Media Ignore the Facts on Illegal Immigration

February 16th, 2012 11:30 AM

It's hard to imagine a worse example of media bias than the national coverage of illegal immigration. Every week, it seems there are stories across the United States that minimize the issues of illegal immigration and border security. But look at the facts and the media's bias towards illegal immigrants is clear.

Many reporters often neglect to mention that the immigrants they write about are illegal immigrants. For example, in an article that appeared in the San Antonio Express-News last year, "Hunt for border-crossers is on ground and in air," the reporter used the words "immigrant" and "immigration" five times but couldn't bring himself once to use the word "illegal."

It's not right to gloss over the difference between legal and illegal and call them both immigrants. There's a huge difference, and political correctness shown by some reporters cannot bridge the gap.

Illegal immigration and securing the U.S.-Mexico border are serious concerns for millions of Americans, but it seems some reporters try to diminish these issues. For example, several newspapers, including the Washington Post, have published editorials and articles claiming that the border is more secure than ever.

Despite this growing media chorus that repeats the Obama administration's talking points, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office recently found that less than half of the Southwest border is under operational control. Less than 50 percent is a failing grade and reporters should not gloss over this fact.

Because the Obama administration has failed to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and enforce our immigration laws, illegal immigrants continue to live in the U.S., taking away scarce jobs from citizens and legal immigrants and soaking up taxpayer-funded resources. But when you read a newspaper, chances are you don't read about these problems.

Recently, in a New York Times article, the reporter cited a questionable study that recommends we give amnesty to illegal immigrants to increase revenue for state and federal agencies. But the reporter failed to mention that there is a consensus among nonpartisan economists that illegal immigrants are a fiscal drain on American taxpayers.

A majority of illegal immigrants have less than a high-school education and have well below average incomes. The nonpartisan National Research Council found that an illegal immigrant without a high-school degree will impose a net cost on taxpayers of $89,000 over his or her lifetime.

Illegal immigrants also pay little in income taxes. Low-skilled workers very often pay no income taxes and receive tax credits from the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, illegal immigrants received $4.2 billion in tax credits last year.

Illegal immigrants also receive huge amounts of taxpayer-funded benefits, such as health care and education. Some estimate that illegal immigrants cost taxpayers as much as $113 billion annually. All in all, if illegal immigrants are granted amnesty, one study estimates that it will cost at least $2.5 trillion in retirement expenditures, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income.

Many newspapers have also published articles that minimize the impact illegal immigration has on the current unemployment crisis and overstate the opposition to an E-Verify system that could help eliminate this problem.

Currently, 23 million Americans are unemployed or cannot find full-time work. At the same time, 7 million people work illegally in the U.S. These jobs should go to American citizens and legal workers, but rarely will you read about this in a newspaper.

And when the House Judiciary Committee approved the Legal Workforce Act last year, a bill that could open up these jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify, reporters from both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today portrayed the bill as unpopular. But these reporters failed to mention that 82 percent of likely voters - including 78 percent of black voters and 72 percent of other minorities, primarily Hispanics - think all U.S. employers should be required to use E-Verify.

The truth is that E-Verify enjoys strong support from the American people because it is free, quick, and easy to use. This web-based program quickly identifies individuals working illegally in the U.S. and protects jobs for legal workers by checking the Social Security numbers of new hires. Persons eligible to work in the U.S. are immediately confirmed 99.5 percent of the time, and it only takes a minute to run a new hire through E-Verify. It's a jobs bill for Americans and legal workers.

Despite some reporters' efforts to minimize the problems posed by illegal immigration and our lack of border-security, both remain big issues. Our national media should be held accountable for their performance, just like any other institution. We need to remind the media of their profound obligation to provide the American people with the facts, not tell them what to think

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the Media Fairness Caucus. This column also was published on National Review Online.