Fact Check: Media claims that Trump is anti-immigrant

This morning on ABC’s This Week, Univision‘s Jorge Ramos once again claimed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called all Mexicans “rapists.” It’s a theme often forwarded by opinion reporters, as well as supposedly unbiased journalists. Other common narratives include that Trump is “racist,” “anti-immigrant,” “anti-Muslim,” “anti-Hispanic,” and “anti-Mexican.”

For his part, Trump claims to be pro-immigration and says he loves Hispanics and Muslims.

One can take issue with the accuracy of many statements made by Trump and other presidential candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. But in this instance, journalists are claiming to know what’s in the candidate’s heart and mind, and are stating their opinions as if it’s fact. Are the portrayals of Trump by news reporters accurate?


The news media often conflates illegal immigration and legal immigration, as if they are one in the same. But for the sake of accuracy, the distinction must be noted. The nation is split on many immigration questions yet decisive on the general issue of illegal immigration: in a CBS News poll, 84% of Americans viewed illegal immigration as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. In other words: most Americans support legal immigration and oppose illegal immigration. That’s the same view Trump has expressed.

Is it fair for the press to call Trump (and, by implication, 84% of Americans) “anti-immigrant” for opposing illegal immigration, while supporting legal immigration?

The media makes a similar conflation when it comes to Trump’s remarks about criminal illegal immigrants in the U.S. Referring to illegal immigrants from Mexico, Trump stated, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” On another occasion, Trump said he was not only singling out illegal immigrants from one country. “I’m not just saying Mexicans, I’m talking about people that are from all over that are killers and rapists and they’re coming to this country.”

On these points, Trump’s statements are factually indisputable, according to the Obama administration’s own figures. For example, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that 2013 and 2014 alone, it set loose in the U.S. more than 66,500 illegal immigrant criminals who had been arrested in the U.S. for additional crimes and had over 166,000 convictions among them: 30,000 for drunk or drugged driving, 414 kidnappings, 11,301 rapes or other types of assaults and 395 homicides. In a fairly short time period, ICE reported 2,423 of those illegal immigrant criminals had already been rearrested and convicted of new crimes in the U.S.– including felonies and gang offenses. These are difficult statistics to face, but there’s no reason to doubt the Obama administration’s veracity in providing them. Yet, the news media do not accuse the Obama administration of being “anti-immigrant,” “racist,” “anti-Hispanic” or “anti-Mexican” in reporting these statistics. Is it fair to use those pejoratives against Trump when he refers to the trends?

Further, the press often ignores or dismisses Trump’s own pro-Mexican statements as he repeatedly differentiates between illegal immigrants and legal immigration, and states that not all illegal immigrants are criminals. For example, referring to illegal immigrants, after Trump stated, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he added, “And some I assume are good people.” He has also said of Mexicans: “The good people come, and they’re great people. They’re better than good people. I love the Mexican people. They have tremendous spirit. They have tremendous vibrance and life,” and “Many fabulous people come in from Mexico and our country is better for it…I am proud to say that I know many hard working Mexicans—many of them are working for and with me…and, just like our country, my organization is better for it.”

The case of Muslims is less clear. Trump has singled out Muslims in advocating for a temporary ban on immigration into the U.S. Does that qualify him as being unequivocally “anti-Muslim,” as the press often states? That may be a matter of opinion. But Trump has not advocated to remove or ban Muslims who are already in the U.S., and has stated that his proposed temporary immigration ban would be with the goal of resuming Muslim immigration once screening deficiencies acknowledged by the FBI can be corrected. “I love the Muslims. I think they’re great people,” Trump has said.

While media portrayals might have one believe Trump holds fringe anti-immigration views, polling consistently shows a majority of Americans often align with his views on key issues. A Rasmussen Reports survey last month found sixty-one percent (61%) of voters think the government is not aggressive enough in deporting those who are in this country illegally, consistent with surveys of years. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of voters who consider border control to be more important than providing a pathway to citizenship believe that providing that pathway for illegal immigrants will just encourage more to come illegally. Most voters continue to believe the current policies and practices of the federal government encourage people to enter the U.S. illegally. Most also continue to oppose President Obama’s plan to exempt millions of illegal immigrants from deportation. Seventy-two percent (72%) believe the federal government is not aggressive enough in finding those who have overstayed their visas and sending them home.

Because he singled out Muslims for a temporary immigration ban, it’s fair to question whether Trump has expressed some anti-Muslim-immigrant views. But fair reporting is obliged to include the context that Trump has said the ban would be temporary; and that he has not proposed action against all Muslims, against Muslims already in the U.S. or against Muslim Americans; and he has stated that he loves–not hates–Muslims. The public can draw its own conclusion.

On other key points: Trump is correct when referring to some illegal immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers.” Many in the media lampoon his statements without acknowledging that they’re factually correct, and they allow others to incorrectly characterize Trump’s comments, unchecked.

Trump distinguishes between legal and illegal immigration, supporting the former and opposing the latter, as do most Americans. The press often advances a false narrative as if there’s no distinction.
Finally, Trump’s mother was an immigrant, his ex-wife is an immigrant born in Czechoslovakia, his current wife an immigrant born in Slovenia, and his children are children of an immigrant parent. It’s difficult to rationally claim Trump is anti-immigrant. It would be accurate, however, to state that he’s anti-illegal-immigrant.

Trump’s opponents and critics are generally free to offer their opinions as to his leanings. However, reporters have jumped onto the opinion bandwagon at times, making mischaracterizations that are contrary to the evidence. To advance an agenda, the press seeks to falsely equate protecting the U.S. border with being anti-immigration. Regardless of how reporters personally feel about Trump, it’s important that they remain true to the facts in order to preserve the integrity of journalism.

For failing to do so, these cumulative claims about Trump are given Two Little Devils.