Archive for December, 2012

Post’s style guide on usage of phrase “illegal immigrant” raises questions

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

As an addendum to a shrill column by Ruben Navarette arguing that the term “illegal immigrant” should not be replaced by a phrase like “undocumented worker,”  The Denver Post Perspective section published its own guidelines on how Post journalists should use the terms.

Unfortunately, the explanation apparantly only appeared in the print edition.

I was going to ask The Post to put it online, and I’m thinking its omission was just an oversight, but before I did, I thought I’d put it out there for people to see:

Newspaper usage     

The Denver Post: The Post uses the term “illegal immigrants” in referring to citizens of foreign countries who are in this country with no passport, visa or other document to show that they are entitled to visit, work or live in the United States. We do not use “illegal aliens” or “illegals” except in direct quotes or in rare cases when the official government term “illegal aliens” is unavoidable. We will not use the nouns “alien” and “illegal” in headlines. The term “undocumented immigrants” or “undocumented workers” is an acceptable synonym but is more vague.

The Associated Press: The AP also prefers the term “illegal immigrant.” Unless quoting someone, the news service does not use the terms “illegal alien,” “an illegal,” “illegals” or the term “undocumented.”

My question for The Post is, what constitutes sufficient proof that an individual doesn’t  have a “passport, visa or other document to show that they are entitled to visit, work or live in the United States.”

If someone admits not having proper documentation? If immigration officials or police make this determination? If someone can’t produce documentation immediately? What’s the evidentiary standard?

It’s one thing to label the group of people who are presumably in the United States illegally as “illegal immigrants,” but it’s another to presume any single individual is an “illegal immigrant.”

Last year, Post City Editor Dana Coffield told me that The Post only refers to someone’s immigration status “when it becomes part of and material to the public record”–unlike talk-radio host Peter Boyles who dehumanizes himself and all of us by implying or asserting that someone with a Spanish surname is an “illegal.”

In his column in The Post, Navarette argued in part:

• The wording is accurate. When you enter the United States without permission or overstay a visa, you break a law. Vargas notes that “being in a country without proper documents is a civil offense, not a criminal one.” True. But the word “illegal” simply means against the law, and civil laws can be broken just like criminal ones.

• The proposed change is, for the most part, about being politically correct. And this is not a good spot from which to practice journalism. My profession isn’t about making folks comfortable. That’s public relations. At its best, journalism is about making them uncomfortable.

• The word police simply want to sanitize the debate, so that immigration reformers don’t get their hands dirty by condoning illegal activity.

Anyway, I’ll ask The Post my question about its style guide next week, and I’ll include a few of the best questions from my readers, if you have any. Shoot them my way, if you do to


Media omission: Tancredo says Metro lawsuit “probably going nowhere”

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo told me this week that his idea to sue Metro State University for offering a reduced tuition rate to the children of illegal immigrants is “probably going nowhere.”

Tancredo said back in October that he was having trouble locating a student plaintiff, and he said he still can’t find an out-of-state student who’s willing to endure the “perceived retribution” that TAncredo says would result from filing the lawsuit, which would seek damages based on the notion that the illegal immigrant should not receive a lower tuition rate than that of an out-of-state student.

Asked what kind of retribution might be expected, Tancredo said that no one would get thrown out of school, but there could be “problems with professors and grades.”

Tancredo said he’s unlikely to pursue a legal strategy without a student plaintiff.

“It’s risky, at best,” he said. “I’m not in it for the grins of it. I want to succeed. Without a student, we just don’t have a good strategy to employ.”

Tancredo said the recent Republican election loss, resulting in part from the GOP’s unpopularity among Hispanics, was not a factor in his thinking about the Metro lawsuit.

“Believe me,” he said, “I would pursue this regardless of what happened in the election,” adding that Hispanics vote for Democrats because they like big government, not because vocal segments of the GOP, led by Tancredo, have called for a crackdown on illegal immigration.

Hispanics vote for Democrats for the same reason that other people vote for Democrats,” he said.

So is Tancredo pursuing another anti-immigration project?

He said he’d like to push a Colorado law like the one in Arizona targeting illegal immigrants, but he’s got “nothing on the front burner.”

And he’s not worried his high-profile activities alienate Hispanics from the Republican Party.

“My hope is that we can begin to make inroads with Hispanics who realize the problems that plague the countries they fled are the problems being created by Democrats in this country,” he said. “Unless they’re trying to replicate the economic basket cases that they came from, they should try to create different political allegiances.”

Where Are Those “More Tax Cuts for the Millionaires!” Protests?

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

You may recall one of the most effective organizations supporting the re-election of George W. Bush was Billionaires for Bush!

The billionaires trailed Bush and Cheney around the country, with signs like “It’s a Class War and We’re Winning” and “Widen the Income Gap.” The billionaires liked to say they paid for eight years of Bush, and so throwing him out after four years was a rip-off.

I was thinking about Billionaires for Bush when I saw a roundup of news coverage from around the country of protests Saturday against extending tax cuts for the top two percent.

They weren’t giant demonstrations, but you had 25, 50, 100 people in dozens of venues. In Colorado, there were about 25 folks in Grand Junction and about 50 people in front of Fava’s restaurant in Aurora.

Whether this impresses you or not, you’d agree that what you do not see are the top two percent in the streets, with signs like, “More Tax Cuts for Millionaires Now!” “What’s Good for the Top 2% Is Good For YOU,” “Keep On Tricklin'”, “Another Yacht, for the Good of the People,” or “Why Own Just One House When You Can Have Five?”

The fact that you don’t see those folks demonstrating at all adds news value to the protests by the folks like Fair Share Colorado and Protect Your Care, who were among the organizers of the protest in Aurora. Yet, Saturday’s demonstration got zero news coverage in Denver, as far as I can tell.

Reporters should not only cover events like the one in Aurora but also point out that the super rich aren’t in the streets over this. What’s up with them? Too busy? Embarrassed to put their faces out there?

I’m serious. The Denver Post ran a piece on its Spot Blog yesterday about 50 business leaders who signed a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation asking them to solve the fiscal-cliff problem. They didn’t even take a position on extending the Bush tax cuts for the super rich. Overall it was a mushy letter, its impact derived from the compiled signatures of wealthy, powerful elites, who call for resolution and compromise. With only vague platitudes, agreeing with overall public sentiment, the letter is more appropriate for a story on the Society Page.

Yet, the Post found the letter more newsworthy than 50 folks actually standing in Aurora, who called on Rep. Mike Coffman, specifically, to prioritize the “middle class over millionaires,” and to end tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners.

“Representative Coffman should not hold out for tax cuts for the richest among us,” said Aurora real estate agent Jeanne May, an Aurora real estate agent and member of Colorado Fair Share. “He needs to vote for middle class tax cuts for people like me not tax breaks for millionaires who don’t need them.”

So Jeanne May has thrown down the gauntlet to super rich out there–and reporters. Will there be a response? When will we see the luxury street protests, or somehow, the faces of the top two percent?

Where are those Billionaires for Bush now?

Small business owners and others ask Rep. Mike Coffman to end tax cuts to two percent of income earners

Small business owners, veterans, and others ask Rep. Mike Coffman to end tax cuts to two percent of income earners.

Post should have noted that CO House Republicans don’t favor citizenship path

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

The Denver Post’s Sunday editorial, “Immigration’s Time Has Come,” pointed out the “flaws” in not one but two GOP immigration bills, floated or introduced last week in Congress.

One proposal actually reduces visas for poor people from places like Africa, to make room for higher-achieving immigrants, favoring one group over the other. The other bill allows undocumented kids to attend college and get work visas.

But neither offers a path to citizenship, as The Post favors.

Why doesn’t The Post get local and offer some suggestions on how our favorite local Republicans will get on board?

The Post need look no further than its own website to find Rep. Mike Coffman saying:

Coffman: “I consider myself aligned with Congressman Tancredo in that he fundamentally believes that we need to secure our borders and that we should not grant either amnesty and a path to citizenship to those who have violated our laws.”

Rep. Scott Tipton also has opposed it on The Post’s pages, as did Rep. Doug Lamborn. Rep. Cory Gardner opposes it, too.

It’s great for The Post to favor comprehensive immigration reform and to criticize the GOP’s half-baked proposals.

But does it have any suggestions on how Colorado’s Republican Congressmen can buck off the hard-line anti-immigration activists and talk-radio hosts from their backs and support comprehensive immigration reform?