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CNN's Harris: Tough on Arizona Law Author, Soft on Left-Wing Activist

On Thursday's Newsroom, CNN's Tony Harris played hardball with Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, the author of the SB1070 anti-illegal immigration law in the state, while not asking one tough question with his other guest, pro-illegal immigration activist Isabel Garcia. Surprisingly, Harris did finally explicitly identify the pro-open borders organization that Garcia leads [audio clips available here].

The CNN anchor brought on Pearce and Garcia to discuss a federal district justice's Wednesday injunction against key provisions in the Arizona law. He identified the state senator as the "lawmaker who co-sponsored the immigration bill," and his other guest's role as "co-chair of the Tucson-based Coalition for Human Rights." This contrasts with their earlier joint appearance with Harris on July 7, where the anchor merely identified Garcia as the "deputy public defender in Pima County, Arizona." He still neglected to mention this organization's pro-illegal immigration stance (not to leave out their website, which features a logo incorporating the southwestern states into Mexico).


After getting each of their initial reactions and after the two argued over the legislation, Harris began pressing the state senator, reading part of Judge Susan Bolton's decision, and left little doubt that he agreed with the injunction:

HARRIS: Let's deal with some of the language. You mentioned the language in the judge's decision yesterday. Let's deal with a little bit of it, State Senator Pearce. Here's some of that language from the judge- from Judge Bolton: 'Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked.' Isn't the judge correct in that statement?

 PEARCE: You know- you know-

HARRIS: In that statement, in that narrow statement.

PEARCE: No, absolutely not- we do that- hang on.

HARRIS: Okay.

PEARCE: We arrest people today for every crime based on probable cause. We put them in jail, they wait a hearing or they wait a trial. The judge- and they have a hearing. This is outrageous comment. She- and her other comments, you need to read it all- she also says in there that we're afraid it would interfere with the priorities of the administration. There's no place in law for that. It's illegal. We have a right to enforce that. Our citizens have a constitutional right to expect those laws to be enforced, and in Arizona, we're going to enforce them.

Later in the segment, following more back-and-forth between the two guests, Harris returned to playing hardball with Pearce:

HARRIS: State Senator Pearce, why continue to fight for this law? Why not push Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano- all right, you know her well- and push Congress to resource the enforcement effort on existing federal law? Why fight over this?

PEARCE: This is existing. That's- and that's a good point. This is just codifying federal law.

GARCIA: No, it's not-

PEARCE: It's against the law to enter. It's against the law to remain. You must have your (unintelligible) with you if you're a visitor- legally, even. You've got to carry your visa with you, your passport- your I-9. That's exactly what this does. This codifies federal- that's why we'll win in the Supreme-

HARRIS: Why would you want the requirement in there? Why did you want the requirement in the language?

GARCIA: (unintelligible) The court said it was different classifications-

PEARCE: They have the authority under federal law, but they've ignored it. Sanctuary cities are illegal, but they've ignored it, and they have policies, you know- and the federal government doesn't sue those cities that are in violation of the law, but they sue Arizona for protecting its citizens? That's why. This is a good law. It codifies federal law. It takes the handcuffs off law enforcement.

Near the end of the segment, the CNN anchor asked one more question, while letting Garcia have "the last word" of the segment. Other than prompting her for her initial reaction to the injunction, Harris did not ask her any other questions.

HARRIS: You've said a couple of times here that the handcuffs come off of law enforcement. What does that mean? What does that mean? What are you saying?

PEARCE: It means sanctuary cities and policies-

HARRIS: Okay-

PEARCE: Policies that restrict law enforcement are illegal under federal law. They now will be illegal under state law. And the citizens- 'we the people'- kind of a novel term- I like it. I believe our founders put it in there for a reason. Our citizens can sue their government if they violate the law. If they have a policy that restricts law enforcement at any degree- limits them or restricts them- it's illegal, and the citizens will be able to sue up to a $5,000 fine per day for every day that policy remains in effect that's in violation of the law. So this does have teeth-

HARRIS: All right-

GARCIA: They are going to be restricted from (unintelligible) our immigration law-

HARRIS: Isabel, let me give you the last word on this. Go ahead.

GARCIA: Senator Pearce is ignoring that the core of his law was to criminalize immigrants- undocumented people who did not have proper paperwork.

PEARCE: Illegal aliens- nothing to do with immigrants.

GARCIA: Well, it's immigrants.

PEARCE: You know, let's get it right. Get it right.

GARCIA: I don't know who is an alien. I don't know if Superman is an alien. (Pearce laughs) But I'm telling you, we're talking about human beings, and you have a lot of nerve to attack the immigrants that have contributed mightily into this country-

PEARCE: Illegal aliens-

GARCIA: We don't have 11 million undocumented immigrants because we give any freebies. They're here because they have continued to contribute to our country. They have built the West, and they continue to contribute over and over and over- Social Security, suspense fund- I mean, all of it is very clear. Senator Pearce is a pretty hateful man-

PEARCE: You want me to give you the real facts?

GARCIA: And he's very upset- very upset that his bill has been gutted.

CNN given Garcia the kid glove treatment during the majority of her appearances. Soledad O'Brien cast a sympathetic light on the pro-illegal immigration activist during her "Latin in America" miniseries in October 2009, while Suzanne Malveaux also omitted her stance on the issue, as well as the name of her organization, during an April 23, 2010 panel discussion. The only exception to this trend was during a October 22, 2009 segment, where anchor Anderson Cooper fairly asked about her participation a 2008 protest where she participated in the beating and decapitation of a pinata effigy of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona.

-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.