After a video of an undocumented woman being forcefully detained in front of her three young daughters went viral, Fox News responded to the overwhelming sympathy building for the family by running defense for the arrest by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and parroting the agency’s unverified claim that the woman may be part of a human trafficking operation. A few days later, an immigration judge ordered the woman’s release from immigration detention, rejecting CBP’s -- and Fox’s -- suggestion that she posed a threat to her community.
The video showing Perla Morales-Luna, a single mother of three and longtime U.S. resident, being torn from her three daughters by immigration agents made national headlines and mobilized her National City, CA, community to take action to prevent further unjust raids and detentions.
In response to the mounting calls for justice for Morales-Luna, Fox News host and known nativist Tucker Carlson hosted Mark Krikorian, executive director of the anti-immigrant hate group Center for Immigration Studies, to defend the agents’ behavior and report as fact the unproven claim that Morales-Luna “was involved in a smuggling ring.” Fox News’ propagandistic morning show Fox & Friends promptly re-aired clips of Carlson and Krikorian’s unsubstantiated claims, with host Brian Kilmeade commenting, “They are just dying to show [Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)] as the bad guys” and falsely claiming that “nine out of every 10 individuals that [ICE] arrests are criminals like [Morales-Luna]”:
Fox notably omitted the fact that authorities have declined to charge Morales-Luna with a crime, instead placing her “in deportation proceedings, where authorities don't have to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” BuzzFeed reports. As Morales-Luna’s lawyer pointed out, that might be because they don’t have a case:
[An] ICE attorney noted that one of three people charged earlier this year in a smuggling case named Morales-Luna as being involved.
Morales-Luna’s attorney William Baker countered that the two women had worked together as cleaners about five years ago but denied that Morales-Luna had any involvement with the smuggling operation.
“It’s sort of silly to argue she’s a danger,” Baker said, pointing out that the criminal smuggling case has been dismissed and that no evidence had been presented linking Morales-Luna to that case.
And a week after Fox uncritically recycled ICE’s flimsy attempt to cast her as a criminal, an immigration judge presiding over Morales-Luna’s deportation proceedings ordered her release while her immigration case is processed, concluding that she is not a danger to the community.
It is unlikely the network will issue a correction or clarify its misleading reporting. In the past, Carlson and his cohorts at Fox have made similar mistakes in their immigration coverage, allowing their anti-immigrant bias to take precedence over the facts of the case.