A New York Times article repeatedly referred to conservative Republicans' support for "stronger border enforcement," but the article failed to note that the legislation backed by many conservatives and passed by the House would designate illegal immigrants as felons.
In an April 24 article on the split among congressional Republicans over immigration reform, New York Times reporters Carl Hulse and Sheryl Gay Stolberg repeatedly referred to conservative Republicans' support for "stronger border enforcement" but omitted the specific proposals they have put forward. In particular, the article failed to note that the legislation backed by many conservatives and passed by the House would designate illegal immigrants as felons. Media Matters for America previously noted an April 5 Times article on the immigration debate that similarly ignored the stringent House bill.
The House passed the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act on December 16, 2005. The bill, sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) and supported by 203 House Republicans, would impose criminal penalties for those aiding illegal immigrants, call for construction of a 700-mile-long fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and, most controversially, make unlawful presence in the U.S. a felony.
The felony provision included in the GOP-sponsored House bill provoked widespread opposition from pro-immigrant groups, who in March and April held substantial protests nationwide as the Senate prepared to take up the issue. In turn, the Senate produced two plans, neither of which faced a final vote prior to the Easter recess. One proposal, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27, would boost the number of border patrol agents, deploy new technologies to monitor the border and provide a path to citizenship for most of the approximately 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States. A subsequent compromise proposal would likewise strengthen U.S. efforts to secure the border, but would offer the possibility of citizenship only to those illegal immigrants who have been in the country for more than two years.
Hulse and Stolberg's article, headlined "Senators to Reignite Debate on Immigration," repeatedly cited the intra-party tensions over immigration reform as a major hurdle for Republican senators as they seek to pass a reform measure in the coming weeks and then to merge it with the more punitive House bill. Their article referred to "the sharp differences among Republicans on the volatile issue" and the recent calls for "House and Senate Republicans to reconcile differences before the Senate passes a bill." It included an explanation of President Bush's favored approach ("a guest worker program"), as well as that of many Democrats and moderate Republicans ("mixing stiffer border controls with potential citizenship for some illegal immigrants").
But rather than inform readers of conservative Republicans' support for criminal penalties, Hulse and Stolberg described them as merely in favor of "stronger border enforcement." They even quoted Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), a vocal supporter of criminal penalties, saying that the differences between the House and Senate approaches "are so great, I do not know how you connect those dots," only to describe his position as simply favoring "more border enforcement."