Pass the Amnesty Bill, Don't Ask Questions

Are the media enabling the immigration bill to be brought back to life?

The media are pulling out all the stops to promote the controversial Senate immigration bill as a crucial Tuesday vote approaches that will determine whether the bill will be resurrected. 

Missing from the reports, however, is acknowledgement that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the bill.   As Rasmussen Reports, a firm that publishes polling data, explained on June 25: “Among the public, there is a bipartisan lack of enthusiasm for the Senate bill. It is supported by 22% of Republicans, 23% of Democrats, and 22% of those not affiliated with either major party. It is opposed by 52% of Republicans, 50% of Democrats, and 48% of unaffiliateds.”

On CNN Newsroom's June 24 broadcast, Ed Henry resorted to outright cheerleading for Senator Kennedy and other McCain-Kennedy supporters:

“Today the chief Democratic supporter, Senator Edward Kennedy, expressed what you might call cautious optimism. He goaded opponents about the cost of doing nothing.

“The alternative is silent amnesty. We know what the opponents are against in the United States Senate. What we don't know is what they're for. We have had 39 days of hearings, 6 days of markups, 52 amendments, 21 days of debate in the United States Senate. And if you're going to oppose this bill, the American people are entitled to hear what you're for. And they haven't told us what they are for.

 “But the problem for Senator Kennedy and President Bush is that conservatives have been very aggressive about using various mediums like talk radio to charge that this bill is really amnesty. It's going to be an uphill battle for Kennedy and other forces to win this week.”

On Sunday evening, NBC misquoted opponents to cast them as xenophobes and ABC News drummed up sympathy for illegal immigrant children barred from health insurance. In Monday's editions, The Washington Post jabbed at states taking responsibility for immigration enforcement from an AWOL federal government, and The New York Times profiled “undocumented” immigrants who would like to attend high school but can't, because of their immigration status and inability to speak English. 

ABC News and the New York Times depicted illegals as victims rather than lawbreakers.  ABC Anchor Dan Harris turned the cameras during World News Sunday on young Sergio, an illegal immigrant with asthma and no health insurance:

“When you're a kid who's here illegally like 13-year-old Sergio, it's even scarier knowing you can't go to the doctor at all. Sergio was diagnosed with asthma when he was an infant. He had no regular doctor. The only option when he had an attack was the emergency room.”

The diploma is “just a dream,” wrote the New York Times, in a June 24 feature story, for “undocumented teenagers” like Jaime Carrera.  Many “undocumented” young people never attend school in the United States, according to the Times, because they have to spend their time working at “scrubbing dishes in restaurant kitchens and hammering away at construction” just to survive. 

The solution, however, is not deportation for the young lawbreakers, but accommodation: “In the opinion of Claire Sylvan, executive director of the Internationals Network for Public Schools, which works with the city's Department of Education to oversee eight schools serving recent immigrants, the challenge is to customize schools by offering night courses and other flexible approaches that will meet these teenagers' needs.”

The Washington Post hammered on states that are stepping up to enforce immigration laws in place of an unwilling federal government. “At least 18 states have enacted laws concerning illegal immigrants,” which the Post describes as “punitive” and reflecting “legislators' anger” at an open border and the prospect of amnesty.  The Post referred to the immigration bill as “bipartisan legislation” and called opponents “strident.”

NBC Nightly News, on June 24, tried to smear amnesty opponents by quoting Pat Buchanan out of context and then using Buchanan's words to savage Rush Limbaugh. 

Nightly News quotes Pat Buchanan: “Many of them are child molesters or drunk drivers, they're rapists, they're robbers, they've got a variety of crimes but they commit a felony by being here.”

NBC's John Yang then declares: “Those emotions are being fanned by conservative radio talk show hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh.” 

Yang leaves the misleading impression that Buchanan had been generalizing about all illegal immigrants during a discussion on MSNBC's Meet the Press. But the segment Yang omitted shows Buchanan was referring only to illegal immigrants who are also convicted felons:  “And you go after, in deportation, the 600,000 who've been ordered deported who are now criminal felons who have stayed in this country.”

David Niedrauer is an intern at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.