The Immigration Story That's Not Written

Immigrants helped build this great country.

We welcome 1 million legal immigrants every year. And America’s generosity toward legal immigrants will continue regardless of the outcome of the current debate on immigration policy.

But that debate simmers with emotion. For the sake of our country, we must make decisions based on facts. Unfortunately, facts are hard to find in the news coverage of this issue.

A report by the Media Research Center (MRC) reveals that the three major broadcast networks, ABC, NBC and CBS, have greatly skewed the immigration story. The MRC examined 309 stories from the networks from March 24 through May 31. This time period stretches from the time of the first pro-illegal immigration rallies to the passage of the Senate’s immigration bill. The results of MRC’s research are illuminating.

The networks argued that the protest rallies showed widespread support for “pro-immigrant” reform. However, they ignored their own public opinion polls that suggested otherwise. For example, CBS never cited its own poll findings that 87% (April 6-9) or 89% (May 4-8) of Americans said that the problem of illegal immigration was “very serious” or “somewhat serious.”

On March 25, NBC cited a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, claiming that “59% of Republicans disagree with a temporary worker program for illegal immigrants.” In fact, the poll found that 59% of all Americans disagreed with the temporary-worker program, not just Republicans.

In addition, the networks were twice as likely to feature advocates of amnesty or a guest-worker program as they were to feature advocates of increased border security.

The disparity was most pronounced on the days of the rallies for illegal immigrants. On the evening of one large rally on April 10, the sound-bite count on the three major networks was 43 to 2 in favor of the protesters. On the evening of another rally on May 1, the sound-bite count was 62 to 8.

And while the networks aired plenty of sympathetic stories portraying hard-working illegal immigrants, stories discussing the costs of illegal immigration to society were scarce. The networks carried only six stories that mentioned studies suggesting the illegal immigrants cost taxpayers more than they contribute in tax dollars. Only six additional stories discussed the problem of criminal aliens.

The Media Research Center report paints a clear picture. The three major networks favor the pro-amnesty or guest worker program positions while shortchanging those who advocate tighter control over our borders.

The networks need to recognize that protests are an incomplete measure of public opinion. In addition, both sides of a debate should be given the opportunity to speak in news stories, and both sides of an argument should be part of any story.

For now, though, the public should be on notice: they are not getting the full story on immigration.