It doesn’t seem to matter how small it is, a left-wing protest can always draw a national network TV camera. On CNN’s Newsroom program on Wednesday morning, the network founded by Ted "Call No One Foreign" Turner presented a northern Virginia controversy over illegal immigrants through a familiar lens -- highlighting a few hundred protesters charging racism in the supposedly outrageous demand that government officials have the right to inquire into the immigration status of potential illegal aliens in police custody.
A Republican proposal before the Prince William County Board, modified and softened after consulting with county police and legal counsel, was approved unanimously on Tuesday night – but mysteriously, the story by Brian Todd on Wednesday morning was never updated (it also ran late Tuesday). The Washington Post story from Nick Miroff on Wednesday is here. While CNN focused on the small group of protesters, it typically ignored how county supervisors voted unanimously with what they believed the majority of their constituents -- not a minority chanting for TV cameras -- wanted.
Todd wanted a quick look-at-the-racists story, but he didn’t look deeper into how illegal immigration is swelling the county’s public service costs. (I can tell you from personal experience that my daughter’s third-grade classroom last year needed an aide to handle seven non-English speaking students, for example.) In Thursday’s Post story, Miroff reported that the percentage of Hispanic students – including many legal ones – has nearly quadrupled in the past decade in the county, from 6.6 to 24.2 percent. Todd didn't notice that Woodbridge also hosts a consulate for the government of El Salvador, where many local residents are demanding the right to vote in El Salvador -- as well as in the United States.
National reporters only want to tell the story as white bigots uncomfortable with a creeping tide of Latinos – not as a story where American taxpayers might have outrage at the notion that people can sneak into the country and demand a full array of benefits and subsidies out of their pocketbooks. This story was relatively easy for CNN’s Washington bureau to get, since it’s about a half-hour drive from downtown to Prince William County government headquarters in Woodbridge. Here’s how it unfolded:
TONY HARRIS: A new attempt to crack down on illegal immigration to tell you about now drawing loud protests in one community. CNN's Brian Todd takes a look.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Hundreds of protesters converge on a government building in Prince William County, Virginia, channeling their wrath toward one man. The crowd, mostly Hispanic, accuses county supervisor John Stirrup of racism, harassment. Stirrup's trying to pass a new law which would turn police into de facto immigration agents.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP (CHANTING IN SPANISH)
JOHN STIRRUP, PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY SUPERVISOR: When they encounter an individual involved in a violation of a crime or an ordinance, to ask that question among other questions that they ask during a typical preliminary interrogation. Ask that question of their immigration status.
TODD: That may apply even to routine traffic stops. Then the police would send that information to federal agencies with the idea of getting that person deported. But Stirrup is not stopping there. He eventually wants people applying to send their kids to local schools to be asked the same questions about their immigration status, as well as people using fire and rescue and other emergency services.
This is where the CNN story needed an update. The proposal was modified from allowing (not mandating) inquiries into immigration status only when suspects were in police custody. In fact, the entire county policy is still in flux, with many guidelines about how to go about screening public services for illegal aliens still to be determined.
TODD: Under federal law, the county cannot deny anyone these services, but Stirrup wants to use the services to flag any illegal immigrants. He says he's doing this because he got numerous calls from constituents complaining that illegal immigrants were overpopulating neighborhoods, trashing the streets, causing crime to skyrocket, and draining resources. But these protesters and other immigrant advocates say Stirrup's proposed solution is nothing short of profiling.
RICARDO JUAREZ, MEXICANOS SIN FRONTERAS: Why they would ask that to us, to the brown people, to the Latino people. So I don't know if under this law the white officials or the white workers on the county will request the same questions to white persons.
TODD: The county police are also against the proposal. They say it will add too much to the officers' workload and turn the immigrant community against them. Brian Todd, CNN, Woodbridge, Virginia.
CNN only questions the motives of opponents of illegal immigration. Why can't they ask a man with a group with "no frontiers" in the name what kind of public policy it is to wipe out the notion of a border? And why don't the Mexicans have that policy? Why do the protesters get all of the sympathy and none of the hard questions?