Border hawks convinced that Central American migrants are coming to the United States because the media has told them they'll be allowed to stay might want to point a finger at Fox News.
On an episode of "Fox & Friends" that aired Wednesday, co-host Brian Kilmeade incorrectly said that a ruling issued Tuesday by the Department of Justice's Board of Immigration Appeals would allow Guatemalan victims of domestic abuse to win asylum in the U.S., opening the door to "instant citizenship."
In Kilmeade's error-laden words:
The Justice Department's Board of Immigration Appeals has decided to let Guatemalan women win asylum in the U.S. if they claim to be victims of domestic violence. The decision is a huge incentive for Guatemalans to cross the border to get instant U.S. citizenship as well as our benefits. Nice immigration reform.
Kilmeade's statements are wrong on a number of counts.
First, the decision is less sweeping than Kilmeade makes it out to be. While the ruling marks a shift from previous decisions that had dismissed domestic abuse as grounds for asylum, it stops far short of automatically letting "Guatemalan women win asylum."
To claim asylum in the United States, a person needs to demonstrate that they face persecution in their home country because of their political opinion, race, religion, nationality or membership in a social group. Tuesday's ruling is significant because it allows a victim of domestic abuse to claim membership in a "particular social group" in an asylum case -- a decision that may set a precedent for other cases. But that is only one step toward successfully claiming asylum; an applicant must clear other hurdles as well.
It also remains to be seen how widely this change will actually be applied. The ruling doesn't extend to all women, but rather to "married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship." Even then, the ruling says applicants may only win asylum on those grounds "depending on the facts and evidence in an individual case."
Tuesday's ruling came about because of a Guatemalan woman who tried to claim asylum in the U.S. after experiencing what she describes as a particularly horrific series of events in her home country. The woman says her husband raped her, regularly beat her, prevented her from leaving and at one point burned her with paint thinner, and that local police refused to help, according to the Board of Immigration Appeals ruling.
That woman hasn't even won asylum yet -- her case has been sent back to an immigration judge for review. So the chyron reading "DOJ gives asylum to Guatemalan women" that appears throughout the Fox segment is also wrong.
Second, no one is entitled to "instant citizenship," not even people who immigrate legally and then marry a U.S. citizen. Obtaining U.S. citizenship is a process that usually takes years, and is in no way assured for those attempting to win asylum. Tuesday's ruling doesn't change any of that.
Kilmeade delivered the inaccurate comments while the words "Opening the Border" flashed on the screen.
(h/t Media Matters)