COMMENTS: Fencing Operations

Immigration is percolating as an item on the nightly news agenda. Both ABC and CBS used President George Bush's inspection of controls along the Arizona-Mexico border as a news hook to file a follow-up feature. In addition, last Friday, ABC's Harris covered the illegal immigration shouting match on Fox News Channel between Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera and last Thursday CBS filed a matching pair of features on The New America: Sharyn Alfonsi on the marginal extra costs of coping with an influx of immigrants; Sandra Hughes on the significant extra attendant benefits.

Now ABC's Pierre Thomas explored the thriving black market in forged identity documents that make it possible for immigrants living here illegally to obtain work nevertheless. Thomas outlined one Mexico-based network that has franchises selling fake ID--green cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, passports--in 28 US cities. As long as ID looks legal, the benefit of the doubt goes to the immigrant: employers are guilty of racial discrimination if they refuse to hire just because papers might be forged.

CBS' Kelly Cobiella rode in a Border Patrol vehicle along the dirt track next to the border fence in Yuma. It had its windscreen covered with steel mesh--and soon Cobiella discovered why, as a rock was lobbed over the fence and crashed onto the hood. She went over to the Mexico side and found a deserted back alley strewn with trash, with plenty of loose rocks. Is this vandalism? Not according to the Border Patrol agent Cobiella spoke to. He was convinced the rocks are thrown by "smugglers, guides, gangbangers."


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