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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Immigration > Is the news media purposely sensationalizing stories by identifying undocumented Latinos?

Is the news media purposely sensationalizing stories by identifying undocumented Latinos?

LatinaLista — For quite a while now, various Latino leaders have taken the podium to warn Congress that their inaction on immigration reform is impacting not just undocumented Latino immigrants, but U.S.-born Latinos of all generations.
This warning has mostly fallen on deaf ears since there is an assumption made that most people should be able to identify an undocumented Latino from one who is a citizen. People who falsely assume this are usually people who don’t even count Latinos as among their close friends, let alone know any.

Which of these Latinos is a citizen and which is undocumented?
If they did know any Latinos, then they would also know that the differences between someone who is illegally in the United States versus someone whose family can be traced back generations aren’t that visible.
Maybe that’s why news media outlets have taken to always including the citizenship status when talking about Latinos in the news.
As one journalist asks, “Is Immigration Status like Race?


The most recent example of where the immigration status of a Latino is used in describing the person is the criminal who raped Chandra Levy.
It seems some newspapers are leading their identification of killer and rapist Ingmar Guandique with his illegal immigration status while other news outlets are identifying him simply as a “Salvadoran immigrant” or “Salvadoran laborer.”

Ingmar Guandique, accused killer of Chandra Levy
Of course, those who want the public to think that all undocumented immigrants are hardcore criminals and people to be afraid of, not to mention that their presence spikes criminal activity — which has been documented to NOT be the case — want newspapers to include immigration status when identifying Latino criminals.
It’s a sad day at those newspapers who incorporate this description in their copy because they are sensationalizing the news story rather than letting the story present the facts in an unbiased manner.
But in these days of declining readership, I guess newspaper editors will grasp at whatever they can to draw in readers.
However, there are very good arguments as to why citizenship status should not be included when talking about Latinos in the news.
1. It sets a horrible precedent because any future story dealing with a Latino will have to clarify whether or not the person is undocumented. We are seeing this happening already in Texas where broadcasters have had to emphasize to the audience that a particular Latino featured in a given story was not an “illegal immigrant.”
2. Citing the citizenship status of a person plants the negative assumption into people’s minds that an immigrant, undocumented or otherwise, are bad people to be avoided. While common sense should supplant this negativity, it’s human nature to stereotype, especially when the same descriptor is used in reference to people who are being reported as having committed horrendous crimes.
3. The citizenship status of a person has no bearing on a crime. If it did then we should also include such descriptors as poor, illiterate, rich, spoiled, etc. A crime is a crime. Finding a motive should be left to the prosecutors and not to news editors or producers.
It’s clear that those in favor of identifying criminals by their immigration status want to perpetuate fear in the general public of undocumented immigrants.
The real fear should be of criminals who have no conscience or morals and think nothing of taking a life — and the realization that some of the worst criminals can be the people who look least likely to commit a crime.

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Comment(25)

  • Avatar
    Horace
    March 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Latino illegal alien advocates, by their claims that they represent all Latino Americans and implying that all Latinos are of a like mind when it comes to this issue, naturally bring evoke the ire of the rest of the country when they approve of immigration by occupancy and squatting by foreign nationals is acceptable behavior. I’m sorry, Marisa, but you can’t make friends by showing contempt for your fellow citizens.

  • Avatar
    Panchito
    March 4, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Marisa, the issue goes beyond immigration status. In the Midwest, all criminal reporting is preceded by the person’s ethnicity: “a black man …..” or a “Hispanic man….”. but when a crime is committed by a White person, any reference to ethnicity is dropped: “a man…”. Their agenda is obvious.

  • Avatar
    Sandra
    March 4, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Utter BS, Panchito. I read our local newspaper on a daily basis and when a crime is committed by a white male, the new’s article describes him as a “white male”. Knock your victim mentality.

  • Avatar
    laura
    March 4, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Exactly, Panchito. Legal scholars wrote an open letter almost 2 years ago, in which they state:
    “Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely
    to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation
    as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles,
    New York, Chicago, and Miami, and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border such as San
    Diego and El Paso.

    Immigrants in every ethnic group in the United States have lower rates of crime and
    imprisonment than do the native born. This is true for all immigrant groups – including
    the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who comprise most of the undocumented
    immigrants in the country. Even though immigrants from these countries are far more
    likely than natives to have less than a high-school education and to live in poverty, they
    are far less likely to be behind bars or to commit crimes. Moreover, teenage immigrants
    are much less likely than native-born adolescents to engage in risk behaviors such as
    delinquency, violence, and substance abuse that often lead to imprisonment.”
    Read for yourself at http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:TFZ5lZ_Mr0QJ:immigration.server263.com/images/File/misc/Open%2520Letter%2520on%2520Crime%2520for%2520Web%252011-6-07.pdf+immigrant,+crime,+harvard+law+school&hl=pt-BR&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox-a
    These results have been found in many studies. So the media are presenting the opposite of the truth. The truth is: native born Americans commit more crimes than immigrants – whether these immigrants have visas or not.
    One can think of many reasons for this. The simplest reason is: immigrants are here with a purpose. For most of them, criminal activity would interfere with that purpose.
    Of course there are hard-core criminals like drug dealers, as well as deranged violent criminals, among immigrants too, just as there are among Americans. But the majority is simply more intent on achieving the goals that brought them here: most commonly, that is to feed their families.
    That is why many media’s implication – following the lead of paid propagandists like Lou Dobbs – that immigrants are expected to commit crimes, is such an invidious falsehood.
    I would like to go a step further.
    Immigrants on the whole have healthier diets and habits than Americans – healthier even than their second generation children who are culturally more assimilated. There are many statistics about this. My suggestion is: why don’t we learn from immigrants what a healthy meal looks like? We can learn from immigrants that a family sitting down to a cooked meal together is going to stay healthier than a family where everyone grabs a slice of pizza on the way through the kitchen.
    And following up on that, why don’t we learn from immigrants how strong family ties can help prevent crime?

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    March 5, 2009 at 9:19 am

    It’s a sad day at those newspapers who incorporate this description in their copy because they are sensationalizing the news story rather than letting the story present the facts in an unbiased manner.
    Yet you do the very thing you accuse others of doing, I give you your own topic:
    Chilean students murdered by radical Republican obsessed over “national political issues”

  • Avatar
    Horace
    March 5, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    “Immigrants in every ethnic group in the United States have lower rates of crime and imprisonment than do the native born. This is true for all immigrant groups – including the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who comprise most of the undocumented immigrants in the country. Even though immigrants from these countries are far more likely than natives to have less than a high-school education and to live in poverty, they are far less likely to be behind bars or to commit crimes.
    This is a laugh. One can’t read the newspapers everyday without casting doubt on the validity of these studies. Laura’s statements are a common ploy used by advocates of illegal aliens. They take the studies of legal immigrants and include illegal immigrants to dilute problem. There’s hard data on legal immigrants, who’ve passed background checks and are kept track of as they progress from green card holder to citizen, while it’s hard to determine statistical evidence on illegal immigrants, as they are outside the system, and we don’t even know their total numbers to do the calculations. Illegal immigrants are not subjected to background checks and are thus likely to have a much higher crime rate. This reasoning is irrefutable. The immigration data she quotes is for “all” ethnic categories, so that the character and honesty of other ethnic groups of legal immigrants can make it appear that crime rate for Latino illegal aliens is low when compared to the crime rate for citizens. The reason why legal immigrants do well in comparison to citizens, is that we cherry pick (remember those pesky background checks?)those who go through the immigration process (the only proper way to become documented), while there’s no way of deleting citizen criminals by sending them into exile. We’re stuck with them, warts and all. We kick legal residents who become criminals out of the country as they are encountered, so their population is controlled.
    “Moreover, teenage immigrants are much less likely than native-born adolescents to engage in risk behaviors such as
    delinquency, violence, and substance abuse that often lead to imprisonment.”
    Oh, really? If we look at Latino’s in California, we find that the drop out rate from high school is something like 50%. You’re cherry picking, because the data about the good performance that you speak of has Latinos, i.e. Mexican nationals, as an exception. And just ask Marisa about the illegitimate birth rate among Latinos. Latinos, both citizen and illegal rank way down from the rest of the population when it comes to education and character. They’re far from being the squeaky clean poster children of immigrants as a ethnic group. And what about those MS-13 gangs, some of the most brutal characters ever encountered by law enforcement. They’re made up of illegal aliens from El Salvador. And one more thing, Let’s not forget that nearly all working illegal immigrants commit document fraud, as they use false social security cards and lie about their legitimacy to their employers. Laura, your argument that illegals are totally ignorant of the fact that buying false documents is ludicrous. They know that they are not entitled to work without documents, yet you would have us think that they are sincere in their belief that Jose on the street corner is the proper source for such important documents? Please! That act alone, which you love to ignore, makes millions of illegal alien Latinos criminals, regardless of their underlying motives.
    We’ve heard your trash arguments all before, Laura, and hearing it all again amuses us.

  • Avatar
    James
    March 5, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    “Of course, those who want the public to think that all undocumented immigrants are hardcore criminals and people to be afraid of, not to mention that their presence spikes criminal activity — which has been documented to NOT be the case — want newspapers to include immigration status when identifying Latino criminals.
    It’s a sad day at those newspapers who incorporate this description in their copy because they are sensationalizing the news story rather than letting the story present the facts in an unbiased manner.”
    Leave out pertinent facts, such heresy for a journalist! Personally, I think that the people have the right to know when an illegal alien commits a crime. It’s important that the people know the consequences of open borders; that we receive the evil as well as the innocuous. Marisa, would claim that we should accept a percentage of criminals along with the majority whose only intent is to work. Also, what kind of journalist would advocate covering up a pertinent fact, certainly not a reliable one. Who would trust such people when they are selective about the truth? Only people with the preconceived notion that Latino illegal aliens are predominantly good and having the biased agenda of controlling the facts would object to revealing that the criminal is an illegal alien. What other facts would you advocate withholding, Marisa? Are you telling us the truth in your blog, or only the truth that suits your fancy?
    Would anyone of you supporters of illegal aliens be able to differentiate the good from the bad? As a loyal citizen, I would rather not subject my fellow citizens to the presence of any illegals if it meant that our countrymen could be harmed by a few, but that’s just the way I am.

  • Avatar
    Lea Ortiz
    March 6, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I just want to say this.
    There is racism. Period. Being of Mexican descent I have seen it up close. It is an ugly thing. My own brother that does not look like me, never experiences it.
    I have a very good friend from Brazil. I have met and known many lovely people from other countries. They all have one thing in common. They know how to interact with all people. They reach out beyond the barrier, and don’t show the racism I have seen here. All beautiful people.
    Since you want to continue this argument about illegals and not being able to identify them.
    They don’t speak English. Their children speak for them. Oregon has a day labor center. You can find them there. Just ask for ID. Usually the men come here first. Living in an upper apartment in Southwest Houston, the first floor apartment right under me had I don’t know how many men that only spoke Spanish and played their music on a Friday night while I had to work at night. I was quite young then. I would make a guess as to 10 to 15 people living in that one apartment.
    They are not hard to identify.
    Thank you Liquidmicro for being the voice of reason.
    Pizza Uhm Yummy my favorite! 🙂

  • Avatar
    laura
    March 6, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    At it again, “Horace”? What does your boss say to all that time you spend on the web?

  • Avatar
    Michaela
    March 7, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Your constant whining about Hispanics and their “rights” and “needs” is what is turning Americans against you. I make it a point to post all the whiny Mexican sites to every patriotic American contact, site, blogger I know. You are not going to win this battle.

  • Avatar
    Horace
    March 7, 2009 at 7:13 am

    At it again, Laura? Are you one of those self-appointed computer police? I happen to be on my own time and using my own computer when I post, so I suggest that you mind your own business and stop making such comments.
    Rather than attempting a laughable ploy at discouraging my commentary, why don’t you respond to my post? I suggest that it’s because you know what you’ve said is not the truth.
    Stop obfuscating the issues!

  • Avatar
    Lew Waters
    March 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Hmmmm. Did Marisa “sensationalize” a story by identifying a murderer as a “RADICAL REPUBLICAN,” based upon voluntary work at a Republican Campaign office 5 years earlier?

  • Avatar
    Michaela
    March 8, 2009 at 2:34 am

    laura :
    At it again, “Horace”? What does your boss say to all that time you spend on the web?
    What does YOUR boss say Laura?

  • Avatar
    Sandra
    March 8, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Lew, I have seen this ploy being used in other pro-illegal blogs also. They are trying to demonize the Republican party and anyone who is opposed to illegal immigration by using this nutcase as representation of both groups. It is just plain blatant dishonesty on their part.

  • Avatar
    laura
    March 10, 2009 at 12:03 am

    “Horace,” my friend, the reason I very rarely respond to your posts is that I have more urgent things to do.
    I actually work. Other people actually need me. Unlike yourself, I do not have hours and hours to spend on the web.
    It is actually a lifestyle I would recommend to you. If you felt happier about what you can do for others, about what you can give to others, you would not be seething with hate, anger and resentment against a minority.

  • Avatar
    Sandra
    March 10, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Laura, you can’t refute any of Horace’s remarks so you are resorting to personal attacks. So typical of the pro-illegals. I don’t see Horace’s posts taking hours and hours of his time. He doesn’t reply anymore than you do in here.
    You pro-illegals are such liars. Horace displays no hate, anger or resentment towards minority citizens just objecton to the lllegals who thumb their noses at our immigration laws and their aiders and abettors such as youself and rightly so. The pro-illegls never debate with honesty, only personal attacks and insults. You are a prime example of your side.

  • Avatar
    laura
    March 11, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Sandra, my friend: this goes for you too.
    If you felt happier about what you can do for others, about what you can give to others, you would not be seething with hate, anger and resentment against a minority.
    Try it. Take little steps. See how good you feel when you have done something helpful for a fellow human being.

  • Avatar
    Sandra
    March 11, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Laura (and I would never be a friend of yours)
    your remarks are incredibly patronizing and insulting. First of all, because I do not agree with your radical views on the amnesty issue does not mean I hate minorities. White people are the “minority” in the world to begin with, and not all those here illegally are non-white. My issue is with people who arrogantly disregard our laws and our sovereignty as a nation. People who respect this country and its people and come legally, I have no problem with.
    Secondly, how do you know what volunteer activities I may be involved with? You are really ASSuming a great deal. The difference between me and you Laura is that I choose to help my fellow Americans while you favor foreigners who are here illegally in our country.
    Laura, you aparently have runout of any intelligent commentary so you have resorted to adominum attacks. Typical of the pro-illegal side as they don’t have a leg to stand on except to appeal to emotionality.

  • Avatar
    laura
    March 12, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    Read your own post one more time, Sandra, and see how it reflects on your emotional state. I can only repeat, my friend:
    If you felt happier about what you can do for others, about what you can give to others, you would not be seething with hate, anger and resentment against a minority.

  • Avatar
    Warren
    March 12, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    “3. The citizenship status of a person has no bearing on a crime.”
    Oh, really? Say a convict escapes from prison. Do the people who run the facility bear any responsibility for any crimes that the convict subsequently commits? I’ll say they do. It’s their job to keep criminals in, and if they don’t, they should be fired. If our government doesn’t secure our borders from illegal alien criminals our immigration officials should be held responsible for their failure to keep them out. How are we to know the extent of the illegal alien criminal element that commits crimes in this country without identifying that the person is an illegal alien? No, to do any less is to be complicit in a cover up of the repercussions of open borders. Only advocates with the agenda of hiding our illegal immigration problems are for this tactic. Nice try, Marisa, but we aren’t the fools you think us to be.

  • Avatar
    Sandra
    March 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Laura, I don’t need to read my post one more time as there is nothing in it that remotely indicates that I hate minorities. It is only in your own racist, hate-filled, angered head that I am any of the things you accuse me of. I haven’t a damned thing against minorities that are here legally. Why can’t you get that through your thick skull? Oh, thats right because all you pro-illegals have is the race card and ad hominum attacks against Americans who only want our immigration laws enforced. Disgusting when those like you choose illegal foreigners over your fellow Americans and then call us racists?

  • Avatar
    Horace
    March 12, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Laura,
    You use the term “my friend” much too loosely, even when it’s not welcome. I’ve come to believe that you’re John McCain writing under a pen name.

  • Avatar
    Marisa Treviño
    March 13, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Sandra, I value a difference of opinion. You can ask Horace or anyone who doesn’t share my views about how many times in the past, I’ve been asked to moderate the comments on Latina Lista. Posting here, the understanding is that you know more people share my views than don’t. By your own admission, we are “pro-illegals.”
    Yet, it’s my hope that through all this posturing, maybe one day we can come to a point where we agree to disagree and work to compromise on points where we are more similar than different. Is it Pollyanna of me? Yeah, probably but I think it’s a noble goal.
    If you disagree, there’s a simple solution — post elsewhere.

  • Avatar
    Sandra
    March 13, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Marisa, I don’t know where you are coming from with your remarks suggesting that I post elsewhere. I wasn’t even replying to you, I was replying to Laura. In fact, I have complimented you for allowing all opinions in here. But when someone like Laura says that I hate minorities and there is nothing in my posts that indicate that, I will defend myself. I just wish that the pro-illegals would debate without these false accusations and ad hominum attacks but I guess thats not going to happen. A sure sign of no viable arguments.

  • Avatar
    Liquidmicro
    March 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I commend you Marisa for at least having the view point that through all this posturing, maybe one day we can come to a point where we agree to disagree and work to compromise on points where we are more similar than different. Is it Pollyanna of me? Yeah, probably but I think it’s a noble goal.
    There are many that share that same view point on both sides of the argument. But when some make accusations and assumptions and others make clarifications and stand up for themselves, the points some how become lost, again, both sides do this. But when someone pulls the race card and plays it in every hand, it does become old and tired.

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