LatinaLista — The fires in San Diego are dramatic enough without the horrendous side stories of arson and death.
Yet, all afternoon on CNN, in between live and taped footage of raging fires and neighborhoods burned to a crisp, anchor after anchor stops coverage long enough to “report” on a story about 6 illegal immigrants caught stealing supplies at the Qualcomm Stadium.
The only trouble with this story is determining the truth of it.
In addition to CNN’s assertion that six people were arrested for stealing, there are other stories about the incident that say 8 people were detained, 5 were released.
The stories say that eyewitnesses saw the illegal immigrants load up pick-up trucks with cots and other supplies. According to police, these people were reselling the items — in effect, price gouging.
Well, not entirely true.
Univision interviewed Manuel Santiago, the father of a young family (wife and three children with the oldest looking to be about 10), whom we can only assume, was part of the original 8 detained. The father explained that he understood, as told by a stadium worker, that the supplies were to be taken by the fire victims back to their homes because they don’t know what conditions they will find their homes in.
Yet, instead of approaching the family about why they were putting the supplies into their van, workers at the stadium called the police. The police came and found out it was a misunderstanding but then asked for proof of their citizenship status. That’s when it was discovered that the family was illegal.
Three cousins of the 5-member family were taken away by border officials who were called by the police. The family themselves were not taken away recognizing the fact that the father had returned all the items when told to and the obvious trauma the young children felt when they saw their cousins and parents being detained.
So, the crux of the story is not that items were being stolen but that these people were illegal immigrants who claim not to be stealing anything. Yet, it’s curious that their side of the story didn’t make it into the final English-language news accounts.
CNN, in repeating this story throughout the afternoon, don’t have footage of the people accused of stealing so they are using “generic” footage of Latinos sitting in the stadium. Each time, the footage of these San Diego brown-skinned Latino citizens are shown onscreen, the anchor is saying illegal immigrants.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that the impression being planted in people’s minds is that “illegal immigrant” equates with brown-skinned Latinos.
For a news organization striving to do a service to the public, it’s an example of the sloppiest piece of news reporting and broadcasting that is not doing any kind of service to a demographic that is experiencing more than its fair share of being victimized by hate rhetoric.
When broadcast news organizations fail to do the most basic elements of the profession — like getting a story accurate and illustrating it truthfully — then there’s no hope that the public will ever get the true story when it comes to undocumented immigrants and, more importantly, U.S. Latino citizens.