Yesterday, many people from around the country gathered in cities and demanded rights for illegal immigrants, and these protests were the primary focus of this morning’s "The Early Show" on CBS. In one segment, co-host Harry Smith interviewed Lou Dobbs, host of CNN’s "Lou Dobbs Tonight" and Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico. Through his questions, Smith made it pretty clear where he stood on the immigration issue.
In his first question to Lou Dobbs, Harry Smith was awe struck at the outpouring of patriotism demonstrated by the protestors:
"When you saw these pictures yesterday from these demonstrations in all these cities across the country, hundreds of thousands of people, American flags unfurled, people draping themselves in the American dream, what did you think?"
Smith, again impressed with the size of the crowds protesting, went on to ask Governor Richardson:
"Governor Richardson, let me get your reaction. Because, this, this it's really unprecedented, this this ground swell that has come up. We've watched this now for a couple of weeks. I mean, people literally all over the country walking away from their jobs to stand in the street and say, I count for something."
There were two points in Richardson’s response which were shocking. First Richardson claimed that these protests came out of nowhere:
"Well, what's happened is every major city close to 40 states have had spontaneous demonstrations.
A point which was later rightfully disputed by Lou Dobbs:
"I mean, I say to the Governor, in all due respect, these were not spontaneous demonstrations but carefully organized and orchestrated over some time for the precise purpose, as Congressman Pete King of New York said, to intimidate the U.S. Senate."
Secondly, Richardson compares the protests in support of illegal immigrants to the civil rights movement of the 1960s:
"This is bigger than the Civil Rights movement in the '60s. This is huge. And what this is building is enormous pressure on the Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill."
Richardson’s statement was the second in the broadcast to invoke the civil rights movement in regards to what we are seeing in the debate over what to do with people here illegally. Bill Plante, in the lead story of the broadcast, mentioned:
"In Atlanta, marchers recalled what the civil rights movement did for African Americans."
However there is a difference, of course, in an elected official declaring this bigger than the civil rights movement and a reporter telling viewers what happened at an event.
There was something missing from all stories though, from guests and reporters alike. When likening the immigration debate to civil rights, nobody thought to mention the difference between African Americans in the 1960s and illegal immigrants today. African Americans were just that, Americans, and they were being denied their Constitutional rights. It was morally imperative that that situation be remedied. Illegal immigrants, on the other hand, are here illegally. They are breaking the law; they are not citizens. So does Congress really have a duty to grant those who have disregarded the law the privilege of pursuing citizenship?
And as to those who are impressed by the large numbers of protestors, Lou Dobbs put it into perspective this morning:
"We don't see 280 million Americans in the streets with these folks."