As AZ Immigration Law Looms, ABC Touts Harm to Small Businesses

ABC's "World News" on Sunday caught up to CBS and NBC in fretting about the potential problems caused by illegal immigrants who may be leaving Arizona before the state's new law takes effect on Thursday. Correspondent Barbara Pinto devoted her entire piece to lamenting the possible damage to small businesses whose customers are presumably now leaving the state, but offered less than a sentence to the idea that illegal immigrants are already an expensive burden on state social services.

"The loud and bitter battle over Arizona's immigration law has reached fever-pitch," claimed Pinto. "But Rosario Peralta worries about the quiet exodus – immigrant families already leaving the state in droves. In the past few months, she's seen business and customers at her family grocery store disappear."

After citing two small business owners who attest to the new law's ruinous effect on Arizona's economy, Pinto turned to Judy Gans, a contributor to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and immigration policy expert at the University of Arizona, to reinforce her economic analysis: "SB-1070 is one of a number of laws that have been passed that has the specific intention of making it unpleasant enough for illegal immigrants to be in the state that they leave."

Pinto's report repeats a pattern of network news coverage in which the economic and social impact of illegal immigration is analyzed through a liberal lens and conservative arguments are dismissed.

On the May 3 "Evening News," CBS's Kelly Cobiella highlighted the Quintana family's gut-wrenching decision to leave a state that supposedly no longer welcomes them:
KATIE COURIC: Hundreds of thousands of them [illegal immigrants] now live in Arizona. But as Kelly Cobiella reports, many no longer feel welcome.

KELLY COBIELLA: “On a dusty block in Phoenix, 15 years of the Quintana family’s possessions are for sale. [to Manuela Quintana] When did you decide to leave? [translating] ‘When the governor signed the immigration law,’ Manuela Quintana says, ‘I knew we had to move.’...The family packed up before dawn today and headed north to Colorado. Manuela says she’s lost hope in this state. She thinks she’ll find it again in another.
In her report, the CBS correspondent completely ignored the conservative perspective that cracking down on illegal immigration alleviates the burden illegal aliens, who often do not pay income taxes but reap social benefits such as health care and education, place on local economies. Instead, Cobiella pulled at the viewer's heartstrings to portray Arizona's popular immigration law in a negative light.

On the July 8 "Nightly News," NBC's Lee Cowan shared "telling" anecdotes of small business owners losing customers because immigrant families are fleeing Arizona over the new law: "A look around this once-bustling barrio is telling. The local hair salon has more empty chairs now than customers." The hyperbole continued:
COWAN: For the Bolanos family, they stayed as long as they could.

MARCIAL BOLANOS, Arizona resident: Arizona is a good state, but no more now.

COWAN: He took his 15-year-old son out of school and is headed back to Mexico, which brings Hugo to tears. But you're really going to miss your friends?

HUGO BOLANOS: Yeah.

Instead of contrasting the Bolanos family's story with a conservative view on the economics of illegal immigration, Cowan concluded his teary-eyed piece on a somber note: "It may be months before anyone knows for sure just how many illegal immigrants and their business the law has scared away. Supporters say good riddance, but critics fear the damage has already started."

In most network news reports since the debate over SB-1070 intensified, the economic angle of illegal immigration was ignored. But when it was discussed, the networks focused not on the strain on state budgets, but on the fallout over liberal politicians pushing to boycott Arizona.

On April 27, Pinto and ABC "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer emphasized the potentially devastating impact boycotts would have on Arizona's tourism and hospitality industries without discussing the taxpayer funds that could be saved because fewer illegal aliens would soak up social services.

"Grand Canyon tours, business conventions, even the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team are being targeted," cautioned Sawyer.

"This has happened before," warned Pinto. "Arizona's decision two decades ago not to honor the Martin Luther King Jr holiday cost the state 170 conventions and a Super Bowl. A grand total of $360 million."

Also on April 27, NBC "Nightly News" correspondent Andrea Mitchell dissected the destructive effects of boycotting Arizona without conveying the conservative position on the economic benefits of the state's new law.

"It's now gone beyond protest to threats of a boycott as Arizona becomes a laughingstock to some," proclaimed Mitchell, referring to an SNL skit that likened Arizona to Nazi Germany.

"I really feel that this is one of the biggest anti-business things that the state could have done," opined Ben Bethel, a hotel owner in Arizona.

On the May 13 "Evening News," CBS's Bill Whitaker trumpeted the "growing number of states and municipalities [that] are boycotting or considering boycotting Arizona, pushing the state to repeal the law" and pointed to Arizona's Tourism Board, which estimated the state has lost over $90 million to boycotts, as evidence of the crippling economic effects of Arizona's new immigration law. Yet Whitaker failed to lay out the conservative cost-benefit analysis of the law.

Pinto's June 25 report parroted Whitaker's case against the law: "Threatened boycotts could cost the Phoenix area alone an estimated $90 million in hotel and convention business. Another expense: the flurry of legal challenges, including one by the Obama administration," as if it is Governor Jan Brewer's (R-Ariz.) fault the Obama administration is politicizing the Justice Department or that liberal activists are willing to starve Arizona's economy to see the law repealed.

A transcript of the July 25 ABC "World News" segment can be found below: (H/T to MRC intern Rachel Burnett for the transcript.)

ABC
World News
July 25, 2010

6:17 P.M. E.S.T.

DAN HARRIS: Arizona's controversial new law cracking down on illegal immigrants takes effect this Thursday if it survives a court challenge. But many Hispanics, both legal and illegal, are already heading for the borders. And there's a heated debate over whether that will cost the state more than it saves. Here's Barbara Pinto.

BARBARA PINTO, ABC correspondent: The loud and bitter battle over Arizona's immigration law has reached fever-pitch. But Rosario Peralta worries about the quiet exodus – immigrant families already leaving the state in droves. In the past few months, she's seen business and customers at her family grocery store disappear.

ROSARIO PERALTA, Arizona resident: They're in fear. They want to either go back to other states or they're just not buying at all. They're buying the minimum because they just want to save their money so they can move maybe to another state.

PINTO: The law would make illegal immigration a state crime and would require police who have "reasonable suspicion" to question anyone about their immigration status.

JUDY GANS, University of Arizona: SB-1070 is one of a number of laws that have been passed that has the specific intention of making it unpleasant enough for illegal immigrants to be in the state that they leave.

PINTO: Proponents say the exodus of undocumented workers will open up low-wage jobs and save taxpayers money on schools and social services, but opponents in this state, where one in every three people is Latino, worry they'll pay. Apartment building owner Rollie Rankin is hurting already.

ROLLIE RANKIN, Arizona resident: 1070 has cost us 25 percent of our business and potentially it could have cost us our whole business just because losing 25 percent of your business in a short amount of time is business-threatening.

PINTO: Yet another drag on a cash-strapped state battered by foreclosures. Threatened boycotts could cost the Phoenix area alone an estimated $90 million in hotel and convention business. Another expense: the flurry of legal challenges, including one by the Obama administration. Outside federal court in Phoenix, the protests go on. Inside, a judge will decide if the state crackdown is constitutional and if it will go into effect on Thursday. Barbara Pinto, ABC News.