screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-7-01-48-amPost originally published on November 24, 2015.

In light of the post-election news stories on “fake news,” we shouldn’t forget that our “mainstream” news sources aren’t doing us any favors either.  There are few worse than Bill O’Reilly.

Fox News and the Syrian Refugees

The above is a segment from the O’Reilly Factor by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News from November 23, 2015.
 Here are a few quotes from the segment that are interesting:
“The Republicans want you to believe that Democrats are soft on terrorism and are more sympathetic to Muslims than they are to other people.
O’Reilly than cites a recent poll from ABC News showing that the majority of Americans (54%) OPPOSE admitting Syrian even after screening for security.
But O’Reilly is trying to argue that are NOT anti-immigrant and are just concerned about security even though they oppose bringing in that have been screened for security concerns.

So how does he work around this?

The next screen says, “The reason most Americans do not want to accept Muslim is not based on religion or ethnicity, it is based on security” (Note O’Reilly’s tone as he draws out the word “Muslim.”)
1) If it is not based on religion, why is religion an issue at all?
2) If it is only based on security, why do Americans oppose admitting even after the security issues are addressed?
O’Reilly’s explanation: “The majority of Americans have no confidence at all that the Obama administration can protect them from harm.”

In O’Reilly’s defense, he provides a plausible explanation.

However, he provides no evidence that this is the explanation for the discrepancy between his claim that Americans are not anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim and their opposition to admitting the even after screening for security concerns.
An alternative theory that corresponds equally well with the data is that many Americans are anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, or simply don’t want to be bothered with the issue regardless of the security concerns involved. This is the point that he is attempting to reject. He does not provide any evidence that this interpretation is any less valid than his explanation. He simply asserts that his interpretation is “the cold hard truth.”
He doubles down on this by saying that “That’s the crux of the matter that President Obama and the Democratic Party are so liberal, so frightened and so chaotic that they cannot provide security for ‘we the people’.”

This is pure rhetoric at this point:

1) Why is being “liberal” relevant here unless it is just assumed that “liberal” means     incapable of providing security?
2) How are President Obama and the Democratic Party “frightened”? Shouldn’t the argument go the other way? Aren’t the people who oppose admitting the the “frightened” ones?
3) Again, in what way are Obama and the Democrats “so chaotic”?
4) Where is the evidence that any of these are the reasons that the American people have the attitude that they do?
After all, the entire basis for the segment was to evaluate whether Americans were anti-immigrant and anti-refugee. After failing to provide any evidence to the contrary, O’Reilly simply claims that they are not and relies on the viewer to accept that interpretation.
Yet he concludes the introduction to the segment by saying “Talking Points believes that the majority of Americans firmly believe that and my opinion is based on fact.” So the fact is that he believes this and that is fact on which is opinion is based. (The astute reader will undoubtedly see the irony here.)
He continues the segment by talking about border security and claims that “the southern border of the is still insecure.” He proceeds to cite statistics about the number of unaccompanied children caught at the border in October and November of 2015 and tells us that this is a “record number for that period of time.”
This is exactly the point at which context and nuance are necessary, since this is a statistic that could be reasonably interpreted different ways. For example, one could argue that the fact that border security is catching so many people at the border shows that increased security efforts are working. This would be a particularly reasonable conclusion if accompanied with evidence that illegal immigration into the is down. Taken together, these statistics, particularly the one cited by O’Reilly, would suggest that the southern border has become MORE secure under the Obama administration- not less so.

There is evidence that Obama has increased security along the southern border.

O’Reilly then goes on to cite a series of alleged “releases” of criminals by Immigration Enforcement in various categories of crimes. He cites the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that seeks to limit immigration into the United States (Center for Immigration Studies).
Here is a direct quote that O’Reilly cites from the report.
“In 2013, ICE agents encountered more than 700,000 aliens who could have been removed (which is a record, thanks to new resources from Congress). Most were found in jails. But they took action against fewer than 200,000; meaning that ICE is now releasing more illegal aliens Ñ including criminal aliens Ñ than it is arresting.”
But this is extremely deceptive. It seems to be making the claim that the Obama administration “released” the illegal immigrants that it found in the jails by not taking action against them. However, this is not at all accurate. They will stay in jail for the crimes that they have committed that put them in jail. ICE is not taking them from the jails and releasing them into the general public. This claim, which is probably the single most alarming part of O’Reilly’s segment, is also the most transparently dishonest.
The Obama administration- as every preceding administration has done- exercises “prosecutorial discretion” when processing illegal immigrants.  Every deportation case requires the use of limited resources by law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agents make the reasonable accommodation that they will use these limited resources by deporting illegal immigrants that pose the most immediate threat to public security. They reasonably conclude that a person currently sitting in a jail cell is less of a threat than someone who is walking around free. So they choose to focus on that deportation case, assuming that they will have the opportunity to come back to the other case when the already-jailed illegal immigrant gets closer to his or her release date.
Admittedly someone could complain about the US taxpayer paying for an illegal immigrant to sit in a US jail. However, even removing them might not save money as the Constitution, the 5th and 14th Amendments specifically, requires that any person detained by local, state, or national government is entitled to “due process of law.”  So it would cost the taxpayer money to have any illegal immigrant removed and focusing on deporting jailed illegal immigrants would come at the expense of removing another illegal immigrant who is currently not in jail.  Alternatively, the US federal government could dramatically expand its expenditures on immigration enforcement.
Here is another theory about border security that could be supported by the evidence: Illegal immigration is down because the Obama administration has done a better job of focusing scarce resources on deporting those who are free and could be helping others migrate into the country rather than focusing on deporting those who are already in custody, which might be easier from an administrative point of view but would effectively count as catching the same illegal immigrant twice.
O’Reilly claims that “it is simply disgraceful” that they “let them go.” He says that the “president does not care at all.”  In my view, the real disgrace is that O’Reilly could make these kinds of claims with a straight face and that other Americans would actually believe them.
The “cold hard truth” here is that the best explanation for American attitudes toward the Syrian likely does not relate to anything that the Obama administration or the Syrian refugees have done. Rather, it is Americans’ consumption of such poor journalism that causes us to be so uninformed about our country and its laws.