Networks Offer Scant Coverage of Liberal DREAM Act, Frothed Over Arizona Immigration Bill

For much of the spring and summer, the big broadcast networks threw staff and airtime at covering Arizona's attempt to control its borders against rampant illegal immigration. Liberals detested Arizona's "harsh" new law, so the media elite reflexively treated it as a scandal in their coverage.

But now, Congress is debating a liberal immigration plan, the so-called "DREAM Act," that would amount to amnesty for possibly one million illegal immigrants, and cost taxpayers up to $6 billion in higher education subsidies. Yet over the last five weeks, the three major networks have offered almost no coverage of the DREAM Act, which may be up for a vote as early as today.

In contrast, when Arizona was considering stricter enforcement of illegal immigration, the networks "aired a whopping 120 stories in a little over three months, with an almost ten-to-one tilt against the Arizona law (77 negative, 35 neutral, 8 positive)." For more, see the MRC's July 28, 2010 Media Reality Check.

The unpopular DREAM Act, which is being considered in the lame duck session of Congress, has been referenced a combined total of just four times since the November 2 midterm elections. (This includes the evening newscasts and the morning shows.)

Jake Tapper accounted for all three of the brief mentions on ABC. On November 30, he blandly explained on Good Morning America: "And there are other Democratic items being discussed, including the DREAM Act, which is for education for the student, for the children of immigrants." (The other two examples were clips from a White House press briefing.)

National Review contributor Mark Krikorian outlined concerns about the bill on December 1:

And yet what does the DREAM Act say about fraud? As Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) points out in "Ten Things You Need To Know about S-3827, the DREAM Act," the measure "prohibits using any of the information contained in the amnesty application (name, address, length of illegal presence that the alien admits to, etc.) to initiate a removal proceeding or investigate or prosecute fraud in the application process." This is like playing a slot machine without having to put any money in - any illegal alien can apply, and if he wins, great, but if he loses, he can't be prosecuted even if he lied through his teeth about everything. No amnesty proposal can be taken seriously unless applicants are made to understand, right up front, that any lies, no matter how trivial, will result in arrest and imprisonment.

Another problem with DREAM, which all amnesties share, is that it will attract new illegal immigration. Prospective illegal immigrants, considering their options, are more likely to opt to come if they see that their predecessors eventually hit the jackpot. In 1986, we had an estimated 5 million illegals, 3 million of whom were legalized. We now have more than twice as many as before the last amnesty, and they've been promised repeatedly that if they hold out a little longer they'll be able to stay legally. Any new amnesty, even if only for those brought here as children, will attract further illegal immigration.

According to a November 15 poll by NBC News, 55 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly oppose the bill. Yet, viewers wouldn't know that from the lack of coverage.

CBS' John Dickerson commented on the legislation once, in an aside for the December 5 Evening News. The only mention on NBC came when Republican Senator Jon Kyl brought it up on the November 28 Meet the Press.

Clearly, ABC, CBS and NBC see nothing contentious about the DREAM Act

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- Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.