Caplis, Boyles, and James distorted state official's remarks on tuition for children of illegal immigrants

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On recent broadcasts, Colorado radio personalities Dan Caplis, Peter Boyles, and Scott James mischaracterized the comments of state higher education director David Skaggs in asserting that Skaggs advocates offering in-state tuition to, as James put it, "[c]hildren of illegal aliens who very well could be illegal themselves." In fact, the Rocky Mountain News article to which each referred reported that Skaggs was seeking to extend in-state tuition to "children who are born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents" -- and who are therefore U.S. citizens.

On the August 3 broadcasts of their 630 KHOW-AM shows, co-host Dan Caplis and host Peter Boyles asserted that, according to an August 3 Rocky Mountain News article, Colorado higher education director David Skaggs is seeking to extend in-state tuition to children who are illegal immigrants. Similarly Fox News Radio 600 KCOL host Scott James read from the same article on his August 6 show and asked his audience whether in-state tuition should go to "[c]hildren of illegal aliens who very well could be illegal themselves." In fact, the News article indicated that Skaggs specifically advocated granting in-state tuition at Colorado colleges and universities to "children who are born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents" -- and therefore are U.S. citizens. An Associated Press article published August 3 also reported that "Skaggs said that all students from Colorado who are citizens should be treated the same, regardless of their parents' legal status."

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants are U.S. citizens at birth under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Caplis read the first three paragraphs of the News article before distorting its content.

From the August 3 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

CAPLIS: Well, let's see if your hero is Colorado higher education director David Skaggs. He wants in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. 303-713-8255 the number. We tried to reach David Skaggs. We tried to reach [Democratic Gov.] Bill Ritter. Nobody available to come on the show today. My guess is that there's a reason why this was floated in early August. It's, it's because it's anticipated that it will be wildly unpopular. Certainly [U.S. Rep.] Tom Tancredo [R-CO] has already spoken out on this, and we'll get to that in a second. We'll start with the Rocky Mountain News setup story on this. 303-713-8255 the number. Didn't even have to give the number before the break -- or maybe I did, can't remember. And lines are on fire. KHOW.com if you can't get through the phone lines. Please don't text while you drive.

Here's the Rocky version. Berny Morson, always on top of these things, writes it up: "Skaggs seeks tuition break for children of illegal immigrants. Ed chief wants in-state tuition. Colorado education director David Skaggs says he will try to remove legal barriers to in-state tuition for Colorado students whose parents are in the country illegally." Quote: " 'The disconnect is we treat these kids as Colorado kids for the purpose of K-12 education and then suddenly they fall off the edge of the Earth,' Skaggs said. 'Then we try to encourage them to think about going to college and the status of their parents hasn't been an issue until suddenly they're faced with this resident tuition question.' Nonresident tuition at some schools," the article says, "can be four times the resident rate. At the University of Colorado, for example, '06-07 tuition and fees for most resident undergrads was about 56 hundred bucks, while the tab for non-residents ran $23,500. The issue has become a hot political topic nationally and state law is vague on the issue of children who are born in the U.S. to illegal immigrant parents." And so it goes -- the story goes on and we'll get into more details as it advances.

As the article indicated in a passage that Caplis read, the "hot political topic" of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants is complicated because "state law is vague on the issue of children who are born in the U.S to illegal immigrant parents":

Skaggs seeks tuition break for kids of illegal immigrants
Ed chief wants in-state tuition
By Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News
August 3, 2007

Colorado higher education director David Skaggs says he will try to remove legal barriers to in-state tuition for Colorado students whose parents are in the country illegally.

"The disconnect is, we treat these kids as Colorado kids for purposes of K-12 education, and then suddenly they fall off the edge of the Earth," Skaggs said. "Then we try to encourage them to think about going to college, and the status of their parents hasn't been an issue until suddenly they're faced with this resident tuition question."

Nonresident tuition at some schools can be four times the resident rate. At the University of Colorado, for example, 2006-07 tuition and fees for most resident undergraduates was about $5,600, while the tab for nonresidents ran $23,500. The issue has become a hot political topic nationally, and state law is vague on the issue of children who are born in the U.S to illegal immigrant parents. [emphasis added]

The AP in its August 3 article reported in its lead paragraph that "Skaggs thinks children of illegal immigrants should be eligible for in-state college tuition if they are U.S. citizens, and he's asked the state attorney general to clarify what the current law says." The AP further reported that the opinion sought from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers "will not address students who are here illegally themselves."

Later in the broadcast, however, Caplis read from an August 3 press release from U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and agreed with Tancredo's erroneous assertion that Skaggs sought to award slots at Colorado colleges and universities to students "who [are] in the country illegally":

CAPLIS: Tom Tancredo responding today to this, you know, move by Governor Ritter's office toward in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants. Quote, says Tom, "Governor Ritter owes an explanation to the families of Colorado who have to explain to their kids that they've been denied admission to a state school because their slot was awarded to someone who is in the country illegally," said Tancredo. "Then he has to explain to that family that their tax money is going to pay for it." And I think that's a fair point Tom makes. I don't think there is any way that Governor Ritter, or David Skaggs, or anybody else who, who supports the direction they're going in could ever look in the eyes of, of a Colorado parent or a child and explain that acceptably. I don't think they could do it.

So let me give you my view of this very difficult issue. Of, you know, should there be in-state tuition for children of illegals. First of all, and here's where I come from -- and I'm sorry, it's, you can't do it in a 30-second sound bite -- not, and, I think, discuss it intelligently. But here's how I view this thing. First, I agree completely that we must not incentivize illegal immigrants to come to America. We, we just can't. And it's no reflection on, you know, the folks who want to come here, whether they're from South America or Mexico or any other country. This country, in order to remain sovereign and be able to stay solvent, just can't afford to incentivize people to come here illegally. Second, we have to do what's best for this state, period. Now, this is where I think we have to look at the line between issues of basic human decency and then other issues. I mean, when it comes to, for example, emergency care for people who are here illegally, I just think that basic human decency, as well as a current federal law, requires that that be provided. When you're talking about in-state tuition for children of illegals, no, I don't think basic human decency demands that. I, I then look at the issue of could you ever justify, you know, depriving an otherwise qualified Colorado student of a slot at one of our universities in favor of an individual who is here illegally? I don't think you could ever justify that on any level.

Contrary to Caplis' suggestion, Skaggs did not advocate in either news article "depriving an otherwise qualified Colorado student of a slot at one of our universities in favor of an individual who is here illegally."

On his August 3 broadcast, Boyles likewise referred to the News article and suggested that a student for whom Skaggs is advocating in-state tuition might either be "an illegal" or an "anchor baby," the latter being a term Boyles often has used to describe a U.S.-born child of illegal immigrants.

From the August 3 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show:

BOYLES: David Skaggs, who has been appointed by "Tax" Ritter to be the higher education director, and he's trying to have the, quote, legal barrier removed for in-state tuition -- and this is how the Rocky writes it -- for Colorado students whose parents are in the country illegally. Now, so this guy -- and maybe the kid's an illegal also, maybe he's a, maybe he's an anchor baby. It doesn't matter. I break into your house. I sit on your couch, I watch TV, and I say, you know, and you come in and you go, "What are you doing in here? Leave me alone." And I have a baby in the house and the baby now is your baby. And then I want to educate that baby and I want you to do it for me and I want to eat, and I want you to feed me, and I don't want to do all of these things, and when it comes around -- and by the way to Mr. Skaggs, is there any possibility that these "Colorado kids," as you call them, will take the places of kids who are, parents worked hard, maybe mom and dad are vets, you know, the whole thing -- is there any chance? 'Cause there's only -- you know, you can't grow the world's food supply in a flowerpot. There is only enough seats in the class for how many people? So now, Mr. Skaggs is gonna offer these kids in-state tuition, something that my brother's children couldn't get.

CALLER: Yeah, right.

BOYLES: He's, I mean, look at the insanity of this. And, and it's just one more step towards amnesty. Now, if you really think about it, I, you know, this guy crosses the, the, the border with his wife and kids, or maybe not with his -- maybe it doesn't matter. And then this kid comes with his wife later. And, I mean, here it is.

Similarly, on his August 6 broadcast, James read from the August 3 News article and asserted that the issue of in-state tuition concerned "[c]hildren of illegal aliens who very well could be illegal themselves."

From the August 6 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Ride Home with The James Gang:

JAMES: [reading] "Colorado higher education director David Skaggs" -- yes, this is Colorado higher education director David Skaggs, fellow that earns his paycheck via your cash -- "says he will try to remove legal barriers to in-state tuition for Colorado students whose parents are in this country illegally." Pause. Wait for it. Feel the burn. " 'The disconnect is we treat these kids as Colorado kids for purposes of K through 12 education then suddenly they fall off the edge of the Earth,' Skaggs said. 'Then we try and encourage them to try and think about going to college and the status of their parents hasn't been an issue until suddenly they're faced with this resident tuition question.' " Your thoughts? Children of illegal aliens who very well could be illegal themselves, should they receive in-state tuition? Our telephone number 866-triple 8-5449. "Non-resident tuition at some schools can be four times the resident rates. The University of Colorado, for example, 2006-07 tuition and fees for most resident undergraduates" 56 hundred bucks, "tab for nonresidents" 23 thousand 500 bucks.

And what this Colorado higher education director David Skaggs is saying is, "we treat these kids as Colorado kids for the purposes of K through 12 education. Suddenly they fall off the edge of the Earth" when it comes to tuition. Now, we treat them as Colorado kids for purposes of K through 12 education because that's how we determine -- now, correct me if I'm wrong here, and I may well be -- it's how we determine federal funding. Head count. So that's how we, that's how we milk more money out of the feds. Non-resident tuition at some schools four times the resident rate. [reading] "Relying on a 5-year-old attorney general's opinion, Metropolitan State College of Denver charges nonresident tuition to Colorado students whose parents are here illegally. CU, on the other hand, charges in-state tuition to such students, based on the advice of its counsel. The dispute involves only those students under 23 years of age who are not emancipated, meaning they are still claimed by their parents as dependents on their" [laughs] on their "income taxes." So, here they are, it's the hard-working Americans doin' -- sorry, not Americans -- hard-workin' people doin' the jobs that Americans won't do. Paying taxes. Using what Social Security number?

[reading] "Skaggs said he has asked the Colorado attorney general's office to clarify the law. He said if the advice from the attorney general is that a child of illegal residents doesn't qualify for in-state tuition he will ask the legislature to change the law." Saying now -- and, of course we've got Ds, Ds, Ds, Ds, Ds, Ds everywhere the eye turns underneath the gold dome -- boy, this'll sail through, flying colors. Should children of illegal aliens receive in-state tuition? After all, they may have been in this state. Parents have 10, 12, 15 years paying taxes. Haven't they earned it? 866-888-5449. [reading] " 'My hope is that they (the attorney general's staff) will say that an otherwise eligible Colorado ... student shouldn't be disqualified from resident tuition because his or her parents happen to not be able to document their status in the country,' Skaggs said. Nate Strauch, spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, said that an answer could come in a few weeks." So again, "Colorado higher education director David Skaggs says he will try to remove legal barriers to in-state tuition for Colorado students whose parents are in the country illegally." That's Friday in the Rocky Mountain News. In fact, I, I got a call -- a voice mail downstairs -- somebody chewing me out because I didn't get to this story Friday afternoon. Sorry, I was at the fair. And the beat goes on.

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