Amnesty at Any Cost: the Media Support Illegals, Disparage Law Enforcement

To the mainstream media, it's all about the illegal aliens.

Mainstream coverage of the immigration debate in Congress this week amounted to an indictment against enforcing the border and immigration law, and an elevation of the interests of illegal aliens over the interests of the United States.

The media generally took one of three angles on the immigration story.  Some stories attacked the bill under debate on Capitol Hill for splitting up families, others are using emotionally gripping personal stories of illegal aliens to undermine the enforcement of existing immigration law, and still others are attacking amnesty opponents.    

The major selling point of the bill for conservatives is supposed to be a new “point system” intended to change the immigration priority from relatives of people already in America to highly skilled people who can fill high-tech jobs currently going begging.  The Christian Science Monitor trumpeted in a headline, “In US immigration bill, skills trump family ties.” 

Many news organizations opposed merit-based immigration on principle. A May 20 New York Times editorial sniffed: “But the repellent truth is that countless families will be split apart while we cherry-pick the immigrants we consider brighter and better than the poor, tempest-tossed ones we used to welcome without question.”

The Associated Press attacked the point system in a May 18 news article: “In cultures around the world, aunts and uncles are surrogate parents, cousins are as close as siblings, and blood ties stay strong through multiple generations. If the immigration process doesn't acknowledge those realities, critics say, the effects would be terrible.” The AP news story did not include a single dissenting voice. 

Conservative critics say the point system, scheduled for implementation in eight years, would never go into effect, and in practice is being used as a cover to permit family-based “chain immigration” to continue and even expand.  According to National Review's Stanley Kurtz, the point system “disguises a 15-point increase in family based immigration.”

Rather than engage in substantive discussion of the immigration bill, some journalists preferred to use emotional pitches to drum up sympathy for the plight of illegal aliens. 

The Washington Post plastered a May 20 story with poignant photos of a two-year-old girl whose father, Hector Mendez, was detained in a March 6 immigration raid in Massachusetts.  The Post wrote: “This is Tomasa Mendez -- or her image, at least. At 2 years old, she cannot comprehend the drama swirling around her, the national debate she has come to symbolize.  But she can miss her 'Papi,' and cling ever tighter to her fuzzy green Dora the Explorer blanket.”

On May 18, ABC's Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America solicited opinions from the illegal immigrants themselves. “Don't make us live in fear of being ripped away from our family and friends and the things that we live for. Please, give us a chance. Give us papers so that we can stay here. Let us become legal immigrants,” one anonymous woman said. 

The New York Times ran a news story on May 23 about a young Hispanic boy who reported being “terrorized” when immigration officers entered his apartment to arrest two illegal immigrants who were not even part of his family.  

Personal tragedies are painful, but focusing on isolated anecdotes can obscure broader issues in a public policy debate.  For example, the mainstream media virtually ignored the national security threat posed by an open border.  Three of the six Fort Dix terrorists entered the country illegally across the Mexican border.  

Some journalists hurled insults at people who oppose rewarding illegal immigrants for breaking the law.  In Newsweek's May 28 edition, Fareed Zakariah called pro-border enforcement conservatives “the modern incarnation of the Know-Nothings” and claimed “all the Republican Party can talk about are walls, fences, border guards and attack dogs.”

The Boston Globe opined on May 19, “Cries of 'amnesty' from the nativists in Congress have already been heard. Unless they are ready to arrest, jail, and deport 12 million people, including millions of children, they should stop obstructing progress.”

The New York Times added in a strident May 20 editorial: “It is no comfort to watch as this generation's Know-Nothings bray against 'amnesty' from their anchor chairs and campaign lecterns, knowing that [the prospect of amnesty] gives hope to the people they hate.”


According to MRC's NewsBusters Web site, ABC and CBS supported the immigration bill and did not interview anyone supporting enforcement of current immigration laws.  The two networks glowed about “bipartisanship” and referred merely to “conservative critics” who carped about “amnesty.”  CNN, to their credit, interviewed immigration opponents Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan on several shows.        

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