Colorado media outlets, talk show hosts, and their guests continued to parrot conservative talking points and dispense misinformation regarding a proposed federal immigration bill. They variously stated that the legislation amounts to “amnesty,” asserted that “tens of millions of people” would seek to enter the United States, and claimed that "[t]rue Americans" are against the proposal.
As proposed immigration reform legislation moved forward in the U.S. Senate, numerous Colorado talk show hosts and columnists continued to mischaracterize the bill. In addition to repeating the disputed conservative talking point that the legislation amounts to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants, these media personalities and their guests have misled regarding other aspects of the measure, including the application process for citizenship and the amount of fines assessed immigrants seeking work visas. Colorado Media Matters has documented the following examples:
The Caplis & Silverman Show
During the May 21 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show, Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King (IA) told guest host and former Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez that the proposed legislation was “amnesty ... blunt and plain amnesty.” King further asserted that “amnesty is to pardon immigration law breakers and reward them with the objective of their crime”:
From the May 21 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show, with guest host Bob Beauprez:
BEAUPREZ: Summarize it for us, Congressman King. You've, you've been close to this immigration issue, I know, for a long, long while. When I was in Congress you were deeply involved in it and trying to figure out a good, common-sense, equitable, fair solution. Is this getting us any closer? What, what's, what's your take?
KING: The, the shortest summary is amnesty, and it's blunt and plain amnesty. And amnesty is to pardon immigration law breakers and reward them with the objective of their crime. And it, it clearly does that and yet they still try to keep a straight face when they tell us it's not amnesty.
BEAUPREZ: Here's, here's what I heard; tell me if I'm wrong. I'm reading reports that say on, on the day that the president signs the bill, everybody who wants to step forward and say, “I'm coming out of the shadows,” they get some sort of probationary legal status. Is, is, is that, is that correct?
KING: That is correct and that lasts for about 18 months while the Department of Homeland Security gets some of their other act together so they can start issuing the kind of status that's going to last four years. And so once it gets through the 18 months, then those that want to sign up to work can pay a thousand-dollar fine and they get a four-year permit that can be renewed in perpetuity. So it's 250 dollars a year to receive your amnesty ticket to work in the United States, and out of that you can also transition and get into a different line and follow the path to citizenship.
Beauprez did not challenge King's claim regarding “amnesty” or acknowledge that use of the term in reference to the immigration measure is disputed by other Republicans, including members of the Bush administration. In fact, White House officials on May 18 issued a press release titled “Myth/Fact: Ten Key Myths About the Border Security and Immigration Reform Agreement.” As Colorado Media Matters has noted, the document contends that the proposed measure “is not amnesty”:
1. MYTH: This is amnesty.
- FACT: Amnesty is the forgiveness of an offense without penalty. This proposal is not amnesty because illegal workers must acknowledge that they broke the law, pay a $1,000 fine, and undergo criminal background checks to obtain a Z visa granting temporary legal status.
- FACT: To apply for a green card at a date years into the future, Z visa workers must wait in line behind those who applied lawfully, pay an additional $4,000 fine, complete accelerated English requirements, leave the U.S. and file their application in their home country, and demonstrate merit based on the skills and attributes they will bring to the United States.
- FACT: Workers approved for Z visas will be given a temporary legal status, but they will not enjoy the full privileges of citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, such as welfare benefits and the ability to sponsor relatives abroad as immigrants.
Furthermore, in claiming that “it's 250 dollars a year to receive your amnesty ticket to work in the United States,” King omitted the additional costs of obtaining a “Z visa,” which would allow an illegal immigrant to work in the United States before beginning naturalization procedures. In addition to paying a $1,000 fine, illegal workers must pay a “processing fee of up to $1,500 and a $500 state impact assistance fee,” according to a May 22 White House "Fact Sheet."
FACT: The $1,000 is not the cost of the visa, but rather a fine for having broken the law. The processing fee will take care of the costs of the visa. The fines and fees are not the only hurdle -- applicants must be employed, pass background checks, pay processing fees, and agree to meet accelerated English and civics requirements to get their Z visas.
FACT: A Z visa holder wishing to remain in the country under their Z visa indefinitely would still have to renew their visa every four years. Renewing the Z visa means more processing fees (again, up to $1,500 each time). The financial liability for Z visa holders starts to add up very quickly if holders choose to remain in this status instead of pursuing Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) status.
The Amy Oliver Show
During the May 22 broadcast of her 1310 KFKA show, Amy Oliver and Republican state Rep. Kevin Lundberg (Berthoud) implied that people who entered the country illegally didn't have to “go back and reapply” for citizenship “just like everybody else.” In fact, that is what the proposed legislation requires in order for immigrants to obtain a green card. According to the May 18 White House press release, immigrants would be required to follow several steps, including having to “leave the U.S. and file their application in their home country.”
From the May 22 broadcast of 1310 KFKA's The Amy Oliver Show:
OLIVER: Kevin, I want to ask you: This group would oppose allowing any kind of path to citizenship for those who have entered illegally. You are saying they would have to go back and reapply just like everybody else.
LUNDBERG: Absolutely. We need to stick to what the law says rather than try to twist it to some new, you know, form that, that really says we don't care. Because it's not just the people who are here today, but it's the message we send to the tens of millions of people who may consider to try this in the future.
OLIVER: Or how about the people who actually did get in line? Who, who --
LUNDBERG: Well, you're right. You're right. That sends a message to them. I think of a gentleman in the Fort Collins area who came from Germany right after World War II. And Monday morning I heard him talk about how, how he, you know, he did it right. He took a path to citizenship as a German citizen to move to this country, and it was a hard road. But it, it's necessary because we cannot accommodate 5, you know, 5 -- 2 or 3 billion people, you know.
Contradicting Lundberg's misleading assertion that “tens of millions of people ... may consider” illegally entering the United States “in the future” because of the bill, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff stated at a May 17 White House press briefing that eligibility for the Z visa would apply only to immigrants who were in the United States before January 1, 2007:
And here's the really important announcement I want to make -- it needs to get out there. There is a cutoff date for Z visas for people who are undocumented. The only people who will be eligible to get a Z visa as a person who is here illegally is someone who arrived in this country prior to January 1 of 2007. You're going to have to prove that you were in the country prior to January 1, 2007. [emphasis added]
Further, Oliver's suggestion that illegal immigrants have an unfair advantage over “the people who actually did get in line” ignored the fact that Chertoff also noted in the briefing that the proposed legislation would address “the need to be fair to those who have waited on line in the existing system”:
CHERTOFF: So how do we square that goal with the need to be fair to those who have waited on line in the existing system, the need, ultimately, to find a fair way, but a realistic way to deal with the undocumented workers who are here? We do it first by clearing the family backlog, the people with the extended preferences currently on line who have applied as of March 2005. That cutoff was picked because that was the date the original Kennedy-McCain bill was dropped. Those people, assuming they otherwise qualify and don't have criminal records, can get their green cards within eight years. And we're going to increase the number of green cards to let that happen.
That is basic fairness. If you waited on line, we're not going to change the rules of the game on you; we're going to let you get in under the rules of the game as they then existed. And it's actually going to be a benefit for those who have been waiting to reunify with their families because what was 20 or 30 years in some instances will be eight years or less.
In addition, Lundberg's statement that the bill could result in the United States having to accommodate “2 or 3 billion people” would mean that the nation would house nearly half the world's population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's U.S. and World Population Clocks, the current world population totals approximately 6.6 billion.
In his May 23 column in The Pueblo Chieftain, Chuck Green also characterized the immigration measure as “an amnesty bill, through and through” before stating that "[t]rue Americans" are against the legislation.
That might be the most discouraging and outrageous aspect of all -- they thought we were dumb enough to sit back and accept their verdict that this would work.
Well, it won't work, and the people aren't buying it. Thank God, power still resides in the people, and it will until they completely abrogate their interest in self-government.
It's coming close to that.
Those who insisted the program didn't offer amnesty were proven to be charlatans. It was an amnesty bill, through and through.
Those who insisted it offered an affordable, fair “pathway” to citizenship were lying about the immense cost and unfairness of the proposal.
What they offered was contempt for the intelligence and patriotic integrity of the average American.
They tried to sell America short. True Americans are sending a bold response: America is not for sale.
But the results of a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted May 4-6 contradict Green's assertion. According to the poll, 80 percent of respondents said they favored “creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay in this country and apply for U.S. citizenship if they had a job and paid back taxes.”