tags: Press Releases

Disinformation Campaign Helps Drive Migration to U.S. Border

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New op-ed and reporting highlights role of disinformation – including from right-wing media and politicians – in driving migration

Washington, DC – In a new op-ed published in The Messenger, Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice, highlights the findings and implications of AV’s recently released polling and research highlighting how disinformation about “open borders” – including disinformation spread by right-wing media and elected officials – is one factor in the larger set of drivers of migration to the U.S. from Central America. Among the findings, the America’s Voice poll of 600 Central Americans in the prime migration age cohort living in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua found that more than a quarter (27%) of respondents recalled hearing a U.S. politician or official say the border is open in the past six months. 

Meanwhile, writing in the Arizona Republic, José Ignacio Castañeda Perez highlights the recent America’s Voice polling as part of his larger story about disinformation as a migration factor, “‘It’s not an adventure’: How social media misleads migrants about the US-Mexico border.”

Below, find detailed excerpts from The Messenger op-ed and the Arizona Republic article coverage. And for more on the America’s Voice disinformation research and polling, find a poll memo HERE from the polling firm, BSP Research, a topline questionnaire HERE and find a detailed summary of key findings and implications in an America’s Voice press release HERE.

Find the new op-ed by Vanessa Cárdenas in The Messenger online at the following link, “How ‘Open Border’ Disinformation Can Actually Drive Migration to the U.S. (key excerpts below):

“false narratives surrounding America’s ‘open borders,’ allowing in anyone who shows up, resonate with desperate individuals fleeing their homes, ultimately bolstering the influence of smugglers. This web of disinformation only serves to compound the pre-existing challenges associated with global migration and the limits of our broken immigration system. 

Words matter — even more so when you are in a position of power as an elected official or media representative. Misleading or false information is especially dangerous on an issue as volatile as immigration and border policy.

… research highlights the role of right-wing media and politicians as lead drivers. Media tracking by Media Matters for America found that Fox News mentioned “open borders” 3,842 times from Nov. 1, 2020, through Aug. 22, 2023. Adding in the separate 3,257 times that Newsmax mentioned “open borders” during the same time window, and these two right-wing media outlets alone have provided the advertising equivalent of more than $30 million worth of airtime to ‘open borders’ disinformation.

Meanwhile, the America’s Voice ad tracking project has identified 832 unique tweets from Republicans that used ‘open borders’ disinformation from Feb. 23 to Aug. 18. We have also found at least 97 pieces of paid communication from GOP candidates and party entities that advance ‘open borders’ disinformation in 2023.

…Ultimately, we need to overhaul and reform our immigration system to uphold our values, advance our interests and deliver greater control over who is here, who is coming, and how we are moving forward as a country together. Anyone who is serious about workable solutions and addressing 21st-century migration should join together and call on right-wing media and politicians to stop amplifying disinformation and start putting workable solutions on the table.”

Read José Ignacio Castañeda Perez in the Arizona Republic, ‘It’s not an adventure’: How social media misleads migrants about the US-Mexico border (key excerpts below)

“Human smugglers use TikTok, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook to offer their services to cross the border, according to the Tech Transparency Project, a watchdog research initiative. Smugglers post prices, routes and discounts on Facebook groups and pages with thousands of members. Smugglers often spread false rumors and misinformation about U.S. immigration policies and how easy the journey will be, according to the watchdog group.

‘It’s not an adventure; It’s a very difficult journey,’ said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, professor with the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. The content advertised on social media is often only a complementing factor to the already present driving factors in migrants’ home countries, Correa-Cabrera said. It’s an incentive as part of the whole human smuggling industry, she added. ‘(Migrants) combine their reality with the aspiration with what is presented in the media,’ Correa-Cabrera said. ‘That is misinformation, that is nefarious because it presents things in a way that are not going to be.’

A new poll by America’s Voice found that disinformation about ‘open borders” contributes to Central American migration to the U.S. The poll, released Sept. 26, found that more than one in four Central American respondents heard and approximately one in five believed rhetoric that the ‘border is open.’’