Washington Post Misleads Readers on DACA

By Jon Feere on May 13, 2014

Some writers at the Washington Post haven't done their homework and are lazily repeating the taking points of amnesty advocates in describing President Obama's lawless Deferred Action policy. Either that, or the writers consider it their job to promote the controversial policy.

In a recent article titled "Virginia attorney general declares 'dreamers' eligible for in-state tuition", the Washington Post published a number of factual errors and half-truths that have the effect of making Deferred Action (DACA) sound more appealing than it actually is. Recall that the policy is one implemented by the Obama administration that grants "legal status" to illegal aliens who were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012. It is an administrative end-run around Congress in which President Obama has largely put the DREAM Act into effect. The beneficiaries receive work permits, driver's licenses, Social Security accounts, and many other benefits, including a near-guarantee that they will not be deported in the future.

Virginia recently moved to grant in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens who have received Obama's DACA, which was the focus of the article. I sent my concerns to the writers a couple of times as well as to the Post's ombudsman over the course of nearly two weeks. The Post provided no response. Four claims in the article include a total of six problems:

  1. The writers describe Virginia's plan as one for illegal immigrants "who were brought to this country as children". However Virginia's guidelines, which the Post even linked to, do not limit the program to people brought here as children. Obama's DACA program also is not limited to people brought to this country. DACA simply requires a person to prove they "came" to the United States before age 16. This would include anyone who came legally and overstayed a visa, or who crossed the border illegally as unaccompanied teens are doing in increased numbers. Virginia's only requirement for in-state tuition is that the applicant receive DACA status and live within Virginia for one year. There is a factual, legal, ethical, and moral difference between a person who was brought here and a person who came here on their own volition, but the Post describes the policy in a way meant to create support for the policy.

  2. The writers shield the true impact of the tuition plan by describing it as one "built upon President Obama's decision to allow thousands of young illegal immigrants to remain in the country". There are two problems with this statement. First, the DACA program is for illegal immigrants who haven't yet reached 31, which is not what most people think of when they hear the word "young". Second, the writers describe DACA as a program that has benefitted "thousands" of people, yet over 500,000 have already received legal status through it. Why has the Post described the program so narrowly to its readers? A program that has benefited thousands of young people sounds quite different than a program that has benefited hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are adults.

  3. The writers repeat the misinformation later, writing that "In Virginia, more than 8,000 illegal youths, and in Maryland about 7,000, have been approved for temporary legal status under the federal policy." These estimates come from a USCIS page linked to by the Virginia Attorney General's website, but they are not limited to youths. It is factually incorrect to use the word "youths" since DACA applies to people as old as 30. As defined by Merriam-Webster, a "youth" is someone who "has not yet become an adult". The sentence also contains a subtle bias as indicated by use of the phrase "federal policy". A more appropriate phrase would be "Obama administration policy" since "federal policy" suggests that Congress played a role in the creation of DACA, which it did not.

  4. The Post made two errors in describing DACA when it wrote, "Nationwide, more than half a million applicants have won approval based on their age, length of time in the United States, clean criminal records and full-time enrollment in school." First, one does not have to have a "clean criminal record" to qualify. DACA applicants simply must prove that while in the United States they have "not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, [or] three or more other misdemeanors". The terms of DACA explicitly explain that a person can have two misdemeanors, which is not a clean record. But that's only half the story. The timing of the misdemeanors is significant and multiple misdemeanors may only count as "one" if the act occurs on the same date and is part of a related series of crimes, as explained in the DACA guidelines.

    Second, "full-time enrollment in school" is not a requirement of DACA. One doesn't even have to be in school to qualify for DACA. The guidelines explain one can be "currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or [be] an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States".

    The one positive part of the quote is that the Post finally acknowledges that over half a million people have benefitted from DACA. Unfortunately this fact doesn't appear until paragraph 29 of the 31-paragraph article.

If the Washington Post responds to any of these inaccuracies, this blog post will be updated.