NPR: 'Get Tough' Texas GOP No Longer 'Welcoming' of Illegal Immigration

NPR's Wade Goodwyn noticeably minimized the presence of anti-illegal immigration conservatives from Texas on Tuesday's All Things Considered. Goodwyn tilted towards so-called "welcoming" and "tolerant" Republicans in the state by a three to one margin, and gushed over the "thousands of illegal immigrants building neighborhoods" during the "Hispanic-friendly" term of then-Governor George W. Bush.

Host Michelle Norris set the biased tone in her introduction for the correspondent's report: "In Texas, the Republican Party is changing tack on illegal immigration. The relatively welcoming, tolerant attitude embraced by George W. Bush when he was governor is waning. It's been overtaken by a flood of Arizona-style get-tough measures. Nearly 100 immigration bills have been written or filed in the current legislative session."

Goodwyn trumpeted how "Texas is now more than ever in the nation's conservative vanguard, and among its most conservative leaders is House Representative Leo Berman from northeast Texas, around Tyler." He continued by acting as if distance from the border mattered in the illegal immigration debate: "Though Berman's district is about as far from the Mexican border as you can get and still be in Texas, he's leading the charge on immigration."

After playing two sound bites from Rep. Berman and noting some of the other anti-illegal immigration proposals in the Texas state legislature, the NPR reporter gave his positive spin about Bush's years as governor:

GOODWYN: This is a significant change in strategy for the Texas GOP. In the mid-'90s, Texas Republicans watched as their party in California went on an anti-illegal immigration crusade and lost control of the state. But in Texas, the economy was booming; the suburbs of Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio were exploding; and thousands of illegal immigrants sat astride 2-by-4s, nail guns in hand, building those neighborhoods. (audio clip of radio ad in Spanish) So, Governor Bush and his man Karl Rove crafted a different strategy from their California colleagues: Hispanic-friendly.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1 (from political ad for then-Governor George W. Bush): Used to be, I just pulled the lever Democrats. These days, I look for the person with a good record who believes what I believe: hard work, family, responsibility: George Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I appreciate that and I agree. That's why I'm working hard to make sure all our children can succeed, and I need your vote to continue.

GOODWYN: The result? In 1998, George W. Bush crushed his Democratic opponent, getting nearly half the Hispanic vote, a triumph that placed him on the path to the presidency one year later. The young governors of Texas and Florida learned their early political style at their father's knee. Not only was he a former president of the United States, he was a Texas oilman, and for generations, those independent oil producers, along with farmers and Texas ranchers, have employed inexpensive, hard-working Mexican laborers.

Goodwyn followed this turn to the past with three sound bites from one of the current advocates for illegal immigration in Texas, playing up his Republican credentials, all the while hinting that much of the state GOP has become extreme:

GOODWYN: ...In the halls of the Texas Capitol in 2011, Bush's approach is considered insufficiently conservative by most Republicans. The one powerful interest group that still thinks Bush had it right is the Texas Association of Business.

BILL HAMMOND, TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF BUSINESS: In Texas, if suddenly, all of the undocumented workers were simply to go back to their home of origin, it would be disastrous for the Texas economy.

GOODWYN: Bill Hammond is the president of the Texas Association of Business. It is no exaggeration to say his membership supplies the Texas Republican Party a large measure of its fiscal lifeblood. He has lots of friends here. On behalf of his clients, the thousands of big and small-business owners in Texas, Hammond is roaming the Capitol, trying to impart a bit of reality about the Lone Star State's economy.

HAMMOND: The impact on this Texas state economy of immigrant labor is about $17 billion a year. That's an enormous segment of our economy, and we simply would not be able to function without these people.

GOODWYN: Until this year, Hammond and his Republican allies in the Texas legislature have been able to kill most immigration bills in committee. Hammond would like to expand the immigration pipeline, to allow more workers to legally enter the state. That proposal currently has zero chance.

HAMMOND: Today, 56 percent of Texans under the age of 25 are minorities. The growth in the population has been largely Hispanic over the last 10 years. I believe the Republican Party is throwing away their future.

As if these three clips weren't enough, the correspondent turned to one of Rep. Berman's pro-illegal immigration colleagues in the Texas House, a Latino Republican whose district borders Mexico:

TEXAS STATE REPRESENTATIVE AARON PENA: The tone of the debate is basically saying, we don't want you. This is a war over our culture. These people bring diseases into our country.

GOODWYN: House Representative Aaron Pena is a Republican who represents Hidalgo, on the border. There are six Hispanic Republicans in the Texas House, and Pena says they've been trying to convince some of their colleagues to tone down the anti-Hispanic rhetoric.

PENA: Many times, you won't see our handiwork out in public. It's done behind the scenes.

GOODWYN: Pena says there are plenty of Texas Republicans who quietly share his concerns about the tone of the debate and its long-term effect on Hispanic voters.


At the end of his report, Goodwyn played one more sound bite from Rep. Berman, and all but suggested that the issue of illegal immigration was just a side issue:

BERMAN: Most Hispanics right now do vote Democrat. There's no question about it. So, what vote are we going after? We're going after a vote that doesn't vote Republican anyway.

GOODWYN: It's too early to tell how many of the 100 bills will become law. If the Texas House is hot for immigration bills, the Texas Senate seems less so. It's distracted by a $27 billion budget deficit that's threatening to gut the state.

On March 18, NPR's Mara Liasson completely omitted conservatives who are opposed to "comprehensive" immigration reform" during her report on Utah's "milder" immigration measures. While one might credit Goodwyn for at least finding one anti-illegal immigration conservative for his report, both his and Liasson's report perpetuate their taxpayer-funded network's reputation for liberal bias.

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center