While the ABC and NBC evening newscasts led Tuesday night with President George W. Bush's veto of the Iraq funding bill with pull-out deadlines, CBS began with back-to-back stories trumpeting the cause of illegal immigrants and portraying them as the victims. “Tonight,” Katie Couric teased the CBS Evening News, “tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets of America to rally in support of illegal immigrants” and then, over video of a teen girl and her little sister, Couric fretted, “she was born here, but her parents were deported and there are many more like her.” Of course, it was the choice of the parents to not take the kids with them back to Mexico.
Citing how “it's estimated there are as many as 12 million in this country illegally,” Couric framed CBS's coverage around their agenda: “What are they and their supporters demanding?” Bill Whitaker highlighted the protests and the views of their advocates before acknowledging “the chance for real immigration reform seems slim again this year, so these marchers plan to keep up the pressure to change the laws and stop the deportations, which they say are breaking up families.” The next report picked up the theme: “I'm Sandra Hughes in San Diego, where nine-year-old Adeline Munoz packs for her weekly trip to Tijuana, Mexico. It's the only place she can see her parents. In February, Abel Munoz and Zulma Miranda were deported by immigration officials.” After obligatory heart-rendering soundbites from the kids, Hughes featured the mom: “The deportation was inhumane. Our kids will never forget it. The little one always tells will me, every time I hear a knock on the door, I think it's Immigration." Not until the very end of her piece, about six minutes into the newscast, did viewers hear from someone not so enamored with the cause of the illegals. Hughes set up a clip: “Critics of illegal immigration concede it's a tough situation, but one the parents themselves created.”
A year ago, as recounted in my NewsBusters item, “all three broadcast network evening newscasts led with multiple favorable stories about the day of protests to promote the cause of illegal aliens.” And a look back shows that Katie Couric was just following the path set by her more-watched predecessor, Bob Schieffer, who opened the May 1, 2006 CBS Evening News by trumpeting:
“From coast to coast, from north to south, they wanted us to know what America would be like without them and so millions of immigrants missed work, skipped school and marched in the streets. They want America to find a place for those who came here illegally and it's too soon to know if they changed any minds in Congress. But what we do know is that construction sites shut down, hundreds of restaurants and many small businesses closed across the country...”
This year, ABC and NBC controlled their enthusiasm. But a year ago:
“ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas touted how 'altogether, close to a million people took to the streets in more than 30 cities. And that number could still rise. It was the newest wave of protests against legislation that would increase the penalties for being in the U.S. illegally. Tonight, we have reports from around the country,' including a piece on a 'man in San Antonio, Texas, who broke decades of tradition' -- for 29 years never missing a day of work -- 'to make his own statement.' Over on the NBC Nightly News, which put six reporters on the story, Brian Williams heralded how 'we've been covering a major story unfolding all day,' showcasing video of 'solid people for blocks.' Williams concluded that 'the protests worked in many cases. Stores closed as workers headed out the door, and live television covered it all, all day long. We have comprehensive coverage tonight from coast to coast...'”
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide a transcript of the May 1 CBS Evening News stories championing the cause of illegal immigrants:
Katie Couric's tease:
“Tonight, tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets of America to rally in support of illegal immigrants. She was born here, but her parents were deported-”
Teenage girl: “It's just too much.”
Couric: “-and there are many more like her.”
Couric opened her newscast:
"Hello, everyone. It is May Day, the workers' holiday, and for the second straight year, there were rallies all over America on behalf of millions of people who work in this country illegally -- illegal immigrants. It's estimated there are as many as 12 million in this country illegally. Nearly four million households are headed by an undocumented immigrant. And what are they and their supporters demanding? We have two reports tonight, beginning with Bill Whitaker."
Bill Whitaker, over video of protesters: "Ten thousand in Los Angeles. In Chicago, 150,000. In Orlando, Denver, Houston, dozens of cities across the country, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, calling, like last year, for reform of U.S. immigration laws."
Unidentified female protester: "I want equal rights for everybody and everybody to be treated the same."
Whitaker: "Still, far fewer than last year when one million marched to protest a bill in Congress that would have made it a felony to enter the country illegally. When that bill died, so did some of the movement's fervor."
Fernando Guerra, Loyola Marymount University: "Unfortunately, in American politics, fear is a much greater mobilizer than hope."
Whitaker: "The Latino coalition that was so united last spring is splintered now. Piolin, one of the most popular DJ's in L.A., used his microphone as a bullhorn to get people in the streets last year. This year, he's not urging them to march, but to write a million letters to Congress calling for immigration reform."
Eduardo "Piolin" Sotelo: "The letters are another way to demonstrate that we support immigration reform. That is important."
Whitaker: "Other groups are working to register almost three million new voters, to sign up one million new citizens, to stop federal raids and deportations. More than 220,000 illegal immigrants were deported in the last 12 months, up 20 percent from of the previous year. Fernando Guerra calls it 'political maturity.'"
Guerra: "This year, you're seeing all these groups doing different works in different areas, different sectors, pursuing different strategies, which is a good thing."
Whitaker: "Still, a year later, they're no closer to getting what they want most -- legal status for the 12 million immigrants here illegally. It's at the top of President Bush's domestic agenda again this year -- tougher border security, a guest worker program, and a pathway to citizenship for the millions here illegally already."
George W. Bush: "And they would have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law."
Whitaker: "But the chance for real immigration reform seems slim again this year, so these marchers plan to keep up the pressure to change the laws and stop the deportations, which they say are breaking up families. Bill Whitaker, CBS News, Los Angeles."
Sandra Hughes: "I'm Sandra Hughes in San Diego, where nine-year-old Adeline Munoz packs for her weekly trip to Tijuana, Mexico. It's the only place she can see her parents. In February, Abel Munoz and Zulma Miranda were deported by immigration officials. They had been living in the United States for 18 years on expired visas."
Adeline Munoz, 9-year-old daughter of illegal immigrants: "My dad, he got handcuffed. I felt scared, and I couldn't sleep that day.
Hughes: "Even with an aunt here, the responsibility to cook, clean, and pay bills has fall on 16-year-old Leslie."
Leslie Munoz, 16-year-old daughter of illegal immigrants: "So much on me. It doesn't, I can't any more. It's just too much."
Hughes: "All three Munoz children were born in the U.S., so they are legal citizens, but they weren't celebrating, even on Adeline's birthday last week."
Adeline Munoz: "I don't want to celebrate my birthday because I feel sad that my parents are not here.
Leslie Munoz: "When you see your little sister is heartbroken, she sits there crying, and you wish that you can bring your parents back because she wants them back. It's hard."
Hughes, on a beach by the border fence: "It's unclear how many children have been left behind in the U.S. to fend for themselves since the government launched Operation 'Return to Sender.' Almost 24,000 people have been arrested for visa violations, sparking protests across the country. For those deported back to Mexico, this is what divides families -- the U.S.-Mexico border. Children on one side, the parents on the other, both facing an uncertain future. The Munoz family border reunions are bittersweet. The parents say they just couldn't bring the children to the slums of Tijuana with no jobs and sharing only a room at Zulma's parents."
Zulma Miranda, through translator: "The deportation was inhumane. Our kids will never forget it. The little one always tells will me, every time I hear a knock on the door, I think it's Immigration."
Hughes: "Critics of illegal immigration concede it's a tough situation, but one the parents themselves created."
Rosemary Jenks, Numbers USA: "If a U.S. citizen parent commits a crime and is arrested, nobody is out there protesting that this person shouldn't be separated from his kids to go to jail."
Hughes: "Jenks says part of the problem was past lax enforcement."
Jenks: "Once we routinely enforce the law, we will face this situation much less because there will be fewer people coming in and putting themselves in this position."
Hughes: "Making a decision no parent wants to make. Sandra Hughes, CBS News, Tijuana."