Specifics needed in news coverage of immigration debate

I blogged a few weeks ago about the need for media types to smoke out the views of state politicians on federal immigration reform.

So it was good to see extensive local coverage of a bipartisan initiative by Sen. Michael Bennet laying out the broadest of principles for immigration reform, like the humanitarian notion that U.S. immigration policy should “prioritize” keeping families together. That is, “where possible.”

The “where possible” caveat symbolizes the document, called the “Colorado Compact.” If the call to “prioritize” wasn’t sufficiently vague, it had to be clouded further with the phrase “where possible.” And there’s no comment on whether immigrant families should be kept together in the U.S. or deported juntos.

Top to bottom, the document is void of details, like how big a fence might be built, if a path to citizenship is essential, and if immigrant kids can get Pell grants, much less the same college-tuition rates offered to American-born kids.

The document calls for a “path forward for immigrants,” but not much in the rubber-hits-the-road category.

That’s fine for a broad community effort, like the Colorado Compact.

But journalists should be focused on specifics.

That’s what pissed me off about most of the news coverage of the Compact. (See a compilation of news coverage on the Colorado Compact’s website here.) It was gushing, mostly without any skeptical edge that you want from reporters.

The coverage barely hinted at stumbling blocks down the line, like Obama’s and other Democrats’ insistence on a path to citizenship and GOP opposition to this (e.g., Coffman, Gardner, Lamborn, Tipton). What about the Dream Act? What about the folks like Tom Tancredo who are saying it’s just wrong, period, to reward a person who’s entered the U.S. illegally with any form of legal status?

What about the folks like Helen Krieble, whose proposal for immigration reform has been floated by some Colorado Republicans like Rep. Ray Scott. Krieble reiterated her immigration proposal on Sunday to approving KNUS talk-radio host Krista Kafer, who’s a former aid to failed GOP Senate candidate Bob Schaffer:

Krieble: So, our recommendation [is to] have these employment agencies outside our borders. So, [illegal immigrants] don’t have to go home to their home countries. But they must go, by appointment, outside the borders, run through the security check, prove they have a job, or take a job, so they’re self-supporting, and return to the United States according to the rule of law. Which, could all be done in 48 hours. Because remember, you don’t have bureaucrats who have no incentives to do a hundred people a day versus two people a day. But a private business has every incentive in the world to do it and do it well and quickly. So, that would be our recommendation.

Krieble’s proposed policy solution is full of unanswered questions regarding its implementation and implications. But Kafer doesn’t venture to open those cans of worms.

We love reporters becasue they deal in the world of specificities, like data, numbers, concrete ideas, etc., and the ramifications of those specific things.

That’s what we want in news coverage of the immigration debate, even if politicians and policy makers don’t want to go there.

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