by asserting that “the facts are still on the President’s side.” It’s unclear which facts he was referring to.

  • Ann Coulter calls children separated from families at border "child actors" and begs Trump: "Don't fall for the actor children"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Conservative author Ann Coulter claimed children being separated from their parents at the border by the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy on unauthorized immigration are faking their emotional trauma. According to news reports, the children can suffer from “toxic stress” caused by the separation.  

    Coulter appeared on the June 17 edition of Fox News’ The Next Revolution and attempted to directly address President Donald Trump, who routinely watches Fox News. She stated: “These child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now -- do not fall for it, Mr. President. I get very nervous about the president getting his news from TV.” Coulter added: “Don’t fall for the actor children.”

    Coulter’s language echoes that of fringe and conspiracy theorist media figures like Alex Jones who routinely accuse school shooting survivors of being “crisis actors.”

  • Fox & Friends makes false claims about immigration to link immigrants to violent gang MS-13

    Blog ››› ››› DINA RADTKE

    Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, who is known for spreading misinformation on immigration matters, spouted a number of falsehoods this morning in an attempt to link Latino immigrants to the brutal gang MS-13.

    On June 13, Kilmeade interviewed the sheriff of Frederick County, MD, Chuck Jenkins, to discuss the gang’s influence in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Jenkins gained attention in 2013 for embracing a controversial program 287(g), also known as the “show me your papers” law, which has facilitated the deportation of “large numbers of Frederick Latinos caught without papers after being arrested only for driving without a license” and led to the illegal detention of one Latina woman.

    While MS-13, a violent gang, is a serious problem in some communities, Fox News has exaggerated their presence in the course of their anti-immigrant fearmongering. Together, Kilmeade and Jenkins blamed unaccompanied minors and lax immigration policies for the rise of the gang with a host of lies:

    Kilmeade incorrectly linked the influx of unaccompanied minors into the country to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, claiming, “When these kids came flooding across the border, in many cases, the unaccompanied minors, they were picked up under the DACA provision, and they were scattered in these communities.” But long-standing U.S. immigration policy has granted special protections to unaccompanied minors seeking asylum. DACA was implemented as a solution for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and who had already been residing in the country, not as a legal basis for them to be accepted when they cross the border. And there is little evidence that, as many conservatives have implied, DACA encouraged unaccompanied minors to make the journey to the U.S.

    Kilmeade suggested unaccompanied minors crossing the border are affiliated with MS-13. Only a very small fraction are suspected of gang affiliation. According to the acting chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, of the 45,400 unaccompanied minors who were apprehended per fiscal year from 2012-2017, only 159 had confirmed or suspected gang affiliations and 56 were suspected or confirmed to be affiliated with MS-13. It is more widely accepted that young immigrants living in the U.S. who have little access to community resources are forcibly recruited into gangs. 

    Kilmeade encouraged profiling unaccompanied minors with tattoos to identify MS-13 members. Authorities are already using physical indicators like tattoos to wrongly designate undocumented immigrants as gang members in order to detain or deport them. One federal judge recently found that ICE had improperly targeted a DACA beneficiary by claiming a tattoo proved he was involved in a gang.

    Jenkins claimed that there were “well over 5,000” MS-13 members in three Maryland counties located just northwest of Washington, D.C. A White House press briefing statement in February by the acting assistant attorney general put the number closer to 3,000 across the D.C. metro region, and last year U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement put the number even lower, telling The Washington Post that the gang has 900 to 1,100 members in the entire D.C. region and 10,000 across 40 states.

    From the June 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

    BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): You’ve got Northern Virginia, Long Island, and Boston. When these kids came flooding across the border, in many cases, the unaccompanied minors, they were picked up under the DACA provision, and they were scattered in these communities but not to rich schools. You have schools that are struggling, and they make these classes, which are already too big, even more unwieldy, and they don't even speak English, so they need even more support.

    SHERIFF CHUCK JENKINS (FREDERICK COUNTY, MD): That's right, Brian. And, listen, Prince George's County, Montgomery County, this part of Maryland, now into Frederick County, my jurisdiction, was a targeted area for relocation. For some reason -- and we know the MS-13 population in this part of Maryland that I'm talking about is well over 5,000.

    KILMEADE: When a kid comes across and says, “I’m a refugee,” but he’s got neck tattoos, that might be the first clue.

    JENKINS: That is a clue.

    KILMEADE: Yeah. Nearly a dozen parents told the Post they were worried about gang activity at their school. And it happens to be just 10 miles from the White House.

    JENKINS: How can it be anywhere in the United States, Brian? How could we have let this happen?

    KILMEADE: How could it happen again? What have we done to change things?

    JENKINS: Well, we haven't done enough yet. What we need to do is a push from this administration, from the Justice Department, to declare this organization a terrorist organization and clean them up, get them out of here, and get them out of this country.

    KILMEADE: So what kind of support are you asking? Do you need money? Do you need people?

    JENKINS: We need a declaration from the White House, from President Trump, from the Department of Justice to allow local law enforcement to be effective, get in there and clean these pockets of crime out.

    KILMEADE: Yeah. You don't have to dig out the next Nikolas Cruz. They’re sitting there right in front of you, declaring they’re MS-13, daring you to kick them out. And you, sheriff, on with us telling us, “Give me the power to do so.”