ABC Blames Angry, Emotional Americans for Immigration Debate

On Monday's "Good Morning America," co-host Diane Sawyer reported live from Mexico and repeatedly blamed U.S. rage for much of the controversy over illegal immigration. After introducing a segment on the problem, Sawyer lectured, "So a lot of Americans are erupting in anger. While others say, 'Who are we kidding? It's too late to complain.'" Sawyer then opined that efforts to stem the tide of illegals, such as building a 700 mile fence, are "fueled by anger."

Sawyer continued this theme of out of control, emotional Americans into an interview with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. She informed the GMA audience that "Felipe Calderon says it's time to stop yelling at each other and face the facts." Later, she described him as "urging less emotion, more strategy." And although Sawyer found time to describe Calderon as the "new action president" and mention that he went to Harvard University, she didn't ask him about the estimated $10 billion a year illegal immigration costs American taxpayers. (Although, the host did touch on the subject in the segment's introduction.)

To be fair, Sawyer did ask a few tough questions. She bluntly told Calderon that, since Mexicans sending money back to their home country is the second largest source of national income, it appears to be in the interest of Mexico to keep its people in the U.S. The ABC host also wondered, "Do you feel that [illegals] have a right to come into the United States?" However, many of Sawyer's queries were softballs, such as asking, "Do you still feel the fence is deplorable?" Additionally, three individuals from business organizations are briefly featured telling the audience how valuable Mexican workers are. The anti-illegal immigration perspective is only seen from unidentified shouting Americans.

The GMA anchor even found a way to bash President Bush. She noted that the previous president, Vicente Fox, publicly described Bush's Spanish as "grade school" and asked Calderon to judge the President's bilingual abilities.

On Friday, GMA previewed the blame America tone with a Claire Shipman piece that wondered if local governments were going "too far" in cracking down on illegal immigration. And Sawyer herself has a long history of giving puff interviews to world leaders. In February, she asked Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad if he used an iPod.

A transcript of the October 8 segment, which aired at 7:07am, follows:

Diane Sawyer: "We're back in Mexico City here in Zocalo Square, which is in at the center of the old part of the city, a giant Mexican flag flying above us there. By some estimates, while we talk to you today, nearly 1,000 Mexicans are making their way toward the U.S. border, hearts pounding, hoping to get to America. And who are they? They're mostly male, mostly young, and scared. Listen to the breathing. 400 a year die attempting to cross to the United States. And a surprise. Most of them, in fact, were employed in Mexico, but came to the U.S. for more money, money they'll send back. It's a huge boost to the Mexican economy. $20 million a year. And another surprise, the majority pay taxes, totaling billions Though it's estimated, it still costs American citizens about $60 a year per person to subsidize the illegals health and schooling."

Unidentified woman: "They're not American citizens. These people do not belong in our country."

Second unidentified woman: "They can't come over here and demand things."

Sawyer: "So a lot of Americans are erupting in anger. While others say, 'Who are we kidding? It's too late to complain.' Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York says the city would, quote, 'collapse' if they were deported, and there's a report out of Washington that the apple growers there don't have workers to collect the harvest."

Rod Nilsestuen (Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture): "If you took away Hispanic labor from agriculture and from dairy in Wisconsin, we would be in crisis. There's just no two ways about that."

Donald Taylor (Las Vegas Culinary Workers Union): "Las Vegas would stop. We would stop in our tracks. They do everything from cleaning our room to serving a cocktail to cooking a meal to serving a meal to cleaning the casino floor."

John Rosenow (Wisconsin dairy farmer): "It's dirty. It's sometimes very cold, sometimes very warm."

Terry Moran: "And Americans don't really want to do that anymore?"

Rosenow: "I haven't been able to find them."

Sawyer: "And yet, fueled by anger, the U.S. is cracking down. Even building a 700-mile fence on the border at an estimated cost of $10 billion to $50 billion over the next 25 years. Will that work? What is the answer? And what can Mexico do? And those are exactly the questions we wanted to bring to the president of this country whose offices are here in the national palace. He has said that the United States can build its 700-mile fence for billions and billions of dollars and ramp up deportations, but it's not going to solve this problem. His name? President Felipe Calderon. He's the new action president with high approval ratings for his effort to combat drug, crime, and corruption. He is also a man with a graduate degree from Harvard University, who thinks the U.S. approach to illegal immigration is doomed. What are you going to do about illegal immigration into America? Felipe Calderon says it's time to stop yelling at each other and face the facts."

Felipe Calderon: "It's impossible to stop that by decree. It's impossible to try to stop that with a fence. Why? Because the capital in America needs Mexican workers. And Mexican workers need opportunities of jobs. Capital and labor are like right shoe and left shoe, and one needs the other."

Sawyer: "Do you feel that they have a right to come into the United States?"

Calderon: "No. What I think is it's impossible to stop that. It's natural. It's an economic phenomenon."

Sawyer: "So, it's inevitable? It's not a question."

Calderon: "Yes, it's inevitable. It's not a question of--"

Sawyer: "Illegal or not. He even mentioned that apple harvest crisis in Washington State."

Calderon: "The people of Washington State say that the apples of Washington are the best of the world. And probably, that is true. Well, this year, those apples are still in the trees. And the problem is there is not enough Mexican labor or Mexican workers in order to work in the fields."

Sawyer: "It is said in the United States that the 20 billion or so remitted from illegal workers in the United States to their relatives here in Mexico is very important to the Mexican economy. It's the second most important source of income to the Mexican economy. Therefore, it's in the interest of Mexico to keep them in America and get the money."

Calderon: "That is absolutely false. You know, Mexico is losing with every single Mexican crossing the border. Why? Because it's the best of our people, the youngest people, the bravest people, the strongest people. That's a false argument. I don't want to see Mexico as a permanent provider of workers to the United States. I want to build a conditions [sic] in Mexico to provide the opportunities here in our land."

Sawyer: "So can you keep the what, three to 400,000 a year, can you keep them here? Can you keep them from coming to the United States?"

Calderon: "I will try to do so in the future. Of course, it's impossible do now. It's impossible to stop, I don't know, 300, 000 or 400,000. Nobody knows exactly how much people are trying to leave the country. But in the future, I can imagine a Mexico with enough economic growth in order to provide for all of them, enough condition said for prosperity. And that is possible, Diane."

Sawyer: "He says he's already created 900,000 new jobs. And, he says, this is an irony. With the declining birth rate in Mexico and new opportunities here, in a decade, the problem of illegal immigration could be over and the U.S. will be left with a long, expensive fence. Do you still feel the fence is deplorable?"

Calderon: "I think so. Yes."

Sawyer: "And to deport?"

Calderon: "Every country and government has the right to apply the law in its territory. I know that. But at the same time, I can see that the world is open, new ways, new bridges. And we are building fences instead of bridges. And that's a problem. That is a problem for a region."

Sawyer: "President Bush, What do you think of him?"

Calderon: "Well, I know that there are a lot of mixed feelings about President Bush. But I really appreciate him and I appreciate his effort in order to pass a comprehensive immigration reform in the Congress. He failed. We failed. I don't know, but I really appreciate it."

Sawyer: "We ask about something that the former president Vicente Fox wrote, that when he met Governor George Bush, Bush's Spanish was grade school. How is his Spanish?"

Calderon: "Well, I have -- I can't give you an opinion about that because even my English is really poor."

Sawyer: "And this Harvard graduate student says America and the Latin communities will be stronger if they work together against giant competitors like China. Urging less emotion, more strategy."

Calderon: "The world is changing. The United States is not the center of the world. Both sides of the border need to learn to see each other like allies and probably in the future, as a friend. Friends. I think that it's important. My point is we need to stop this destructive message in media, in politics, in the economy, looking on only enemies on the other side of the border. I hope that one day the people in America can see the Mexican people like friends, like allies for prosperity."

Chris Cuomo: "Very thoughtful answers there. Diane, let me ask you, for all of this talk of keeping immigrants out of the country, this morning, this weekend, all of this talk about the U.S. government trying to get more farm workers into the country. What do you know about that?"

Sawyer: "Well, that's why the president of Mexico says there should be some streamlined guest worker program with controls over what the immigrants do. Because by some estimates, three quarters of the agriculture workers in America are illegal immigrants. And there's always that cautionary tale of the town up in New Jersey that got rid of all of the illegal immigrants and a year later had to turn around because of economic impact and invite them back in. But, You know, Chris, in the next hour, we're going to talk about another component of all this. Americans are not used to Spanish being spoken everywhere in their country. Should there be laws about English? And we're going to be tackling that one too."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org