WaPo Highlights 'Local Opinion' Politicizing Nun's Death in Favor of 'Comprehensive Immigration Reform'

The Washington Post has an opinion blog entitled "All Opinions Are Local." Print edition editors regularly pick from the blog to excerpt a post to the editorial page under the heading "Local Opinions."

Today's entry, "Stop the torrent of hate after a deadly drunk-driving crash," was filed by one Simone Campbell of Washington, whom the Post noted "is executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice advocacy group." The online edition bears a much blander headline, "A proper tribute to Sister Denise," referring to Denise Mosier, the nun who was killed in a Sunday car crash by repeat DUI offender and illegal immigrant Carlos Martinelly-Montano.

In her 3-paragraph piece, Campbell essentially lumped xenophobes and racists in with conservative critics of law immigration enforcement, slamming "hate speech" on "The Post's online comments section" and insisting that Martinelly-Montano's immigration status did not cause "this tragedy." Campbell then promptly proceeded to politicize Mosier's death by arguing that "comprehensive immigration reform" would "be a proper tribute to Sister Denise's memory."

The Post did not note that Campbell's group Network supports a "Realistic path to earned legalization for people in the U.S. without status," in other words, amnesty to immigrants in the United States illegally. 

What's more, by publishing Campbell's mini-screed, the paper passed over a more measured, conservative post by Paige Winfield Cunningham of the blog Old Dominion Watchdog. 

In her 8-paragraph August 4 post, "The human cost of immigration dysfunction,"  Cunningham cautioned against politicizing a tragedy, but noted that doesn't excuse ignoring the policy implications of lax immigration enforcement:

Victims exist on both sides of every issue.

They're easy to find on the left side of the immigration debate -- for example, the children of illegal immigrants whose parents constantly fear deportation and struggle to create a life better than the one they left behind.

On the other side of the debate, victimization is often expressed in large numbers that fail to communicate individual suffering -- like how health-care services funded by taxpaying citizens are strained by millions who don't pay.

But this week, a tragic accident involving three Benedictine sisters from Richmond offered the right a story of how deportation gridlock hurts real people. One of the nuns was killed and two were left in critical condition after their vehicle collided with a car driven by 23-year-old Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano, an apparently illegal immigrant who was charged in the accident with DUI for the third time.

It's ironic that the crash occurred in Prince William -- the county known as the toughest in the state on immigration. Prince William has been something of a microcosm of the larger debate since it enacted a policy in 2008 requiring officers to check immigration status upon arrest.

In the first full year of the policy, 13 percent of arrests for DUI were suspected illegal immigrants, according to the 2009 Prince William County Police Report. Illegal immigrants also constituted 10 percent of drivers without licenses and 9.4 percent of drivers in hit-and-run accidents.

The Benedictine Sisters have warned against using Monday's accident for political gain, saying they "are dismayed and saddened that this tragedy has been politicized and become an apparent forum for the illegal immigration agenda."

But these three nuns, and the victims of other such accidents, shouldn't be ignored.

Space considerations may have factored into the Post not running Cunningham's item in full, but it could have posted an excerpt lengthy enough for print but just enough to tease readers to check out the Post website. Instead, Post editors opted to run an editorial by a professional left-wing activist over a local political blogger. 

It's not surprising given the Post's editorial bent, perhaps, but it is a disservice to print edition readers given the marked contrast between Campbell's simplistic, boilerplate screed and Cunningham's measured tone, which is the furthest thing possible from Campbell's straw man of pseudonymed blog commenters venting their spleens with anti-immigrant hate.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters