After the Senate voted down four immigration proposals last week, Politico reported that the action is shifting to the House where Speaker Ryan has to decide whether or not to move the Goodlatte bill (which NumbersUSA has endorsed). H.R. 4760, the Securing America's Future Act, got its 95th cosponsor before Congress went into recess last week, but it remains unclear if it has the votes to pass. Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan report:
"But many moderate Republicans are not on board with the conservative proposal, offered by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). It does not provide a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants and includes a controversial provision to force employers to verify the legal status of their employees."
If that paragraph raises your hackles, you may be one of the majority of Americans who think employers should use E-Verify to ensure their new hires are authorized to work in the United States.
Politico's choice to describe E-Verify - but not a path to citizenship - as "controversial" reveals a subtle but clear bias.
According to Politico's own polling, E-Verify has more public support than a path to citizenship. A 2017 Politico/Morning Consult poll found 65% of registered voters wanted mandatory E-Verify included in an immigration proposal:
That poll didn't ask about a path to citizenship but another Politico/Morning Consult poll from 2017 did:
Politico's own polling shows E-Verify to be less controversial than a path to citizenship, but Politico's reporters describe only E-Verify as being "controversial."
Moreover, Bade and Bresnahan claim that a "moderate" position is one that embraces a path to citizenship but is skeptical of the more-popular E-Verify. The reporters imply that E-Verify is a "conservative" proposal despite Politico's own polling showing that 57 percent of Hillary Clinton voters (and 60 percent of Barack Obama voters) think E-Verify should be part of an immigration bill.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the reporters only meant that E-Verify was "controversial" among Members of Congress. Some Democrats have described E-Verify as a "poison pill" and - as the reporters explain - some Republicans in agricultural districts are under lobbying pressure to allow food producers to continue to hire illegally. Would the reporters claim with a straight face that offering a path to citizenship is not controversial in Congress?
In one paragraph (two sentences) Bade and Bresnahan apply three adjectives ("moderate," "conservative" and "controversial") that serve not to describe but to influence. They suggest to liberal readers who support E-Verify that they are supporting a conservative cause, and that proposals to waive immigration laws are mainstream while proposals to discourage illegal hiring are fringe or extreme (Politico's own polling be damned). The reporters do this throughout the story with terms like "hard-liners" (to describe Republicans who support the Goodlatte amnesty compromise) and "centrists" (to describe Representatives who disagree with the majority of voters on E-Verify).
I doubt the reporters chose their words carefully or put any nefarious thought into trying to persuade their readers rather than inform them. I doubt the editors at Politico nodded approvingly at an insidious plot to turn positive public opinion against aspects of the Goodlatte bill. But intended or not, the misuse of those terms serve to cast one set of proposals in a more favorable light than another and deny readers the opportunity to consider the proposals based on their own merits.
We know that a media bubble exists and that reporters have grown accustomed to writing about immigration often and in ways that are unfavorable to anything Trump supports (an analysis from Harvard found that "Immigration was, at once, both the most heavily covered topic in U.S. news outlets and the topic that drew the most negative coverage. The proportion of negative news reports to positive ones exceeded 30-to-1."). The lack of fairness and accuracy in descriptions is pervasive throughout immigration reporting.
What public good would be lost if the paragraph simply read:
"But many Republicans are not on board with the proposal, offered by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). It does not provide a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants and includes a provision to force employers to verify the legal status of their employees."
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA
Updated: Wed, Mar 7th 2018 @ 8:40am EST