NY Times, AP covered Senate split on immigration, ignored more severe House GOP proposalApril 6, 2006 4:29 PM EDT ››› JOSH KALVEN
In April 5 articles, The New York Times and the Associated Press presented two Senate immigration reform proposals -- a comprehensive bipartisan bill and a compromise measure recently put forth by Republicans -- as the full scope of the current debate on the issue in Congress. As both articles noted, each bill, with varying degrees of eligibility, makes available temporary worker visas and provides for possible citizenship. But the Times and the AP ignored entirely the more severe reform proposal the House passed in December 2005, which will ultimately have to be reconciled with the bill passed by the Senate.
On December 16, the House of Representatives approved the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), would make it a criminal offense to be in the United States illegally, impose criminal penalties for those aiding illegal immigrants, and call for construction of a 700-mile-long fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. The legislation passed by a vote of 239-182, with 203 Republicans voting in favor. In anticipation of the Senate's plan to take up the issue, protesters held large rallies across the United States objecting to the GOP-led effort to crack down on illegal immigrants and deny those already in the country any opportunity to legalize their status.
The April 5 article by AP reporter David Espo, "Senate Set for Test Over Immigration," focused primarily on the recent developments in the Senate. In the first sentence, Espo framed the debate as "two political parties, two rival plans." He went on to note the similarities between the proposal backed by most Democrats, which the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee approved on March 27, and the compromise legislation recently endorsed by many other Republicans:
Two political parties, two rival plans to deal with the nation's burgeoning illegal immigrant population.
And barring a breakthrough, no guarantee that either of them can pass a Senate riven by election-year partisanship.
In general, both bills would increase border security, regulate the flow of future immigrants and offer legal status to many of the men, women and children who came to the United States unlawfully or overstayed their visas.
The rival plans differ on the details, though, and so far, at least, attempts at a bipartisan compromise have failed.
Espo then reported that the issue of immigration reform "has generated huge public rallies, exposed divisions within both political parties and already left an imprint on the midterm election campaigns for control of Congress." But again, he failed to note that the more severe Republican bill that passed the House was largely responsible for provoking the huge protests in cities across the country.
The April 5 Times article by reporter Rachel L. Swarns, "Senate Republicans Strike Immigration Deal," similarly focused on the Republican compromise proposal while ignoring the House bill as an element of the larger debate.
By contrast, an April 5 Los Angeles Times article on the developments in the Senate noted the relevance and impact of the controversial House measure. Los Angeles Times staff writers Nicole Gaouette and Maura Reynolds laid out its major provisions, which they described it as "more punitive" than the Senate proposals, and noted that it had "sparked street protests across the country":
A more punitive bill that the House passed late last year has sparked street protests across the country, including a massive rally in downtown Los Angeles. More protests are planned for Monday.
Privately, some Republicans have expressed concern that if the Senate bill fails, the House bill will be left standing as the GOP position on immigration.
The House bill calls for building a 700-mile-long fence on the border and would make it a criminal offense, punishable by up to a year and a day in jail, to be in the U.S. without the proper papers.
It would also make it a crime to assist or encourage illegal immigrants to stay in the country, a provision opponents say could be used against social workers, hospital staff and priests. Church groups were prominent among the organizers of recent rallies nationwide.