Accuracy in Media

In the Washington Post’s never-ending quest to support illegal immigration, the paper has used the technique of undermining common sense with emotion, using the reader’s sympathy for the less fortunate to excuse law-breaking. But there are other tricks in the media playbook. One is to dismiss legitimate concern about illegal immigration as political posturing.

On December 18, 2006, Washington Post writer Timothy Dwyer reported that “The Prince William Board of County Supervisors, alarmed at the financial impact of illegal immigration, has called for a wide-ranging study to determine how much money the problem is costing the county government.” Like many local governments, Prince William County in Northern Virginia is struggling to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants into the area, and “Supervisors say a wave of immigrants is driving up costs for schools, social services, health care and law enforcement.”

The county, as well as the country, has no idea how many illegal immigrants are in the U.S., nor do they have an idea of the negative impact of millions of illegal immigrants on local and state governments. It is unknown how great of an economic impact illegal immigrants place on this country in terms of schools and social services, and with a federal government unwilling to address the problem, local governments are forced to do what Washington has been unwilling to do. But that is not how the Washington Post sees it.

For the Washington Post, the decision by the Prince William County Supervisors to determine the impact of illegal immigration on the county is all a political show: “The supervisors’ demand for the study signals that illegal immigration will be an urgent topic for board members heading into 2007, when they are up for reelection.”

So the leading newspaper in the nation’s capital sees this study as political pandering, rather than a necessary effort to determine the impact of illegal immigration on the county’s social services. That judgment, made by a reporter, reflects the paper’s bias. It doesn’t want to know the cost of illegal immigration, out of fear that the public might demand control over our nation’s borders.

Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville), who proposed the study during a December 12, 2006 Board of County Supervisors meeting, told the Washington Post, “By putting a number on the cost, this gives us an opportunity to push back on the federal government and say, ‘Look what you are doing to us on the local government level.’” Covington added, “I mean, it is the federal government’s responsibility to regulate commerce. They are the ones who are supposed to secure the borders.”

Covington even wants the federal government to reimburse the county for the additional costs of illegal immigration. And, even though he is serious about asking the federal government to reimburse the county, Covington told the Post he is realistic enough to know that the county will probably never get a penny.

The study was originally requested to be completed by Prince William County Executive Craig S. Gerhart by January 16. However, the deadline has since been moved to January 27, because of the massive effort required to coordinate all of the agencies involved.

Other Prince William County Supervisors have also asked Gerhart to include reports on the impact of illegal immigration on different county social services. According to the Post, Supervisor John T. Stirrup, Jr. (R-Gainesville) requested that the study include the impact on the police department and jail and court system, and Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan* (R-Dumfries) requested that the county’s hospitals and health clinics also be reviewed. Supervisor Caddigan told the Post, “Illegal immigration is a big problem in Prince William County. We want to have a solution to it and do whatever it takes to solve it. Nobody is moving on it. The federal government is not doing anything to work on illegal immigration. It is only getting worse.”

According to the Washington Post, about 20 percent of residents of Prince William County are foreign-born, and many “new residents” are illegal immigrants. The Post attributes this increase in Prince William to the real estate development boom that has attracted “undocumented workers” looking for jobs.

But like so much of what is in the paper, this verbiage requires a translation from the politically correct. The Post refers to illegal immigrants as “new residents” and “undocumented workers,” rather than what they are: lawbreakers and illegal immigrants. It is also interesting to note that good-paying construction jobs created by a development boom have apparently enticed illegal immigrants to Prince William County. This runs counter to the notion, advanced by President Bush and others, that illegal aliens are only drawn to jobs “American won’t do” and are low-paying. It would have been nice if the Post had pointed out this fact. But that might have undermined the position of those proposing amnesty for illegals.

In yet another example of the Post’s pro-illegal immigration bias, the article reports that Michele Waslin, director of immigration policy research for the National Council of La Raza, said that a study was recently “released by the comptroller of Texas?that reported that illegal immigrants had a positive financial impact on the state treasury but that they were costing counties hundreds of millions of dollars each year.” But neither the Post nor Waslin say if the “positive financial impact” for the state was greater than the millions of dollars it was costing local governments. This was just another way to confuse the issue and leave out the facts.

Three days before the Washington Post article, the Manassas Journal Messenger, a local Prince William County paper, addressed the same issue. The difference was that the Journal Messenger does not have the Post’s pro-illegal immigration bias. While the Post depicted the study as a form of political pandering, the Journal Messenger wrote that Covington simply wanted the study to be conducted as proof that the federal government is failing at doing its job to enforce immigration laws.

Covington told the Journal Messenger that the study will be “symbolic,” but that he would “like to send a bill to the federal government. They’re the ones that haven’t addressed this issue.” Covington also told the Journal Messenger, “We always talk about having problems in terms of all these costs, but nobody ever sits down and adds them up,” and according to Covington, adding up the costs would help in the search for solutions, and is necessary to determine the county budget.

For Covington, the purpose of the study isn’t political pandering, and instead he tells the Journal Messenger that he “can’t move forward with suggestions on how we solve problems without knowing, ‘What are the real costs?’” Covington’s curiosity isn’t to go after illegal immigrants in the county; instead he tells the Journal Messenger that he simply wants to put a “face” on illegal immigration, adding: “I’m not trying to pile on illegal immigrants. I’m trying to pile on the federal government. They need to deal with the issue.”

For the county, illegal immigration is a budgetary concern. After a call to Supervisor Covington’s office, I learned that the Prince William County Board of Supervisors has some tough budgetary decisions coming up, and the Board needs to know how to allocate taxpayer money to support local schools and social services. Many of these budgetary decisions will be determined by the impact of illegal immigration. In addition, I learned from my phone call that regardless of whether Covington wants the federal government to reimburse the county, this would have to be approved by the eight-member Board and cannot be done simply at Covington’s “demand.”

One might think that a major paper like the Post, supposedly dedicated to the public’s right to know, would support government officials getting the facts about illegal immigration. It doesn’t look that way.

Nevertheless, on January 27, Prince William County will have its answer. Will the results be reported objectively or will the Post try to dismiss the study as a political ploy? If so, the paper’s bias in favor of illegal immigration and lawbreaking will be on display again.

It’s time for some honest and objective journalism from the Post on this issue―for a change.

Author’s note: In the Summer of 1997, I worked as a staff assistant intern in Supervisor Caddigan’s office.




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