COMMENTS: Pity the Poor Immigrant

Yesterday both NBC's David Gregory and ABC's John Berman observed that immigration is becoming the hot button on the Republican side of Campaign 2008. Each network chose this week to illustrate the human interest side of the issue. NBC went first on Wednesday with George Lewis' tale of Jesus Manuel Cordova, who allowed himself to be captured by the Border Patrol in the Arizona desert in order to save the life of a nine-year-old orphan boy. Now CBS' Assignment America introduces us to Catalino Tapia, "a gardener with a sixth grade education who came to America to make his dreams come true," as Steve Hartman called him, who has formed the Bay Area Gardeners' Foundation to raise funds from their homeowner clients to help put students through college, including non citizens, who are ineligible for state aid. On ABC Dan Harris profiled Giovanni Rivera, a Honduran construction laborer without legal working papers, who was hospitalized for four days after Congo, the pet dog at the Princeton NJ home where he was working, mauled him. A judge ordered that Congo be put down as part of a $250,000 lawsuit settlement. Harris told us about "a deluge of criticisms" online against that order, praising the dog, calling Rivera "illegal scum" and misidentifying him as Mexican.

Harris called the postings "a symbol of how venomous the American debate over immigration has now become." Yet he allowed those racist rants to remain anonymous, not even offering the name of the site where they were posted so we could judge them for ourselves. It is poor journalism to recycle decontextualized, anonymous, inaccurate hate speech without attribution. Harris should know better.


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