Want to get your protest covered in the Times? As long as you're pushing a politically correct cause, you don't need many actual protesters.
Reporter Abby Goodnough hyped a tiny protest of illegal immigrant students in Friday's "Surprising Immigration Crackdown Advances." The "surprise" is that the true blue state of Massachusetts is pondering a crackdown on illegal immigration in the wake of Arizona's new law.
The Times can't get enough of these tiny protests in support of amnesty for illegal immigrants. The paper has previously devoted two full stories to a couple of protests involving four and five students. The paper provided a similar amount of coverage to far, far larger conservative protests like the Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill last September, which drew well over 100,000.
Lawmakers were tangled in budget talks inside the Massachusetts Statehouse this week, but a 19-year-old college student spent even more time at the gold-domed building on Beacon Hill.
Andres Del Castillo, who just finished his freshman year at Suffolk University in Boston, is holding a vigil on the Statehouse steps to protest what could be the state's harshest crackdown on illegal immigrants in decades. The plan, already approved by the Senate, must survive budget negotiations with the House to become law.
Over a photo showing perhaps a dozen students huddled outside the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston (which is apparently a huge turnout as these things go), Goodnough suggested conservative talk show hosts were fostering some of the sentiment:
And while Arizona's tough new immigration policy seemed largely irrelevant here when it passed in April - both legislative chambers are controlled by Democrats who typically pay scant attention to the issue, and Bill O'Reilly of Fox News has derided Massachusetts as a "sanctuary state" for illegal immigrants - ripple effects hit almost immediately.
Goodnough acknowledged the popularity of immigration crackdowns even in liberal Massachusetts.
By the time the Senate moved to tighten restrictions on illegal immigrants last month, a Suffolk University/7 News poll had bolstered the position of Republican lawmakers like Representative Jeffrey Perry, who is running for Congress on a platform of curbing illegal immigration. The poll of 500 registered Massachusetts voters found that more than half supported the Arizona law.
Goodnough heralded the "small group" of brave students that somehow managed to earn a full story in the nation's most influential newspaper:
"We never expected to have to be on the lookout for something like this in Massachusetts," said Mr. Del Castillo, who has barely left the Statehouse since Sunday and said he would stay until the Senate withdrew its legislation. "It's creating anti-immigrant sentiment within our communities, our schools and our work environments."
Mr. Del Castillo and a small group of others conducting the vigil are especially concerned with a provision that would codify into law an existing policy that bars illegal immigrants from qualifying for resident tuition rates at state colleges. Most of them are students themselves, and their group, the Student Immigrant Movement, has also rallied for federal legislation that would allow illegal immigrants who arrived here before they turned 15 to apply for legal residency.
Jose Palma, 22, said he felt obliged to camp out at the Statehouse and buttonhole passers-by about the crackdown to dispel a perception that it would only strengthen existing rules.
"It's not just reinforcing what already exists," said Mr. Palma, who left El Salvador in 1998 and has temporary protected status. "That's why some of us are sacrificing to be here 24/7 - because we want everybody to understand what it is."
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