'Nightly News' Correspondent Laments Tough Fight Over DREAM Act

Previewing yesterday's vote on the DREAM Act, which passed the House 216 to 198, NBC News correspondent George Lewis empathized with supporters of the measure on the December 8 "Nightly News."

Lewis acknowledged the bill's dim prospects for passing the Senate, but stood in awe at the apparent surge in support for the bill: "By the thousands, young people, who as children were brought here illegally by their parents, have been going public in support of the DREAM Act."

The network reporter used interviews with young supporters of the bill to pull on the viewer's heartstrings.

"It would be a waste if they graduated from high school and they're not able to pursue higher education because of their legal status," lamented William Perez, a developmental psychologist at Claremont Graduate University.

"We want to contribute back to a society, a society that has been my own," implored Maria Duque, an illegal immigrant attending Fullerton Community College.

Lewis did interview Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, but only after juxtaposing the strong conservative message against Duque's appeal for compassion:

DUQUE: So many dreams will be truncated, so many dreams and hopes of doing something for this country will not happen.

LEWIS: But Maria and her counterparts know that the DREAM Act faces tough opposition in Congress and from groups opposing immigration reform.

STEIN: To actually reward people who broke the law is nonsense, it's immoral, and it's wrong.

For good measure, Lewis concluded the segment by reiterating Duque's and Perez's position on the urgency of the moment: "A lot of young people with high hopes and no papers are keeping a close eye on the congressional debate because their future is riding on it."

NBC's puff-piece on the DREAM Act contrasts markedly, as MRC analyst Scott Whitlock reported, with the networks's critical coverage of the Arizona immigration bill.

A transcript of the segment can be found below:


NBC
Nightly News
December 8, 2010

7:08 P.M. EST

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Another piece of business, this lame duck Democratic Congress is trying to get done is passage of what's called the DREAM Act, giving a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who go to college or the military. George Lewis is covering this story in Los Angeles tonight. George, good evening.

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC News correspondent: Good evening, Brian. The House of Representatives is debating the DREAM Act tonight and if it passes it heads on to the Senate, likely tomorrow, where it faces tougher sledding. This as immigrant rights groups are pressing for passage of the measure.

By the thousands, young people, who as children were brought here illegally by their parents, have been going public in support of the DREAM Act. That act would grant legal residency to undocumented high school grads who came to this country before they were 16 years old, have lived here for five years, and have no criminal records, if they attend college or serve in the military for two years.

WILLIAM PEREZ, Claremont Graduate University: It would be a waste if they graduated from high school and they're not able to pursue higher education because of their legal status.

LEWIS: He says only about 20 percent of undocumented students go to college now, but of those he studied, 70 percent become student leaders. They include Maria Duque, student body vice president and honor student at Fullerton Community College, whose parents brought her here from Ecuador at age five. she wants to get a law degree.

MARIA DUQUE, undocumented student: We want to contribute back to a society, a society that has been my own.
 


LEWIS: But Maria and her counterparts know that the DREAM Act faces tough opposition in Congress and from groups opposing immigration reform.

DAN STEIN, foundation for American Immigration Reform: To actually reward people who broke the law is nonsense, it's immoral, and it's wrong.

LEWIS: Wrong, they contend, because these students would be competing for jobs against American citizens.

DUQUE: So many dreams will be truncated, so many dreams and hopes of doing something for this country will not happen.

LEWIS: They say they're undocumented and unafraid, but they also know many Americans consider them unwanted. A lot of young people with high hopes and no papers are keeping a close eye on the congressional debate because their future is riding on it. Brian?

WILLIAMS: George Lewis in our LA bureau tonight. George, thanks.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.