News & Politics

CNN story promotes anti-immigrant narrative, cites nativist source


Lindsay Schubiner • Jun 06, 2016
Photo source: Getty Images 

Last week, CNN released a troubling segment depicting a ride along with ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, the story not only perpetuated the nativist narrative that paints immigrants as criminals, but also failed to portray opposing viewpoints, and presented biased data from the organized anti-immigrant movement.

Maligning immigrants-particularly undocumented immigrants-as criminals is a strategy the anti-immigrant movement has long used to foment nativist sentiment, even though these claims are not backed up by research.

CNN must do better than simply repackage the nativist “immigrants are criminals” narrative as news.

The CNN video highlighted only stories of serious crimes, when most immigrants who are deported have been convicted of nonviolent crimes or no crimes at all. Critically, immigrants convicted of a crime complete their sentence and then face the additional punishment of being permanently separated from their homes, families, and communities. CNN failed to mention this effective double jeopardy that is reserved only for some people, based on their immigration status. Similarly, while professionals from ICE were given a platform throughout the piece, not a single immigration lawyer, advocate, or immigrant activist was quoted.

Cementing the biased nature of the story, CNN reporters cited data on so-called sanctuary jurisdictions from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). CIS is well known as an extremist think tank with roots in white nationalism that manufactures disingenuous research to support bigoted, anti-immigrant policies. Yet this background was hidden from viewers, who may have interpreted CIS as a neutral source of information.

Not surprisingly, CIS’s list of sanctuary jurisdictions has been debated by some of the very sheriffs whose counties are included. It is shocking that CNN would include this data from CIS, apparently without basic fact checking.

The media has a duty not only to present accurate information, but to present the full context of any story. That means talking to a range of sources, not parroting nativist narratives, and at the very least, clearly identifying anti-immigrant sources if they are used. We can only hope that CNN’s future stories will meet this minimum standard of journalistic integrity.

Lindsay Schubiner is the Senior Program Manager at Center for New Community

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