NPR Lines Up Liberal Boosters of 'Path to Citizenship' For Illegal Immigrants

NPR's David Welna stacked his Thursday report on Morning Edition full of liberal politicians and activists who support granting citizenship to illegal immigrants. Welna aired sound bites from a representative of the left-wing SEIU, three Democratic politicians, and a woman who has illegal immigrant family members. He only included one clip from a Republican – Senator John McCain, who has long been a supporter of "comprehensive" immigration reform.

The correspondent also spent much of the segment spotlighting a recent Capitol Hill demonstration in favor of a so-called path to citizenship, where many of his liberal talking heads spoke.

Fill-in host David Greene introduced Welna's report by noting how "thousands of immigrants and their supporters from around the country flocked to the U.S. Capitol yesterday....It was the largest public show of support yet for efforts in Congress to pass a big immigration overhaul this year." The NPR journalist then played four straight clips from the "Citizenship for All" rally – one from a Spanish-language performer and three from liberal speakers: Jaime Contreras of the SEIU, Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez, and New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez.

David Welna, NPR Correspondent; Screen Cap From YouTube Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJAA8XBtfnY | NewsBusters.orgWelna played one more sound bite from a left-leaning politician – Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal – before playing his clip from McCain, where the Arizona Republican was interrogating Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher on the issue of border security. But Senator McCain didn't have the last word, as the correspondent played one more clip from Antoniela Sanchez, who, according to Welna, "has family members not lawfully in the country".

The public radio network has a long track record of liberal bias on the issue of illegal immigration. During a March 2011 report for All Things Considered, NPR's Wade Goodwyn slanted towards so-called "welcoming" and "tolerant" Republicans in Texas by a three-to-one margin. Earlier that month, correspondent Mara Liasson completely excluded anti-illegal immigration conservatives from her report on President Obama's push for "comprehensive" immigration reform.

More recently, in March 2013, Liasson lined up talking heads who support RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' report that advises Republicans to "embrace...comprehensive immigration reform".

The full transcript of David Welna's report from Thursday's Morning Edition:


DAVID GREENE: Thousands of immigrants and their supporters from around the country flocked to the U.S. Capitol yesterday. They were there for a national rally for citizenship. It was the largest public show of support yet for efforts in Congress to pass a big immigration overhaul this year. It came as a group of senators was putting the finishing touches on an immigration bill that will likely be debated well into the summer.

NPR's David Welna was at yesterday's rally.
                   
DAVID WELNA: If there was an anthem for yesterday's 'Citizenship for All' rally, it was likely the song sung by Marisol Hernandez of the Los Angeles group, La Santa Cecilia. (clip of Marisol Hernandez singing in Spanish) 'Change – everything changes' is how the Spanish lyrics translate, and things have indeed changed since the last big push for immigration reform fell apart in Congress six years ago. Jaime Contreras of the Service Employees International Union pointed that out to the crowd.

JAIME CONTRERAS, SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION: We've been here before, but this time it's different. We are different. Washington is different. Now is truly the time for immigration reform. (audience cheers and applauds)

WELNA: Under a hot sun, many in the largely Spanish-speaking crowd waved American flags. One man held a sign proclaiming, 'We Built This Nation'. Others brandished signs reading, 'The Time Is Now'.

Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez was one of more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers who addressed the crowd.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ, (D), ILLINOIS: You need to guarantee that you give me and my colleagues in the Congress of the United States no place to hide. There are no acceptable excuses for failing to pass immigration reform this year, and no excuses will be accepted. (audience cheers and applauds)

WELNA: And New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez sought to assure the throng that things are moving forward on an immigration bill.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D), NEW JERSEY: The 'Gang of Eight' senators, of which I am one – Democrats and Republicans – have come to an agreement on all the major issues. We are writing the bill as we speak, and it will be a strong foundation that we believe can be used at the Judiciary Committee starting next week; then move to the Senate; given input into the House of Representatives; and ultimately, send to President Obama to sign. (audience cheers and applauds)

WELNA: That immigration bill will likely reflect a wide array of lawmakers' concerns. Some want to be sure that immigrants they represent get a better shot at citizenship.

Richard Neal was one of half a dozen Irish-American House Democrats holding a news conference before the rally.

REP. RICHARD NEAL, (D), MASSACHUSETTS (from press conference): Think of those families who can never return to Ireland when a loved one dies. They can never go back for a graduation. They can never go back for a First Communion or a Confirmation, because the trouble is, they might not get back into America.
                       
WELNA: Meanwhile, at a Senate Homeland Security Committee meeting, another member of the 'Gang of Eight' was putting the heat on Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher over border security, which some Republicans say should precede any path to citizenship. That senator was Arizona Republican John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA (from Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing): What can the members of this committee have as a basis to determine the level of border security?

MICHAEL FISHER, CHIEF, U.S. BORDER PATROL: Well, one of the things that we're doing in rolling up at the strategic level is-

MCCAIN: Are you sharing that with Congress?

FISHER: We're just starting to, sir.

MCCAIN: Oh, you're starting to-

FISHER: Yes, sir. This has been an evolution-

MCCAIN: Okay, that's good to know.

WELNA: At about the same time, a group of Latin American immigrants was paying a visit to the office of another 'Gang of Eight' member: Florida Republican Marco Rubio. Twenty-year-old Antoniela Sanchez, who has family members not lawfully in the country, says Rubio's aides assured the group he's still pushing for a big immigration bill.

ANTONIELA SANCHEZ: So, we're leaving here a lot more hopeful, but we know that this is just the beginning. And we have to get to work, in order for everyone else – not only in the Senate, but the House of Representatives – to approve this bill as well, because it's not all – all up to Marco Rubio to pass it or to write it, but it's about having others approve it.

WELNA: She and other advocates vow they'll keep going back to Capitol Hill until such a bill does get approved. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center