Networks Champion Cause of “Americans” Marching for “Immigration Reform”

The three broadcast networks led Monday night with multiple stories which celebrated the protest marches held by illegal immigrants and their supporters, with all three featuring sympathetic anecdotes about the plight of those here illegally. “Tonight,” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas touted in forwarding the red herring that conservatives are against “immigration” as opposed to illegal entry, “hundreds of thousands of people marching in streets across America, trying to convince the country that it needs immigrants." World News Tonight went to three field reports, starting with Miguel Marquez in Phoenix: “Everywhere you look, there are American flags. They're marching under the banner of 'Somos America,' 'we are American.'" But Dan Harris in New York City saw that “like many people here,” one man he spoke with “is carrying a Mexican flag. He says 'I don't need to carry an American flag for people to know that I want to be an American.'"

CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, who never uttered the word “illegal” in his lengthy introduction, teased: “They are not American citizens yet, but they want to be. And from every corner of America, immigrants took to the streets today to ask for new immigration laws. We'll go city to city tonight.” Schieffer trumpeted: "Not since the protests of the Vietnam era has there been anything quite like it. From the Canadian border to Texas, from California to the east coast, thousands upon thousands of immigrants in at least a hundred American cities took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations." Bill Whittaker championed “Alex Vega...a father of ten. He owns a business and a house in Orange County. He entered the U.S. illegally 28 years ago. He's marching today because he says he's tired of living in the shadows." From Washington's Mall, Jim Axelrod saw “tens of thousands of Americans” marching though many were illegals. Over on NBC, the least celebratory, Lester Holt heralded: “From border states like here in Arizona to unlikely places like South Bend, Indiana, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, illegal immigrants alongside their supporters stepped from the shadows. Marching under the American flag, they demanded a place at the American table." (Transcripts follow.)

Not one syllable from any protest podium was shown by ABC, CBS or NBC -- likely because of the radical messages delivered by speakers and organizers.

Transcripts of much of the April 10 coverage on the evening newscasts of the three broadcast networks:

ABC's World News Tonight:
Anchor Elizabeth Vargas teased, over video of marchers: “I'm Elizabeth Vargas. Tonight, hundreds of thousands of people marching in streets across America, trying to convince the country that it needs immigrants.”

Vargas opened: “Good evening. We begin with an unprecedented show of support for America's illegal immigrants. Across the country today, hundreds of thousands of people came out in support of millions of undocumented workers. They marched in dozens of cities, with hopes that they could influence the government, which is considering major immigration reform. Protesters are particularly opposed to a bill passed in the house. It would create a 700-mile wall along the Mexican border and make it a felony for anyone to help an illegal alien. Today, we have reports from gatherings around the country. We begin with ABC's Miguel Marquez in Phoenix.”

Marquez, walking with marchers, in Phoenix:

“I'm Miguel Marquez in Phoenix, Arizona. Tens of thousands of people descended on the state capitol building here. Everywhere you look, there are American flags. They're marching under the banner of 'Somos America,' 'we are American.'”

Hispanic man: “Before, we never got united. We never had a voice, you know?”

Marquez: “What they say concerns them most and what brings them down here to march, is the fact that there's proposals in Congress being considered that would make it a felony for them to be here illegally and make it a felony for their employers as well to assist them.”

Man: “We are America. We are looking to be part of the society.”

Marquez: “Are you here legally?”

Man: “I'm in limbo.”

Marquez: “What do they want? They want to come out of the shadows, they say. They want some sort of legal status. What they will say they want, are their papers.”
ABC switched to Dan Harris:
Harris: “I'm Dan Harris in New York City. The crowd here today is significantly more diverse than what we've seen at recent rallies. There is still a predominantly Hispanic hue, but among the thousands of people here, there are Asian faces, African faces and European faces.”

Asian woman: “What the people here want to contribute. And they are contribute to build the economy of our city and of our country.”

Harris: “Many are skipping work to be here. Antonio Medina, who's a restaurant worker, says his boss is not happy.”

Medina: “If I need to quit my job, I will. But I have to support my community.”

Harris, with Medina holding the flag of Mexico, only bottom of it visible: “Medina, like many people here, is carrying a Mexican flag. He says 'I don't need to carry an American flag for people to know that I want to be an American.'”
ABC switched again, this time to Mike Von Fremd:
Von Fremd: “This is Mike von Fremd in Houston. More than 40 percent of the city is Hispanic and they have turned out by the thousands in a colorful, very powerful demonstration today. Santos Guerrera (sp?) is in this country illegally, but not afraid to show his face and use his name, in hopes of staying with his family.”

Guerrera with a kid on his shoulders as he walks beside Von Fremd: “Immigration sending me back to Mexico and my kids stay over here. Who going to take care of my kids? Nobody going to do it”

Von Fremd: “His wife, Lisa, is a U.S. citizen but fears her family will be torn apart.”

Von Fremd to Lisa as he pushes stroller: “How many children do you have?”

Lisa: “I have four children.”

Von Fremd: “And the youngest is how old?”

Lisa: “Three months old.”

Von Fremd: “Your husband is a construction worker?”

Lisa: “Yes.”

Von Fremd: “What is happening on the construction job today? Has work stopped?”

Lisa: “Yes, there's no workers.”

Von Fremd: “Because today's protests, construction projects, landscaping and cleaning services, and many fast food restaurants, were forced to close.”

Vargas set up a fourth piece: “At the heart of the debate of immigration is jobs. President Bush is pushing a guest worker program that would allow many immigrants to stay. But Congress is sharply divided. Many argue Americans and the U.S. economy are more dependent on undocumented workers than most people realize.”
David Muir looked at how immigrants do unskilled jobs, illegals produce 9 percent of all goods and services and so the U.S. is “dependent on undocumented workers.”


CBS Evening News
:
Anchor Bob Schieffer teased: “Good evening, I'm Bob Schieffer. They are not American citizens yet, but they want to be. And from every corner of America, immigrants took to the streets today to ask for new immigration laws. We'll go city to city tonight as we cover these stories...”

Schieffer led: “Not since the protests of the Vietnam era has there been anything quite like it. From the Canadian border to Texas, from California to the east coast, thousands upon thousands of immigrants in at least a hundred American cities took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations. We're looking live here at the demonstration going on in San Antonio, Texas. There and on every street the message was the same. Give us new laws to make it easier for us to become citizens.

“In New York City, the arrival point for so many immigrants over the years, thousands marched to a rally at City Hall. And the scene there was repeated all over the country [“Day of Protests” map] in city after city. In Houston, Texas, they cried 'fix immigration. Don't eliminate it.' In Atlanta marchers evoked memories of the civil rights movement and the 1960s. And in San Francisco, carrying U.S. and Mexican flags, they chanted 'si, si puente,' (?) 'yes, we can.' More than three thousand rallied in Las Vegas and thousands more marched to the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, saying they were not criminals and just wanted justice. And today's demonstrations followed rallies yesterday in a dozen states, half a million turned out in Dallas, 20,000 marched in Salt Lake City, and 50,000 in San Diego. Nowhere has the issue of immigration been more volatile than southern California where so many immigrants have settled in recent years. Bill Whitaker is there tonight.”

Whittaker, on screen tag of “Awakening Giant”: “Bob, people are gathering here in downtown Los Angeles for a rally here this evening, one of several in California today, including one at lunchtime in the heart of Orange County. Alex Vega is a father of ten. He owns a business and a house in Orange County. He entered the U.S. illegally 28 years ago. He's marching today because he says he's tired of living in the shadows.”

Vega: “Even though I have a business and I have a house, nothing is in my name. I don't exist. I'm a ghost.”

Whittaker: “So his children, all American citizens, made signs [“WE ARE NOT CRIMINALS MR. SENSENBRENNER”] and raised their voices with their father's today. He says the usually quiet Latino population, what he calls 'the sleeping giant,' has finally awoken.”

Vega: “The sleeping giant is getting bigger in numbers. And not just numbers, but voters and for my kids, they know how important it is to vote.”

Whittaker walking with protesters: “There's been talk of rousing the sleeping giant for decades, but the giant's power has never been fully realized. But people here say this time it's different, that immigration is personal, affecting almost every family. And this time they're supported by unions, churches, the Spanish language media and the Internet reached nationwide and Latino political muscle is growing. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calls immigration a galvanizing issue.”

Villaraigosa: “When faced with the prospect that their families could be destroyed and divided, people are going to be very concerned. And they're going to register their opposition.”

Whittaker: “One of the organizers of today's nationwide rally says the issue isn't going away. And neither are the people now in the streets.”

Juan Jose Gutierrez, Latino Movement USA: “It will energize millions of people across America. And the public should know that the genie is out of the bottle.”

Whittaker: “And Alex Vega says their voices are getting louder.”

Vega: “Whether they give us papers or not, we still going to be here.”

Whittaker: “And they are planning to keep up the pressure with more rallies like this one here in Los Angeles due to start soon. And with a nationwide boycott next month. Bob?”
From the Mall in Washington, DC Jim Axelrod started his report:
“Well, Bob, historically the mall is where ordinary Americans come to speak with one loud voice about the issues of the day. Today it's tens of thousands of Americans, nearly all calling for immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship. The idea was to come to the front door of the nation's capital. And knock. Illegal immigrants, green cardholders, and citizens.”

Man: “Today we're marching, tomorrow we vote. You have to listen to us.”

Following Axelrod, Byron Pitts provided a “Reality Check” on how small business owners depend on illegal immigrants, though they also impose $2.2 billion in health care costs, followed by Schieffer interviewing Maria Elena Salinas of Univision.





NBC Nightly News:

Brian Williams opened his newscast: "Good evening. In cities and towns across this country today, when the appointed hour arrived, people in many different walks of life stopped what they were doing and then walked out into the streets, all in an organized effort to protest this nation's immigration policy. Today there were rallies in more than one hundred U.S. cities, some still going on at this hour. It is an emotional issue in this nation. Estimates put the number of illegal immigrants in America at 11 million. A lot of today's anger fueled by the fact that congressional action has been stalled. The President said today's rallies were a sign that people feel strongly about the issue. Right now, that might just be an understatement. We have two reports tonight beginning with NBC's Lester Holt in Phoenix. Lester, good evening."

Lester Holt: "Brian, good evening to you. The fact that organizers could bring out tens of thousands of mostly Latino immigrants here in the American Southwest perhaps not a surprise, but they also brought out huge numbers in places like the plains states and the deep South. And it may be proving how deeply woven undocumented workers are in the fabric of American society. From border states like here in Arizona to unlikely places like South Bend, Indiana, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, illegal immigrants alongside their supporters stepped from the shadows. Marching under the American flag, they demanded a place at the American table."

Woman: "I want to send a message to the President. I want to tell him we're not criminals. We are here because we love America."

Holt: "Today in Atlanta, an estimated 50,000 demonstrated, met by some of their opponents along the way. In Tucson, Arizona, police were on alert for counter-protesters from the group Border Guardians who over the weekend had burned Mexican flags, while today in Dallas, a small plane carrying an anti-amnesty banner crashed. The pilot survived. In Washington, where lawmakers have taken a spring recess from the immigration reform debate, people like Fannie Portillo, an immigrant from El Salvador, joined the crowd keeping it on the front burner."

Fannie Portillo, protester: "All we want is to have a place to live and to bring food for our tables."

Holt: "Today's marches were designed in part to give faces to the immigration debate."

Jorge, protester: "I feel really good because, you know, it supports all my people in here. I like it."

Holt: "Jorge, a Phoenix plumber, has been in this country illegally for 11 years, leading his family in today's march because he says he has paid his dues."

Jorge: "I pay taxes, I pay bills, we send kids in school. I take all responsibilities of any American."

Holt: "Only his youngest of four children is here legally. His eldest daughter, 20-year-old Sylvia, attends a public university, but without documents, faces an uncertain future in America."

Jorge: "I feel like my hands are tied, like, there's doors that open for opportunities, but I have to let them pass by."

Holt concluded from in front of a crowd: "The importance of this march and the strength of the movement underscored by the fact so many people who have spent many years avoiding the limelight have shown their faces and come out today. Their fear of deportation at this moment not nearly as great as the fear of having their status criminalized. Brian, back to you."
NBC held itself to just two stories, the second from Carl Quintanila on how illegal immigrants do jobs Americans won't, but they lower wages and hurt poorer Americans.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center