The Washington Post's February 16 story, "Prince William’s struggle offers mixed lessons for immigration reform," included a sentence remarkable not only for its incendiary tone but also for the fact that neither the reporters who filed the story nor their editors thought to revise their inflammatory language.
"Prince William has changed dramatically since 2007," the reporters stated, "when officials, responding to a massive influx of poor and often undocumented Hispanics, passed an unusually tough ordinance aimed at driving them out."
In that sentence, the Post implies that the primary purpose of Prince William County, Virginia's enforcement ordinance was not to address illegal immigration ("and often" suggests that was a secondary consideration) but to "drive out" people who are "poor" and "Hispanic."
Although the Post writes as if it has a window into the ordinance' authors and supporters motives, there is no evidence of anti-Hispanic or anti-poor bias. Assumption is a dangerous way to report the news.
There's no justification for a policy aimed at driving poor Hispanics out of an American community. If the Post's narrative is to be believed, then the 8 elected elected officials who unanimously supported the ordinance must be seen as persons with monstrous ulterior motives.
If readers accept that, then they must reach the same conclusion about the 63 percent of county police officers who said they personally supported the policy, as well as the 63 percent of likely U.S. voters who believe police officers should check the immigration status of a person at a routine traffic stop if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally.
Using the Post's story as a guideline, the federal government becomes party to the conspiracy as well. Prince William County's ordinance, which was passed in 2007 and amended in 2008, requires officers to "investigate the citizenship or immigration status of all persons who are arrested for a violation of a state law or county ordinance when such arrest results in a physical custodial arrest.” The Obama administration's Secure Communities Program works in similar ways by checking the immigration status of any suspect who has his or her fingerprints taken.
The Post's logical endgame is that no one who supports immigration enforcement in the interior can escape judgment.
The Post's story is one of many examples of the successful campaign by anti-enforcement advocates to cast any person, county, state, or law that wants to crack down on illegal immigration as anti-Hispanic. The false charge has been repeated so often that many in the media now appear to accept it as fact. Google "harsh rhetoric" and you'll quickly see that the media is borderline-obsessed with the phrase, particularly in its immigration coverage. Ironically, the Washington Post appears to be blind to its own "harsh rhetoric" - even within a worthy story about how Prince William County has set an example for respectful disagreement. How can the country heed the media's call for a more civil immigration debate when the media itself perpetuates ugly stereotypes against supporters of immigration enforcement?
The other great irony is that the 12.4 million American citizens of Hispanic decent who live in poverty today disappear within the media's immigration blind spots. They are most likely to be in direct competition with the 11 million illegal aliens who will be granted work authorization if Congress passes an eighth amnesty (previous 7 amnesties here). A media establishment that instinctively views interior enforcement as being "anti-Hispanic" will never understand the argument for immigration enforcement as a tool for economic justice.
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA