Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010
An Analysis of Print and Broadcast Media Coverage and Web 2.0 Discourse in 2010 A Meta-Analysis of Public Opinion Research
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This report was authored by Loren Siegel (Part I) and Micky Hingorani (Part II) and edited by Eleni Delimpaltadaki Janis, Public Opinion and Media Research Coordinator. Special thanks to those who contributed to the analysis, editing, and design of the report, including Alan Jenkins, Janet Dewart Bell, Christopher Moore, Paulette J. Robinson, Lauren Rigney, and Max Nussenbaum. The Immigrant Opportunity initiative is funded with project support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, Four Freedoms Fund, U.S. Human Rights Fund, Oak Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy, and the Ford Foundation, with general operating support from Starry Night Fund of Tides Foundation and Open Society Foundations. The statements made and views expressed are those of The Opportunity Agenda.
About The Opportunity Agenda
The Opportunity Agenda was founded in 2004 with the mission of building the national will to expand opportunity in America. Focused on moving hearts, minds, and policy over time, the organization works with social justice groups, leaders, and movements to advance solutions that expand opportunity for everyone. Through active partnerships, The Opportunity Agenda synthesizes and translates research on barriers to opportunity and corresponding solutions; uses communications and media to understand and influence public opinion; and identifies and advocates for policies that improve people’s lives. To learn more about The Opportunity Agenda, go to our website at www.opportunityagenda.org. The Opportunity Agenda is a project of Tides Center.
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Table of Contents
Part I - Print and Broadcast Media Coverage and Public Opinion
Executive Summary Introduction Methodology Media Content Analysis
Overview Framing of Stories Storylines Spokespeople Narratives Penetration of the Core Narrative 10 11 11 24 28 29
1 7 8 10
Public Opinion on Immigration
Introduction Immigrants and Immigration The Immigration System and Reform The Arizona SB 1070 Immigration Law, Due Process, and Law Enforcement Birthright Citizenship 32 32 34 37 38
Strategic Recommendations for Advocates Appendix I: Organizations quoted or cited in print media coverage Appendix II: Nationwide Public Opinion and Research Sources
40 43 44
Part II - Web 2.0 Discourse
Executive Summary Facebook Blogs YouTube Twitter Conclusion 47 50 53 56 59 61
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Part I: Print and Broadcast Media Coverage and Public Opinion Executive Summary
This report analyzes mainstream media coverage and a body of public opinion research regarding immigrants and immigration policy. Building on previous research by The Opportunity Agenda covering the period 2004–2009, Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010 identifies trends in news reports and public opinion, contributing to a more robust, accurate, and sophisticated public discourse on this subject. The report consists of two parts: an analysis of media content in mainstream print and broadcast media, and a meta-analysis of existing public opinion research on immigrants, immigration, and immigration policy. The print media and public opinion analyses cover the period between January 1 and November 2, 2010. The broadcast news analysis focuses on the period of April 23–May 2, 2010, following the enactment of Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070), which authorizes the police to detain anyone suspected of being in the United States illegally.
We analyzed the content of 20 mainstream newspapers and magazines, including both national and regional newspapers, and a limited number of transcripts of network and cable news programs. The media content analysis explored key elements of immigration coverage: 1. Overall coverage of the issue 2. Framing of stories 3. Most prevalent storylines 4. Individuals and types of people most frequently quoted 5. Dominant narratives 6. Penetration of the core narrative developed by The Opportunity Agenda and other proimmigrant advocates: workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together.1
1 In 2008 The Opportunity Agenda collaborated with more than 150 immigrant rights leaders to map out a proactive and
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Major findings: X The overall issue of immigration during 2010 was framed thematically in mainstream media coverage. The stories and opinion pieces repeatedly reported that the immigration system is “broken” and that the responsibility for fixing it rests with the federal government. X One story dominated print media coverage of immigration: Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Senate Bill 1070—commonly referred to as “SB 1070”), signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in April 2010. The next mostcovered story, which often overlapped with coverage of the Arizona law, was the push for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Storylines receiving less media attention included the Obama administration’s enforcement strategy, the DREAM Act, the 2010 midterm elections, the economy, controversies surrounding Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and birthright citizenship. X A key finding from our last media analysis—covering the period between November 2008 and July 2009—was that terms such as “overhaul” and “sweeping reform” appeared regularly but were poorly defined—if at all—in terms of what immigration reform would look like. That has changed. More recent media coverage presents an evolving consensus, the components of which most frequently cited include border security, workplace enforcement, a realistic visa program, and a path to legalization for those already in the United States. X Pro-immigrant voices outnumbered anti-immigrant voices—both of sources and of commentators—by 3 to 1 in our sample of articles. X In broadcast coverage during the week following the enactment of the Arizona law, opponents of the law—either as program guests or in interviews—outnumbered supporters by 18 percent. X Three narratives dominated print media coverage: 1. The immigration system is broken and the federal government is responsible for fixing it, but the Obama administration and Congress are unwilling or unable to find a solution. The public is frustrated and increasingly angry. 2. The Arizona law is misguided. Although Governor Brewer and other supporters of the law are quoted, the majority of the coverage is negative. Concerns about racial and ethnic profiling dominate this narrative, which is reinforced by strongly worded editorials and prominent coverage of mass protests. 3. Comprehensive immigration reform is the solution. In both opinion pieces and news articles, CIR—once largely undefined—has begun to take concrete form. It is usually described as some combination of border safety and control, a path to citizenship for the undocumented, a flexible visa program to match the country’s ecnomic needs, fair hiring practices, employer sanctions, and a system of worker eligibility verification. Solution-oriented rhetoric gives CIR an aura of possibility. X The dominant narrative carried in mainstream broadcast news coverage during the week following the enactment of the Arizona law was double-edged: that the state’s action had brought the issue of immigration issue to a head even as the nation was locked in a fierce dispute over what to do about illegal immigration. X The opposition narrative, advocated by Republican elected officials in Congress as well as in
unified “core narrative” that advocates could use to guide their public statements about the need for comprehensive reform. (A core narrative is not a message or slogan but, rather, an overarching “big story” rooted in shared values and priorities.) Each of the core narrative’s elements—(1) workable solutions that (2) uphold our nation’s values and (3) move us forward together—represents, respectively, a set of ideas about pragmatism, national principles, and progress through cooperation.
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Arizona and by conservative talk-show figures, is based on the alleged overwhelmingly scarce resources at both the state and federal levels to solve the problem and the threat to national security posed by illegal immigration. X Elements of the pro-immigrant core narrative—we need workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together—were reflected in the mainstream media’s coverage of immigration. As previously noted, one element of the print media’s dominant narrative was that a solution is possible—comprehensive immigration reform—comprised of different parts, among them a path to legalization. The passage of SB 1070 generated a robust national discussion in numerous articles and commentaries about American values, some of which featured the positive contributions of immigrants.
Public opinion research
The public opinion review is based on a synthesis and meta-analysis of existing attitudinal tracking surveys and recent public opinion studies by nationally known and respected research organizations, media outlets, and advocacy groups. We explored public opinion findings on the following topics: X Immigrants and immigration X The immigration system and reform X The Arizona SB 1070 immigration law, due process, and law enforcement X Birthright citizenship Major findings: X A majority of Americans (57 percent) continues to believe that immigration, on the whole, is a good thing—though the public is less positive about it now than in the past decade (“Gallup Daily tracking survey”). X Views about undocumented immigrants are more negative, although research also indicates a degree of ambivalence. On the one hand, a majority (55 percent) says it has an unfavorable view of “illegal” immigrants. On the other hand, when asked whether or not it is “sympathetic” towards “illegal” immigrants, a larger majority (64 percent) answers in the affirmative (“Americans Closely Divided Over Immigration Reform Priority,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, June 2010). X The idea that undocumented immigrants are a drain on our economy and on public services continues to have traction: 62 percent believe “illegal immigrants cost taxpayers too much by using government services” (“Americans Closely Divided Over Immigration Policy”). At the same time, 84 percent of Americans agree that the economy would benefit if currently undocumented immigrants became tax-paying citizens (“Religion, Values, and Immigration Reform”/Public Religion Research Institute, March 2010). X There is widespread agreement about the overall state of the country’s immigration system and the general contours of preferred policy reforms. The belief that the immigration system is broken and must be reformed is nearly universal. X Although immigration is a mid-ranking concern, voters feel a sense of urgency about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. There is strong support for reform that encompasses strengthened border security, employer sanctions, and a path to legalization or citizenship. Even when decoupled from strengthened border security—an element of reform that persistently garners great support—the concept of earned legalization or citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the this country finds wide support today (Pew Research Center for 3
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the People & the Press). X The values underlying the public’s range of opinions about immigration include law and order, respect for American culture, and integrating immigrants into the social fabric of the country. X The Arizona law enjoys broad public support nationwide (60 percent), but at the same time most Americans also back a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. (78 percent). Of those who support the Arizona law, a majority (52 percent) say they do so because of the federal government’s failure “to solve the problem,” while only 28 percent think “it will reduce illegal immigration” (“Findings from a Survey of 800 Registered Voters Nationwide,” America’s Voice/Lake Research Partners/Public Opinion Strategies). It seems that support for Arizona’s law comes out of a desire for action and frustration with inaction rather than out of anti-immigrant feelings. X The public is concerned about due process and the enforcement of immigration laws. Despite their support for Arizona’s actions, Americans express disquiet about the passage of “stricter new immigration laws” in general. Racial profiling and forced deportation of long-time residents rank high as concerns for such laws (“Broad Approval for New Arizona Immigration Law,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, May 6–9, 2010).
Strategic recommendations for advocates
In 2010 the immigrant rights movement and its allies seized the opportunity and dominated the mainstream media’s coverage of the immigration policy debate. The demand for comprehensive immigration reform, in which a path to legalization is firmly embedded, is now being carried forth by the mainstream media with the result that public opinion is shifting in the movement’s direction. Nevertheless, there are a series of disconnects that emerge from the media and opinion analyses: X Media framing and commentary was overwhelmingly against the Arizona law, yet a majority of Americans support it. X A majority of Americans support the Arizona law while also supporting comprehensive immigration reform. X Both public opinion and media coverage strongly favor comprehensive reform, yet a bipartisan reform bill failed to even come up for a vote, and anti-reform calls and letters to Congress dwarfed pro-reform calls and letters. The same was true for the DREAM Act. X Overall, pro-immigrant advocates have been winning the battle for the support of the American people overall, even as they have lost most federal legislative battles. Addressing these disconnects will be one of the challenges going forward; with this dynamic in mind, we make the following recommendations: 1. Maintain and build on past gains. Over the past five years, the pro-immigrant movement and its allies have crafted an effective core narrative, attained significant message discipline and delivery, garnered a majority of mainstream media quotes, and edged out anti-immigrant voices in the political blogosphere and online social networks. With considerable organizing and advocacy efforts, this has enabled them to gain and maintain majority support for most pro-immigrant policies within the American electorate—across partisan, ideological, and demographic groups—and to move mainstream media news coverage and commentary overwhelmingly in support of their major goals and principles. This is a significant achievement, especially in the context of an historic economic recession, and effort must be exerted to maintain and build on those gains. In other words, the tactics and infrastructure developed to date remain necessary, though not sufficient, to achieve national-level legislative victories. And they will be crucial to the continuing state and local debates on immigrant issues around the 4
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country. 2. Mobilize the base for rapid response. While the pro-immigrant side has succeeded in persuading a great majority of the electorate to its cause, opponents of reform are significantly more successful in mobilizing their members to contact lawmakers and to post caustic comments online in response to pro-immigrant news articles and blog posts. This rapid-response strategy skews lawmakers’ perceptions of their constituents’ views and creates the perception that voting for positive reforms is more costly than doing nothing or supporting negative policies. Communications strategies can help close urgency and activism gaps that currently exist. Just as anti-immigrant groups do, pro-immigrant organizations should direct additional resources toward responding immediately online when issues arise, and when stories or commentary on their topics appear. Coalitions like Reform Immigration for America have already made some headway in this effort, innovatively using text messaging technologies. 3. Engage progressive activists. The research shows that progressive whites and African Americans are persuadable on immigration, yet they are not part of a reliable base. That said, Arizona’s SB 1070 did draw positive media attention to immigration issues and attracted progressive media voices such as Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, joining those who support due process and opportunity for immigrants. This opening should be built upon, developing a groundswell by pitching stories and positions in progressive media vehicles and to progressive opinion leaders. 4. Expand the core narrative and messaging discipline into state and local debates. Advocates have significantly progressed in articulating a shared narrative in favor of immigrant integration and human rights where none had existed. The narrative should be customized, vetted, and applied to state and local debates around enforcement, due process, and integration policies. These events should be seen as opportunities to deliver messages using the framework of the core narrative. Advocates should avoid the temptation to be purely reactive; instead, they should be proactive, using their media access to insist on “workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together.” 5. Underscore core values, and redefine when necessary. The public’s reliance on the value of law and order makes it difficult to shape opinion in opposition to harsh enforcement laws. Messages need to invoke values that protect due process, remind people about the positive contributions of immigrants, and work to allay or mitigate feelings of unease about shifting cultural and ethnic demographics. 6. Rigorously focus on solutions and position the government as capable of achieving these solutions. The American public remains hungry for effective solutions, and the proimmigrant movement has built a reputation for such solutions in the mainstream media. As the comprehensive immigration reform debate wanes at the federal level, advocates and spokespeople should articulate pragmatic solutions to state and local problems. At the same time, it is important to position the government as capable of achieving these solutions. Research by the FrameWorks Institute and others suggests that the fact that Americans believe the system is in a crisis does not necessarily drive them to solutions (“Framing Immigration Reform: A FrameWorks Message Memo,” FrameWorks Institute, June 2010). The emphasis on the “broken system” can lead people to thinking that the problem just cannot be fixed, and can make them hopeless and possibly push them toward harsh measures. Positive stories are the best antidote to the scare tactics of the anti-immigrant movement. For example: X Stories about immigrants lining up to take English classes framed thematically. X Stories about how immigrants have saved dying industrial cities and rural communities from economic ruin. 5
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X Stories about the participation of non-citizen immigrants serving in the U.S. armed forces. X Stories about civic organizations reaching out to immigrants in their communities to build ties, learn from each other, and address mutual needs and interests. When pitching stories of individual immigrants, advocates need to make sure that these stories are framed to focus on the system and its failures, as opposed to the individual. The systemic frame can motivate target audiences to see policy changes, rather than individual behavior, as the solution to the immigration problem. 7. Expand the roster of pro-reform messengers. Our scan shows that immigrant voices now occupy significant space in coverage of the immigration policy debate. Pro-immigrant religious and business leaders are also garnering media attention, along with law enforcement spokespeople who object to enforcing federal immigration laws on public safety grounds. All these voices should continue to be aggressively pitched to the media. Other voices need to be amplified, especially local civic leaders who have spearheaded integration programs or who have had positive experiences with immigrants. Their experiences underscore the idea that when the government meets its obligations by taking positive action, everyone benefits. These integration messengers should be identified and reporters should be steered in their direction. A proactive tactic such as the public release of a joint statement to Congress signed by a critical mass of local leaders should be considered.
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Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010 is the fourth public discourse analysis we have completed on the subject of immigrants and immigration reform. In our first media analysis, Framing Immigrant Integration, which covered 2004–2006, we concluded that there were two dominant media narratives: (1) immigrants are strivers who by dint of hard work overcome the odds to achieve the American Dream; and (2) the “tidal wave of illegals pouring over the border” poses a threat to the nation’s security and economic well-being. While the striver narrative was positive, it was presented through an episodic frame and failed to highlight the integration policies that help make immigrant success stories possible. On the other hand, the very negative tidal wave metaphor undermined support for positive immigration reform as well as immigrant integration policies. In our second media analysis, The Evolution of Public Discourse on Immigration: 2006–2007, which was completed shortly after the acrimonious and unfruitful congressional debate over comprehensive immigration reform, we observed that the media’s coverage reflected the nation’s ambivalent response to immigrants and immigration policy. The dominant media narrative underscored the chasm between real life in 21st century America and the divisive policy debate “on the hill.” According to this narrative, evident in editorial and news coverage, immigrants were an integral part of the 21st century American reality—they are here, they’re part of us, our economy would suffer without them—and fixing our broken immigration policy was a national priority. But, shrill partisanship prevented our elected leaders from solving this problem. Close to half of the articles in our third media analysis, Public Discourse on Immigration—A Scan of Print and Broadcast Media Coverage in 2008–2009, were about federal immigration enforcement in the waning months of the Bush presidency—workplace raids, detentions, and deportations—that underscored the fact that the system was still broken and that federal enforcement was producing consequences inimical to American values of fairness, family, and community. At the same time, solutions remained elusive. Pro-immigrant voices were not yet communicating a values-based, solution-oriented narrative to compete with the anti-immigrant “law and order” narrative. The terms “overhaul” and “sweeping reform” appeared regularly, but without any definitions or details. In this, our fourth periodic review, we can see how the discourse has continued to evolve. The passage of Arizona’s harsh, anti-immigrant law (SB 1070) brought the policy debate to a head and underscored the failure of both Congress and the Obama administration to break partisan gridlock and find a national solution. Headlines about mass demonstrations for reform—combined with the fact that quotes from pro-immigrant spokespeople outnumbered quotes from anti-immigrant spokespeople by almost 3 to 1—showed that the immigrant rights movement had the initiative. Media coverage reflected an emerging national consensus about the elements of comprehensive immigration reform; solution-oriented language gave it an aura of inevitability.
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Media content analysis
The media analysis in this report is based on content from 20 mainstream newspapers and magazines, including the largest national newspapers in the country, and a limited number of transcripts of news programs on the ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NBC, and PBS television networks. The time frame of the print coverage was from January 1 through November 2, 2010. Given the tools available, the scan of broadcast and cable media was limited to the analysis of one topic within immigration; we chose to analyze television coverage between April 22 and May 2, 2010, to capture a snapshot of how news programs covered the passage of the Arizona law, SB 1070.2 Coverage of that singular event provides a window into more general television coverage of immigration issues. The final sample of 75 articles was drawn from an overall pool of 681 articles that were identified by searching on the Nexis database using the following terms: (hlead(immigra! w/s policy or reform or legislation or rights or economy!)). The sample of 25 network television transcripts was drawn from an overall pool of 321 transcripts that were identified by searching on the Nexis database using the terms “Arizona” AND “immigration.” Samples were selected by applying a random sequence generator to ensure they were representative. A list of the print and network TV outlets included in the analysis is on page 9.
Public opinion research
This section is based on a synthesis and meta-analysis of attitudinal tracking surveys and recent public opinion studies by nationally known and reputable research organizations, media outlets, and advocacy groups. All of the data examined are publicly available. We reviewed original data from 22 public opinion studies, the majority of which were surveys. All were conducted during 2010. We also looked at attitudinal surveys that tracked opinion changes and trends in the United States with respect to immigrants and immigration. The studies referenced in this report meet The Opportunity Agenda’s standards and best practices for quality and objective public opinion research, including appropriate sample size, a methodologically sound design and research instrument, and inclusion of a balanced questionnaire for surveys and discussion guides for focus groups. The studies are listed in Appendix II, “Public Opinion and Media Research Sources.” Finally, because opinion research has largely adopted racial categories utilized by the federal government, this section uses these categories where appropriate. The categories are defined as follows: X American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN): any person who self-identifies as AIAN only X Asian: any person who self-identifies as Asian only X Black: any person who self-identifies as black only X Hispanic: any person of any race who self-identifies as Hispanic X White: any person who self-identifies as white only and non-Hispanic
2 On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known simply as SB 1070. Dubbed “the nation’s toughest immigration law,” it makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and gives the local police broad powers to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.
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Newspapers and Magazines
The Arizona Republic The Associated Press The Atlanta Journal & Constitution The Baltimore Sun The Boston Globe Chicago Tribune The Denver Post Detroit Free Press The Houston Chronicle Los Angeles Times Miami Herald The New York Times Newsweek The Philadelphia Inquirer The Plain Dealer The San Francisco Chronicle US News & World Report USA Today Wall Street Journal The Washington Post 308,973 N/A* 181,504 178,455 222,683 441,508 309,863 245,326 343,952 600,449 151,612 876,638 1,972,219 342,361 252,608 223,549 2,519,310 1,830,594 2,061,142 545,345
ABC News World News with Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, This Week CBS Evening News, The Early Show, Face the Nation, 60 Minutes Anderson Cooper 360, John King USA, CNN Newsroom, Joy Behar Show, Campbell Brown, The Situation Room Today Show, Meet the Press, NBC Nightly News PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer The Rachel Maddow Show, The Ed Show, Countdown, Hardball Hannity, The O’Reilly Factor, Fox on the Record with Greta Van Susteren
NBC News PBS MSNBC Fox News Network
*Associated Press is an international news organization offering news, photos, graphics, audio and video for 1,700 newspapers and 5,000 radio and television outlets in the United States as well as newspaper, radio and television subscribers internationally. There are bureaus worldwide representing over one hundred countries.
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Media Content Analysis
Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010 reveals insights regarding the public discourse about immigrants, immigration, and immigration policy. Our findings are grouped into the following categories: 1. Overall coverage of immigration 2. Framing of stories 3. Most prevalent storylines 4. Individuals and types of people most frequently quoted 5. Dominant narratives 6. Penetration of the core narrative: workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together.
Overall coverage of the immigration debate across all types of media
Looking beyond the scope of our scan, immigration was not a dominant topic of media coverage for most of 2010. A review of the weekly News Coverage Index provided by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism3 shows two spikes in coverage—one in April, the other in July—both related to the Arizona law authorizing the police to demand proof of legal status when “reasonable suspicion” exists that a person is in the United States illegally. Until April, immigration was not among the top five stories for any week. But Governor Brewer’s signing of SB 1070 into law and the controversy it engendered pushed the “immigration debate” into a tie for second place with the oil rig explosion during the week of April 26–May 2; it was the top story on radio and cable TV talk shows, consuming more than half of the airtime (54 percent). The next spike happened during the week following U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling blocking key portions of the Arizona law from going into effect. During the week of July 26–August 1, the immigration debate accounted for 13 percent of all news coverage and nearly 30 percent of cable TV coverage. The only other week when immigration was one of the top five stories was the week of August 9th, when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina floated his proposal that the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “birthright citizenship” be repealed. This captured 4 percent of the news coverage, making it the fourth-biggest story that week (behind the 2010 midterm elections at 15 percent, the economic crisis at 12 percent, and the plane crash death of former GOP Alaska Senator Ted Stevens at 5 percent).
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Framing of stories
Framing news stories is important because different frames have different effects on how people attribute responsibility for the cause of and the solutions to social problems. Episodic frames highlight the experiences of individuals and implicitly promote the idea that individuals are solely responsible for what happens to them. Alternatively, thematic frames contextualize the plights of individuals by illuminating the conditions that give rise to societal problems. This helps readers understand that problems and their solutions are systemic in nature, and this understanding builds public support for comprehensive policy solutions. Immigration was framed thematically in media coverage during 2010. The stories and opinion pieces repeatedly reported that the immigration system was “broken” and that the responsibility for fixing it rested with the federal government. Even the stories in which the plights of individuals were highlighted used those “episodes” as vehicles for introducing and illustrating the negative impacts of the broken system. Competing partisan policy claims, the conflict between state and federal lawmakers, and the active engagement of a large and broad immigrant rights movement are recurring themes. Thematic framing has characterized immigration coverage since 2007. Prior to that, stories frequently appeared as features about striving and successful individual immigrants and about the cultural and business activities of immigrant communities in the United States. But in 2007, the bitter debate in Congress brought about a shift, and it is likely that the story of the broken system and the need to fix it will predominate until reform is enacted.
One story dominated print media coverage of the immigration issue: Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (Senate Bill 1070—commonly referred to as “SB 1070”), signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in April 2010. Were it not for Arizona, the immigration issue would likely have received far less attention from the mainstream media. The next most-covered story, which often overlapped with coverage of the Arizona law, was the push for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Many of those stories were triggered by grass-roots protests and other activities by the immigrant rights movement. Ten percent of the articles focused on federal enforcement issues under the Obama administration. As we found in our previous study, Media Content Analysis: Public Discourse on Immigration 2008–2009, the link between immigration and the economic crisis received relatively little coverage, according to our scan (see table 1).
Table 1. ImmIgraTIon coverage In prInT medIa, January-november 2010
Arizona Push for comprehensive reform Obama Administration’s enforcement strategy The DREAM Act Mid-term elections Maricopa, Arizona Sheriff Arpaio Immigration and the economic crisis Birthright citizenship 42% 25% 10% 6% 5% 5% 4% 3%
Source: Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010, The Opportunity Agenda, March 2011.
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On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, known simply as SB 1070. Dubbed “the nation’s toughest immigration law,” it makes the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and gives the local police broad powers to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. The enactment of SB 1070, the protests it engendered, and the legal challenges filed—especially the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice—were major news stories throughout the spring and summer. Forty-two percent of the articles generated by our scan covered SB 1070. We also scanned television news coverage in the week following the passage of the law. Print Media About one-third of the articles in our random sample were opinion pieces, all of them critical of the new law. The Arizona Republic published two editorials in the immediate aftermath of the bill’s passage; “Stop Failing Arizona” accused state politicians of “pandering to public fear” and serving “political expediency” rather than providing leadership. It called on voters to “get wise and demand leadership and solutions” (The Arizona Republic, May 2, 2010). “Seek consensus, rehabilitation of state’s image” responded to calls for a boycott of the state by challenging Arizona to “rehabilitate its image . . . by becoming the leader in demanding federal solutions on immigrants.” The editorial called Arizona’s multicultural heritage “a treasure” and argued that “neither the problems created by illegal immigration nor the ethnicity of many of the illegal immigrants should become an excuse to tread on the rights of Latino Arizonans” (The Arizona Republic, May 7, 2010). The Chicago Tribune challenged the practicality of “Arizona’s approach—called ‘attrition through enforcement’”: That’s a losing battle as long as there are incentives on this side—incentives that benefit both immigrants and the American businesses that employ them. For decades, an apt image of our southern border was a big “help wanted” sign fastened to a razor wire fence. The mixed message: You’re not supposed to be here—but come if you can (“Obama vs. Arizona,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 2010). Op-eds and columns were equally critical of the Arizona law. An illustrative op-ed by Ana E. Hernandez, a Texas state representative, was published in The Houston Chronicle. In it she described the “constant state of fear” her family experienced while living undocumented until the 1986 reforms were passed. She called the Arizona law “hateful and racially driven” and urged Texans to support comprehensive immigration reform (“Arizona law is dangerous approach to border issues; Immigrants contribute billions to state economy,” The Houston Chronicle, May 1, 2010). Other opinion pieces included: A column in Newsweek applauding the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for condemning the Arizona law (Lisa Miller “Three Cheers for the Bishops; They’re righteous on immigration,” Newsweek, May 10, 2010). A column by Tim Rutten condemning “Arizona’s legislative war on immigrants” (“Obama needs to step up,” Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2010). An op-ed by Doris Meissner and James Ziglar of the Migration Policy Institute supporting the Obama administration’s legal challenge to SB1070, noting that “Allowing states to set their own immigration policies fails to solve the overall problem of illegal immigration and violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution” (“Why Arizona had to be challenged,” The Washington Post, July 22, 2010). 12
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Our sample captured 22 news articles about the Arizona law. The articles are discusssed below, broken down by the period in which they were published. Week of April 23rd The first batch of articles, published in the immediate aftermath of the law’s passage, emphasized controversy, conflict, and condemnation in the lead paragraph. The law was alternately described as “controversial,” “get-tough,” “a crackdown,” and “unconstitutional”: Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement law was the target of fresh attacks Sunday as opponents, from national civil rights activists to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, vowed to take their fight to the courts as soon as this week. … “This is dividing our city and our state; it’s tearing us apart,” said Gordon (Kevin Johnson, “Ariz. Immigration law creates rift; Measure could have national implications,” USA Today, April 26, 2010). President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned of harassment against Hispanics under Arizona’s tough new immigration law, saying such “poorly conceived” measures can be halted if the federal government fixes the nation’s broken immigration system for good (Julie Pace, “Obama pleads for bipartisan immigration reform,” The Associated Press, April 27, 2010). The furor over Arizona’s new law cracking down on illegal immigrants grew Monday as opponents used refried beans to smear swastikas on the state Capitol, civil rights leaders demanded a boycott of the state, and the Obama administration weighed a possible legal challenge (Jonathan J. Cooper, “Furor grows over Arizona’s illegal immigrant crackdown,” The Houston Chronicle, April 27, 2010). Blasting Arizona’s tough new immigration law as “unpatriotic and unconstitutional,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday backed a boycott of the state” (Teresa Watanabe, “Mayor Backs Ariz. Boycott,” Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2010). Quotes from opponents of SB 1070 outnumbered quotes from supporters by 2 to 1. Opponents who were quoted condemning the law included the mayors of Phoenix and Los Angeles, President Obama, Latino state senators, and advocates from the Hispanic Federation, the ACLU of Arizona, Chicanos Por La Causa, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). Their messages emphasized the inevitability of racial profiling and the federal government’s exclusive authority over immigration enforcement. Supporters who were quoted included Governor Brewer, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and state Rep. John Kavanagh, who was one of the main supporters of the bill in the legislature. Brewer’s message emphasized the state’s frustration with Washington, and Kavanagh described the conservative “attrition through enforcement” strategy: That means that rather than conducting large-scale active roundups of illegal immigrants, our intention is to make Arizona a very uncomfortable place for them to be so they leave or never come here in the first place (Daniel Gonzalez, “Many migrants, legal and illegal, say they’re planning to leave state,” The Arizona Republic, April 28, 2010). April 30-May 31 Coverage during this period focused on protests and other forms of activism taking place throughout the country, ranging from demonstrations to voter registration drives. They included articles about mass demonstrations in Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago; the announcement of a lawsuit filed by 14 advocacy organizations; and the formation of an Arizona-based business coalition made up of leaders who were “tired of the controversy surrounding Arizona’s new immigration law” and who called for a federal solution. The headlines of many of these stories conveyed a sense of unity and militancy on the 13
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part of the protestors: “Chanting for change thousands march against Ariz. law” (Annette Espinoza and Heather McWilliams, The Denver Post, May 2, 2010). “Rallies against Arizona law draw droves; In L.A. alone, 50,000 gather to protest measure some say pushes racial profiling” (Sophia Tareen, The Houston Chronicle, May 2, 2010). “Phila. rally decries Ariz. immigrant crackdown” (Michael Matza, The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 27, 2010). The articles were sprinkled with quotes from demonstrators and onlookers: “I believe in universal human dignity,” said Scott Sloan, an active Democrat. “These are people who believe in the American dream and are trying to live it,” said Jason King of Denver (The Denver Post). “We’re good people,” singer Gloria Estefan said atop a flatbed truck. “We’ve given a lot to this country. This country has given a lot to us” (The Houston Chronicle). “It’s racist,” said Donna Sanchez, a 22-year-old U.S. citizen living in Chicago whose parents illegally crossed the Mexican border. “I have papers, but I want to help those who don’t” (The Houston Chronicle). Police spokespeople expressed their reservations about the law and its impact on police-community relations: San Jose Police Chief Robert Davis, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said the group stands by its 2006 policy that, “immigration enforcement by local police would likely negatively effect and undermine the level of trust and cooperation between local police and immigrant communities” (Kevin Johnson, “Ariz. immigration law creates rift; Measure could have national implications,” USA Today, April 26, 2010). “Over the last 25 years we’ve worked hard to build relationships with minority communities that are immigrant communities,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. “Enforcing immigration laws will cause us many problems in terms of those people feeling they can talk to us about crime issues and report crimes” (Michael Matza, “Phila. rally decries Ariz. immigrant crackdown,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 27, 2010). July-August News coverage during the summer covered the U.S. Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to block the Arizona law from taking effect. The lawsuit and Judge Bolton’s preliminary injunction were sometimes discussed in the context of the approaching midterm elections and gave Republican leaders an opening to attack the Obama administration: Republican leaders, reacting quickly, said Washington and the administration were to blame for failing to enforce immigration laws over many years. “Suing the people of Arizona for attempting to do a job the federal government has utterly failed to execute will not help secure our borders,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (David G. Savage, “U.S. files suit to block Arizona law,” Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2010). “Instead of wasting taxpayer resources filing a lawsuit against Arizona and complaining that 14
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the law would be burdensome,” Mr. McCain said in a joint statement with Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, “the Obama administration should have focused its efforts on working with Congress to provide the necessary resources to support the state in its efforts to act where the federal government has failed to take responsibility” (Randal C. Archibold, “Judge Blocks Arizona’s Law on Immigrants,” The New York Times, July 29, 2010). A final point about this storyline is the frequency with which comprehensive immigration reform appears as the antidote to Arizona’s “crackdown on illegal immigrants” and the number of times President Obama was criticized by protesters, columnists, and editorial boards for not keeping his campaign promise to push for reform in his first year in office. A few examples follow [the boldface emphasis is ours]: Angered by a controversial Arizona immigration law, tens of thousands of protesters— including 50,000 alone in Los Angeles—rallied in cities nationwide demanding President Barack Obama tackle immigration reform immediately (Sophia Tareen, “Rallies against Arizona law draw droves; In L.A. alone, 50,000 gather to protest measure some say pushes racial profiling,” The Houston Chronicle, May 2, 2010). In Arizona, meanwhile, the consequences of the president’s failure to push for comprehensive immigration reform, as he promised in his campaign, have been compounded by the Justice Department’s sloth in challenging that state’s recently enacted anti-immigrant legislation (Tim Rutten, “Obama needs to step up,” Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2010). Marching for immigrant rights outside Independence Hall on Wednesday, about 100 placardcarrying demonstrators denounced Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration and called on President Obama to honor his campaign pledge to bring about comprehensive reform” (Michael Matza, “Phila. rally decries Ariz. immigrant crackdown,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 27, 2010). Television Coverage For the network media scan, we zeroed in on coverage of the adoption of SB 1070 during the week of April 23–30 on the ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NBC, and PBS networks. In order to get a clearer picture of how the more mainstream stations covered the story, we analyzed separately the two more partisan stations, MSNBC and Fox News Network. In mainstream coverage, studio appearances took place in either a debate or a roundtable discussion. The debaters were generally elected officials or representatives of advocacy organizations from either side. The roundtable discussions were populated by pundits from the left, right, and center and the majority of them expressed either strong opposition to the law or significant concern about its implementation. Both the debates and the roundtable discussions tended to focus on three issues: (1) racial profiling, (2) immigration as a federal versus a state responsibility, and (3) the political ramifications of partisanship on the immigration issue. Examples: racial profiling Rep. Raul Grijalva: And when you talk about profiling, I thought the governor’s effort and executive order was kind of interesting. Russell Pearce [a white Arizona senator who was one of the bill’s main backers] will be driving down the street without his wallet. A policeman will stop him, pat him on the hand and send him home. I will be driving down the street without a wallet, and I stand the chance of getting arrested, put in jail and fined $500. That is where the profiling will happen. And that’s the discriminatory aspect that has got so many of us in
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Arizona completely opposed to this bill… Michael Hethman: Well, actually, the standard in the Arizona bill, reasonable suspicion that a person is unlawfully in the country, is much more modest than the federal standards established by the Supreme Court, which says that an officer, in a lawful stop, doesn’t need any reasonable suspicion at all to query the person about their immigration status. So, what we are seeing in Arizona is a much more modest measure, which is designed to be practical and to deal with these wild kind of claims that Mr. Grijalva is making (NewsHour, PBS, April 23, 2010). David Brooks: First of all, I think this bill in Arizona is an invitation to abuse. You’re going to have the government making decisions on the basis of race. And at what level are they making these decisions? At the cop level, in the worst possible circumstances, when people are angry? It’s an invitation to sort of racial profiling and abuse. So I think it’s terrible (Meet the Press, NBC, April 25, 2010). Cynthia Tucker: A California Republican has said you can tell an illegal immigrant by the shoes they wear. Of course this is an invitation to racial profiling. Everyone with a Spanish surname, everyone with a certain look, you may or may not be Latino. There are people in my family who look as if they could be Latino. It harkens back to apartheid when all black people in South Africa were required to carry documents in order to move from one part of town to another (The Roundtable; This Week’s “Politics,” ABC, April 25, 2010). Lou Dobbs: The biggest misconception is that it requires racial profiling, that it prescribes racial profiling. And importantly, the legislators and the Governor in Arizona, are making absolutely certain that there will not be racial profiling (Good Morning America, ABC, April 30, 2010). Examples: federal versus state responsibility Bay Buchanan: You know what they’re giving is the tools to the law enforcement officers of Arizona. The same tools that we now have given to border agents. The [federal] law has not done the job. Arizona is a target for human and drug smuggling. … People are being murdered, the schools are overloaded. These laws have not worked and so now they’re given the tools. They’re taking the handcuffs off the police officers and they’re going to be putting them on those who are violating the laws of this country. Maria Cordona: Look, what we need clearly is comprehensive immigration reform. I absolutely understand the frustration of folks in Arizona and of all of our leaders in the border states who are looking at this problem and have had this problem for many, many, many years. It is an issue that we need to deal with at a federal level, which is why the President said yesterday that we need to deal with this by passing comprehensive immigration reform (The Early Show, CBS, April 24, 2010). Matt Dowd: To me, Arizona is a sideshow. … This is about people in a state—and it’s going on all over the country—that they see a federal government that’s unwilling to enforce a law that’s already on the books. There is an immigration law on the books… so it’s not about a new law passed. It’s about a state saying that we think the federal government should enforce the law. They’re not enforcing the law, so we’re going to enforce the law. I don’t think it’s the right response. I think we need the federal government to step up and actually perform an immigration policy. But it’s not about Arizona (The Roundtable; This Week’s “Politics,” ABC, May 2, 2010).
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Examples: political ramifications Alexis Glick (former Fox VP of Business News): I thought one of the most interesting things is Senator McCain’s stance on this, someone who talked a lot on the campaign trail and has been very vocal about needing comprehensive immigration reform. I understand he’s fighting a tight race and a tight battle there, but I thought that was very telling, when you look to how this will impact the mid-term elections. Is this about what will happen to the Hispanic vote? Is this about what you need to do in these short-term elections to get the necessary votes? (The Roundtable; This Week’s “Politics,” ABC, April 25, 2010). Paul Steinhauser (CNN Deputy Political Director): You can say that what’s happening in Arizona will have an impact right back here at the nation’s capitol. It could be a kick in the pants to the White House and Democrats trying to push forward on immigration reform. … It looks like immigration reform may be fast-tracked now by the White House and Democrats in Congress. They may try to push immigration reform, some kind of pathway to citizenship. They’re going to try to push that through this summer or sometime before the elections this November. … The Latino community is growing every year, it seems, when it comes to the electorate (CNN Newsroom, April 24, 2010). Wolf Blitzer: More now on Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants. The state’s controversial new law is dividing Republicans. I talked about that and more with the party chairman, Michael Steele. … Some Republican strategists, Karl Rove among others, are worried this is going to alienate Hispanic voters. The Republican Party needs these people. Michael Steele: I think Karl Rove is exactly right about that. And we need, as a party, to be mindful that our prior actions in this area and certainly our rhetoric in this area has not been the most welcoming and the most supportive of helping those who want to assimilate into the way of life of America… (The Situation Room, CNN, May 1, 2010). Katrina Vanden Heuvel (The Nation): This issue is going to sort Republicans and conservatives politically, morally. I think Latino-bashing, which is what this is, is ultimately political suicide for the Republican Party (The Roundtable; This Week’s “Politics,” ABC, May 2, 2010). Our sample included five programs from Fox News. The hosts played the role of opinion-maker rather than unbiased moderator, and they had guests who agreed with their point of view. Both hosts and guests on Fox were strong supporters of the Arizona law and used the media to deny that racial profiling was an issue and to tell their immigration story of an out-of-control border, the threat of terrorism and rising crime, and overburdened social services. Sean Hannity: Well, the most controversial side of this is that, if they think people are in the country illegally, they’re going to stop them. And people say, “Well, wait a minute. That’s racial profiling.” Reaction? Steven Crowder, Fox News contributor: I think it is racial profiling. I don’t think there’s really anything wrong as far as racial profiling, stopping people who are coming in illegally. I mean, you’re not looking for a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Swede most of the time. Hannity: Let me broaden the discussion. Because we know the impact of illegal immigration. America can no longer afford it. It’s impacting our criminal justice system, our health care system, our educational system. We have people… if somebody can just walk across the border because they want to get a job and they want more opportunity, so, too, can a terrorist, somebody who wants to destroy an American city (Hannity, April 23, 2010).
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Laura Ingraham: The proposed boycott of Arizona is a cheap publicity stunt, not to mention illogical and counterproductive. And those of us who support Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration should encourage our own states to adopt similar measures. After all, if states can’t help enforce the very immigration laws that Congress has passed, then the concept of national sovereignty and the rule of law are totally meaningless. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa): Ninety percent of the illegal drugs in America come through or from Mexico. There’s a lot of crime that’s associated with that. If you look at Giuliani’s broken windows effect, you fix the window and you break up the mobs on the street and you actually end murder. We have to do it with all immigration law and are doing it in Arizona. If we do it everywhere, we won’t need ICE at all (The O’Reilly Factor, April 27, 2010). Ann Coulter: Everyone is blatantly lying about what this law does. Specifically racial profiling is prohibited by the law. Cops, by the way, cannot initiate contact with anyone under the law whom they could not initiate contact with before. It’s when they’re in the process of stopping someone or arresting someone if there’s a reasonable suspicion that the person is here illegally, not based on race, not based on a suspicion of the person’s national origin. … I’ve never seen a law lied about, any public issue lied about so much (The O’Reilly Factor, April 30, 2010). We also analyzed coverage from MSNBC. Hosts and guests of the cable channel expressed their disapproval of the Arizona law by underscoring its sanctioning of racial profiling. They used their media access as a bully pulpit to push for comprehensive immigration reform. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson: I’m extremely disappointed. I think it hurts the democratic values of this country and it’s impractical. It’s not a reform. It’s unenforceable. It’s going to spur racial profiling. … Hopefully, what this will spur is what the Congress has failed to do. And that is comprehensive immigration reform, an earned legalization program, accountability, where the 11 million that are here, speak English, prove that they have a viable background check, get in back of the line. We do need more border enforcement, an employer verification system (The Rachel Maddow Show, April 23, 2010). Keith Olbermann: Protests continuing at this hour at the state capitol of Phoenix, Arizona, while calls for and outlines of boycotts of the various and extremely vulnerable aspects of one of that state’s primary exports, tourism, takes shape. … Sunday, thousands turned out to protest the law that makes it a state crime to be an illegal immigrant, a law that will allow police to stop and question anyone they wish, merely on the suspicion that they might be in the state illegally. Opponents saying the law will lead to rampant racial profiling and turn Arizona into a virtual police state (Countdown, April 26, 2010). Chris Matthews: You know, I just wish we could have a regular system like this, where you bring in a reasonable number of people who want to come to America—we’re the country of immigrants you know—based upon how quickly we can assimilate people and become part of the country, and then bring in others to work periodically and go back home again. It seems to me a rational country ought to be able to do this rationally, fairly, and legally instead of this game that everybody’s playing. … The guys who want to put big fences up don’t want to deal with the employment issue. … Why don’t we have a Social Security card not used for any other purpose except, if you want to work in America, you have to be who you say your are? What’s wrong with that? Peter Beinart, The Daily Beast: That’s absolutely right. It’s part of a larger project that probably increases the amount of legal immigration we have and provides a path to citizenship for at least a lot of the illegal immigrants who are here now who are willing to do all the right things. 18
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… There’s a huge supply. There’s a huge demand. No matter how much you militarize the border, if people want those jobs enough, and the employers want them, they’re going to come (Hardball, April 30, 2010).
Comprehensive immigration reform (CIR)
Opinion columns and articles about the need for CIR appeared sporadically throughout the year, usually triggered by a major immigrant rights protest, a speech by the president, or a momentary flareup in Congress. They conveyed a sense of urgency and frustration, as the immigration debate continued to fester and solutions seemed out of reach. One of the key findings from our last media analysis covering the period November 2008–July 2009 was that although terms such as “overhaul” and “sweeping reform” appeared regularly, there was little definition or details as to what CIR would look like. That has changed. In particular, editorials during the more recent period gave the impression that there is an evolving consensus about what comprehensive immigration reform means. The components most frequently cited are border security, workplace enforcement, a realistic visa program, and a path to legalization for those already in America. Some examples: The nation sorely needs to bring some 12 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows as part of a comprehensive overhaul that ensures border safety, guarantees future labor needs, and promotes fair and legal hiring practices (“Delivering on the promise,” The Miami Herald, April 13, 2010). We need leaders who push to enact comprehensive reform. … Reform must secure the border so that the people entering the country are doing so legally and we know who they are. It must eliminate the access to jobs that migrants are willing to risk their lives to reach. It must include an efficient system to verify worker eligibility and tough sanctions for employers who hire the undocumented. It must provide a path to legalization that has to be earned by the current undocumented population (“Stop Failing Arizona,” The Arizona Republic, May 2, 2010). The framework for comprehensive reform, as outlined by Obama: Border security and workplace enforcement to ensure workers are here legally. A flexible and realistic visa program to match the number of visas with the actual needs of our business sector. And a path to legalization for the 11 million already here (“Obama vs. Arizona,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 2010). Many of the news articles about CIR covered the immigrant rights movement’s actions and its mounting frustration with Congress and the Obama Administration. The headlines and lead sentences describe a unified movement in motion [boldface emphasis is ours]. “With chances dim, advocates push for immigration bill” As President Obama vows to refocus Democrats’ attention on jobs and the economy, advocates for overhauling the nation’s immigration laws say they are still gearing up for a battle in the Senate in coming weeks, despite fading hopes for victory (Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post, February 1, 2010). “Groups mobilize for immigration reform” Frustrated at the White House and Congress, immigrant advocates are rolling out a series of pressure tactics to push forward legalization for illegal immigrants and other reforms (Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2010).
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“Immigrants heading to Washington to push reforms” Day laborers on foot from Long Island and Californians who sold tamales to pay for their trip are expected to rally on Sunday in Washington, D.C., with tens of thousands of immigrants, many of them undocumented Hispanics, to dramatize their pleas for immigration reform (Deepti Hajela, The Associated Press, March 18, 2010). “In Shadow of Health Care Vote, Immigrant Advocates Keep Pushing for Change” Immigrant advocates, frustrated with President Obama’s lack of progress on legislation to overhaul the immigration system, called one month ago for a march in Washington that they said would display the strength of their numbers and would give the president the push he needed to get the debate rolling in Congress (Julia Preston, The New York Times, March 21, 2010). At the same time, the news coverage emphasized gridlock inside the Beltway and the unlikelihood that immigration reform would be on this year’s legislative agenda or a priority for the Obama administration. Timed to coincide with a major immigrant rights demonstration in Washington, Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) published their op-ed, “The right way to mend immigration,” in The Washington Post on March 19th. In it, they outlined their bipartisan framework for CIR. Arguing that the solution to the immigration system’s problems was “simple,” they laid out their “four pillar” plan, including “a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.” But by the end of April, that effort had unraveled—a victim of partisan fighting over climate change legislation. A Democratic proposal announced by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was then greeted with derision by Republican Senate leaders: In a joint statement, [Sen. Lindsey] Graham and Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said the immigration proposal is political gamesmanship. “It poisons the well for those of us who are working toward a more secure border and responsible, bipartisan reform of our immigration laws,” the statement said ( Erin Kelly, “New push for migrant reform,” The Arizona Republic, April 30, 2010).
Law Enforcement Strategy
In our last media scan covering November 2008–July 2009, which included the closing months of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration, we found that federal enforcement—workplace raids, detentions, and deportations—was the dominant story, representing more than half of our sample articles. In our new scan, federal enforcement represents only 10 percent of the stories, which fall into two groups: articles describing the Obama administration’s enforcement tactics, and internal and external challenges faced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Examples from the first group include: A Houston Chronicle review of actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows 23 Texas companies… have been penalized since the start of the federal fiscal year in October. At the same time, statistics show workplace arrests declining, a shift from the enforcement strategies of the George W. Bush era (Alan Blinder, “Immigration fines slap Texas firms…raids down as policy changes,” The Houston Chronicle, July 17, 2010). In a bid to remake the enforcement of federal immigration laws, the Obama administration is deporting record numbers of illegal immigrants and auditing hundreds of businesses that blithely hire undocumented workers. … The effort is part of President Obama’s larger project “to make our national laws actually work,” as he put it in a speech this month at American University (Peter Slevin, “Record numbers being deported; Rise is part of Obama’s efforts to remake immigration laws,” The Washington Post, July 26, 2010). 20
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The Obama administration, while deporting a record number of immigrants convicted of crimes, is sparing one group of illegal immigrants from expulsion: students who came to the United States without papers when they were children (Julia Preston, “Administration Spares Students in Deportations,” The New York Times, August 9, 2010). Federal officials say they are compelling Massachusetts law enforcement agencies, including the State Police, to join a national program that checks the immigration status of everyone arrested and fingerprinted by 2013, officials said yesterday. The planned rollout of the federal Secure Communities program has state officials, nonprofits, and local police chiefs scrambling to determine the program’s impact in Massachusetts and whether it conflicts with a policy barring the State Police from enforcing immigration law (Maria Sacchetti, “US pushes state to join security plan; Immigration checks raise issues for police,” The Boston Globe, October 6, 2010). Internal and external challenges faced by ICE: On a typical day, John Morton finds himself under assault from the political right for failing to crack down on illegal immigration and from the left for cracking down too aggressively (Jerry Markon, “ICE chief Morton takes plenty of political heat; Ariz. law puts him in a difficult spot,” The Boston Globe, July 20, 2010). As it poises for further immigration initiatives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is struggling with festering internal divisions between political appointees and career officials over how to enforce laws and handle detainees facing deportation (Andrew Becker, “Immigration policies sparking tensions within ICE; Obama administration stances on detentions face internal resistance,” The Washington Post, August 27, 2010).
The DREAM Act
Two high-visibility demonstrations by students received some coverage in the national press: The Trail of Dreams, and a sit-in at Sen. John McCain’s Tucson office. The Trail of Dreams was an action initiated by four undocumented college students who have spent most of their lives in this country. They left Miami on January 1, 2010, and walked 1,500 miles to Washington, D.C., arriving there four months later. Their main demand was the passage of the DREAM Act, a federal law that would give undocumented students who have been in the states for five years the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four-year institution of higher education. The sit-in at Senator McCain’s office took place during the college graduation season. Five students dressed in caps and gowns risked deportation by revealing their immigration status in Arizona while the new state law was in effect. They demanded McCain’s support for the DREAM Act. All five of the articles picked up in the scan struck a sympathetic tone and included numerous quotes from the students themselves. They were also an advocacy vehicle for the DREAM Act. Examples include: “You live your life with one idea of what you think you can be, what it is to live in this country, and you wake up one morning and realize my reality is that I can only be a janitor” (Laura Wides-Munoz, “Youth trek from Miami to DC for immigrant rights,” The Associated Press, January 1, 2010). “I’m tired of coming back to school each semester and hearing about another friend who was picked up and deported” (The Associated Press, Ibid.). As illegal immigrants, they don’t qualify for student aid and have trouble affording four-year colleges. And they can’t turn their studies into careers. “What you see is the all-American girl,” 21
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Pacheco says. “Orchestra, cross-country, basketball, ROTC.” Not everybody sees that girl. Her family in Miami is fighting deportation (David Montgomery, “For immigration, students take the toughest course: action,” The Washington Post, May 1, 2010).
As the midterm elections approached and the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform legislation became increasingly remote, the Latino electorate’s disappointment with the Democratic Party became newsworthy. There were a handful of stories about a last-ditch effort by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to pass the DREAM Act as an attachment to the defense authorization bill. These stories emphasized Latino disappointment with President Obama and the Democratic Party and the party’s 11th-hour push to shore up the Latino vote. For example, Chances for comprehensive immigration reform have dimmed with the upcoming midterm elections, prompting Democrats to push a measure that would grant citizenship to illegal immigrant students as a way to energize Latino votes. … Latino groups are disappointed with Obama and Democrats for failing to act on a campaign pledge in 2008 to pass sweeping immigration reform in the first two years of a new administration (Gary Martin, “Dems court Latinos with DREAM Act,” The Houston Chronicle, September 20, 2010). In a Denver Post editorial, Sen. Reid’s effort was denounced as a “political maneuver that failed,” and the Democrats were accused of lacking the political courage needed to approve the DREAM Act (“Equality takes a back seat again on the military ‘don’t ask’ don’t tell’ policy and the immigrant DREAM Act, Washington failed to advance basic human rights,” September 23, 2010). Latino disappointment was the subject of two Los Angeles Times articles in the week before the midterm elections—one an editorial, and one a news article. The editorial urged Latino voters not to go along with the “Don’t Vote” campaign launched by a wealthy conservative pundit, Robert de Posada: Latinos who are frustrated with Congress’ failure to adopt comprehensive immigration reform are being targeted with a lie: that the best strategy to achieve their goal is to stop participating in the democratic process. Don’t vote. Be silent. Go uncounted to teach the politicians a lesson. But that approach cannot and will not work. No group in the United States has ever forwarded its political agenda by auto-disenfranchisement (“Don’t ‘Don’t Vote,’” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2010). The news article covered President Obama’s interview on Univision Radio in which he was characterized as “heavily courting Latino voters in the final days of the fall political campaign.” He was quoted as saying: Let me say this as an African American: We worked for decades on civil rights. … There is a notion that somehow if I had worked it hard enough, we could have magically done it. That’s just not the way our system works. If I need 60 votes to get this done, then I’m going to have to have some support from the other side. If the Latino community decides to sit out this election, then there will be few votes and it will be less likely to get done (Christi Parsons, The Nation, “Politics Now; Immigration; President urges Latino voters to keep the faith,” Los Angeles Times, October 26, 2010).
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, is known for his harsh views and punitive practices regarding undocumented immigrants. Many argue that Arpaio violates the civil rights of Latino citizens and immigrants, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating his conduct. Protests 22
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and lawsuits against the combative sheriff were the subject of several news articles. An Associated Press story reported that “Thousands of immigrant rights advocates marched in front of a county jail in Phoenix Saturday in a protest that was aimed at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration efforts and was marked by a clash between a small group of protesters and police officers” (Jacques Billeaud, “Thousands protest sheriff’s immigration efforts,” January 17, 2010). A later AP story reported on Arpaio’s refusal to cooperate with a civil rights investigation by the Justice Department (Pete Yost, “Justice gives Az. Sheriff deadline in rights case,” The Associated Press, August 3, 2010). Taken as a whole, these articles give only vague details about Arpaio’s anti-immigrant actions. One article reports only that “[h]e has won praise and condemnation for having deputies swarm neighborhoods, stopping people in search of criminals and illegal immigrants” (Dennis Wagner and Emily Bazar, “Arizona ‘ground zero’ of immigration fight,” USA Today, January 15, 2010). The Associated Press article about the protest quotes only a Phoenix police spokesman who emphasizes violence he attributes to the protesters; none of the protesters is quoted and no information is given about the reasons for the protest except for the following brief paragraph: “Critics have accused deputies working in Arpaio’s immigration efforts of racial profiling, which the sheriff denies. He says his deputies approach people when they have probable cause to believe they had committed crimes.” In general, Arpaio had the last word in these articles and he positioned himself as a victim of unfair criticism. In one he’s quoted as saying, “They’re zeroing in on the wrong guy. They ought to be zeroing in on the president” (Jacques Billeaud, “Thousands protest sheriff’s immigration efforts,” The Associated Press, January 17, 2010). In another, he said, “I’m not going to ignore the laws because of pressure from Washington or demonstrators or politicians” (Dennis Wagner and Emily Bazar, “Arizona ‘ground zero’ of immigration fight,” USA Today, January 15, 2010).
Immigration and the economic crisis
The scan produced only three articles that linked immigration and the country’s economic difficulties— one feature and two business stories. The feature—one of the very few articles in the scan that described the plight of individuals—told the story of a couple who returned to El Salvador after living in suburban Maryland for many years: “Like many immigrants in Prince George’s County, Jose, 59, couldn’t find a steady job in the decimated American job market. But unlike many Latino immigrants who are riding out the recession, Jose and Maria returned to their homeland” (Elahe Izadi, “Economic gloom drives Salvadoran couple home,” The Washington Post, March 18, 2010). The business stories tended to play down the impact that the legalization of undocumented immigrant workers would have on the economy. A Los Angeles Times story, “Turning down the temperature on illegal immigration,” focused on the major finding of a new study released by the Public Policy Institute of California: “Legalizing most currently unauthorized workers would have no appreciable effect on the labor market” (Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2010). The Arizona Republic ran a 2,000-word story in its Sunday business section, titled “Arizona’s Shadow Economy.” It reported that “up to half of illegal immigrants, perhaps 152,000 or more in the state, are believed to work in a large shadow economy, where workers are compensated in cash, don’t report the income, and don’t pay income taxes.” Continuing, the article pointed out that, “the truth is, if most illegal immigrants work in low-skill, low-paying jobs, they probably would not pay much if anything in income taxes. … The economic impact of illegal immigrants is difficult to measure because so many participate in the shadow economy” (The Arizona Republic, July 25, 2010).
On July 29th, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) proposed during an interview on Fox News that the Fourteenth Amendment be changed to eliminate the right to citizenship for anyone born in the United
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States. He claimed that people came to this country to “drop” a child so that he or she would be a U.S. citizen. This trial balloon created a brief storm of controversy, mostly on talk-show radio and cable television. Our scan picked up an op-ed and an editorial, both condemning the proposal in strong terms. In an oped column, E. J. Dionne, Jr., excoriated the proposal and Sen. Graham’s claim that immigrants “come here to drop a child. … Nothing should make Republicans prouder,” he writes, “than their party’s role in passing what are known as the Civil War or reconstruction amendments,” including the Fourteenth Amendment. “That is the American tradition and the Republican tradition. Senator Graham, please don’t throw it away” (“Is the GOP shedding a birthright?” The Washington Post, August 5, 2010). The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial attacking the proposal as “straight-up pandering from a political pro looking to reconnect with immigration hard-liners.” It continues, “This sideshow is the last thing the complicated, emotional topic of immigration reform needs” (“The wrong way to fix a broken border policy,” August 22, 2010).
The voices elevated in the news media as sources played a significant role in framing and positioning a story. They also provided insight into the angles that journalists chose to highlight. What spokespeople said and whom or what they represented can shape a story and impact the public’s perception of an issue. To that end, we scanned coverage to identify the types of spokespeople that are most frequently called upon to “tell their story” about immigration.
Pro-immigrant voices significantly outnumbered anti-immigrant voices in our sample. Immigrant rights advocates and pro-immigrant elected officials and community members were quoted 72 percent of the time, and anti-immigrant advocates and anti-reform elected officials were quoted 28 percent of the time. This media scan shows that immigrant rights advocates, activists, and individuals from the communities they represent have risen in prominence as sources. In a departure from past analyses where we found that the policy debate was dominated by politicians, this sample of articles reflects the increased activism and visibility of the organized immigrant rights movement and its allies who are quoted more frequently than any other category of spokespeople. Overall, their quotes emphasize the urgency for federal reform, the danger of more Arizonas, and frustration with Washington. Also notable is the breadth of the movement as reflected in the large number of individuals and organizations cited. More than 40 individuals from almost as many organizations were quoted in our sample. They represented national and local groups and coalitions, labor and faith organizations, business coalitions, and service providers. (See Appendix I for a list of organizations cited.) The majority of other pro-immigrant individuals quoted were demonstrators at immigrant rights protests. President Obama and ICE director John Morton were the most often quoted administration representatives. The most frequently quoted Democrats were Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.), Rep. Ed Pastor (Ariz.), Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (Ill.), and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. That only three Members of Congress were quoted with any frequency at all suggests some timidity among federal lawmakers about speaking out on this hot-button issue. Anti-immigrant advocates’ voices were largely sidelined in this policy debate. Spokespeople such as Steven Camarota and Mark Krikorian (Center for Immigration Studies), and Ira Mehlman (Federation for American Immigration Reform)—whose voices were so prominent during the spring 2007 Senate debate—played a minor role this time around, representing only eight percent of the quotes. 24
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Most of the Republicans who were quoted were state-level elected officials from Arizona defending SB 1070 (e.g., Governor Jan Brewer, Rep. John Kavanagh, and Sen. Russell Pearce). At the federal level, the two Republican senators from Arizona, John McCain and Jon Kyl, were quoted most.
Table 2. people The prInT medIa quoTed mosT
Immigrant rights advocates Republicans Individuals (immigrants, protesters, students, community residents) Democrats (except the President) President or Administration Officials Anti-immigrant advocates
frequenTly In ImmIgraTIon sTorIes
33% 19% 15% 13% 11% 8%
Source: Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010, The Opportunity Agenda, March 2011.
Voices of pro-immigrant advocates: “People are frustrated and disappointed,” said Angela Sanbrano of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities. “The message of the march is that the time for promises is over and we want concrete action” (Teresa Watanabe, “Groups mobilize for immigration reform,” Los Angeles Times, March 18, 2010). “Absent our unity, immigration reform will always be put off to another day,” said Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “We need to show a powerful force that we won’t give up on immigration reform in 2010” (Teresa Watanabe, “Mayor backs Ariz. boycott,” Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2010). “This is a way for people to release frustration and demand better legislation in a positive way,” said Julie Gonzales, state director of Reform Immigration for America” (Annette Espinoza and Heather McWilliams, “Chanting for change thousands march against Ariz. law,” The Denver Post, May 2, 2010). “This is the most extreme and dangerous of all the recent state and local laws purporting to deal with immigrant issues, and it has triggered outrage and opposition from virtually every segment of society,” said Lucas Guttentag, director of the ACLU Immigrant rights Project. “This law turns ‘Show me your papers’ into the Arizona state motto and racial profiling into the Arizona state plan” (Alia Beard Rau, “14 organizations, 10 individuals file suit over SB 1070,” The Arizona Republic, May 18, 2010). “Mostly what it’s going to do is drive some number of immigrants to other states and give Arizona the reputation as the state that took the lead in what will become known as Americanstyle ethnic cleansing,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. “I am horrified that states would say the way to address this problem is to put a target on the back of a whole ethnic group and try to terrorize undocumented family members out of the state” (Dan Nowicki and Daniel Gonzalez, “SB 1070 exodus pushing problem to other states,” The Arizona Republic, June 30, 2010). Voices of elected officials: Democrats and Republicans were quoted in about equal measure. The Democratic message emphasized solutions and the importance of respecting civil liberties and national values. The Republican message pitted the state of Arizona against the federal government and prioritized border control.
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Democrats: “The signing of new immigration laws by Arizona’s governor provides another important example of why we need to fix our broken system,” [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said Friday in a prepared statement. “While the first step in immigration reform must include border security, we cannot approach this important issue in a piecemeal fashion. Republicans and Democrats need to work together to pass comprehensive reform that is tough on people who break the law, fair to taxpayers, respectful of civil liberties, and practical to implement” (Erin Kelly, “Law revives calls for federal action on migrant reform,” The Arizona Republic, April 24, 2010). “Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken, and after so many years in which Washington has failed to meet its responsibilities, Americans are right to be frustrated. … But the answer isn’t to undermine fundamental principles that define us as a nation,” Obama said (Erica Werner, “Obama: Begin work this year on immigration reform,” The Associated Press, May 6, 2010). “GOP lawmakers, by and large, think our immigration policies should drive out, deport, or otherwise get rid of those people and their families. … We have a better plan. What Democrats propose… is to make those immigrants register with the government, pay fines, pay taxes, learn English, and get in the system as a condition of staying” (Luis Gutierrez, “Immigration Problem Requires a Federal Solution,” U.S. News & World Report, July 30, 2010). Republicans: “We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act,” Gov. Brewer said at Friday’s signing announcement. “But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation” (Kevin Johnson, “Ariz. immigration law creates rift; Measure could have national implications,” USA Today, April 26, 2010). “The fact that the border hasn’t been secured yet raises the question of whether people who want comprehensive reform are holding that hostage,” said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. “The sense seems to be that ‘If we secure the border, then you all wouldn’t have any incentive to compromise with us on comprehensive reform.’ You don’t have to have comprehensive reform to secure the border, but you do have to have a secure border to have comprehensive reform” (Dan Nowicki and Daniel Gonzalez, “SB 1070 exodus pushing problem to other states,” The Arizona Republic, June 30, 2010). “Instead of wasting taxpayer resources filing a lawsuit against Arizona and complaining that the law would be burdensome,” Mr. McCain said in a joint statement with Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, “the Obama administration should have focused its efforts on working with Congress to provide the necessary resources to support the state in its efforts to act where the federal government has failed to take responsibility” (Randal C. Archibold, “Judge Blocks Arizona’s Law on Immigrants,” The New York Times, July 29, 2010).
We counted a total of 76 appearances in our sample, either as program guests or in interviews. As in the case of the print media, pro-immigrant voices were more dominant than anti-immigrant voices, although not by as wide a margin.
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Table 3. people mosT
frequenTly quoTed on maInsTream TelevIsIon news programs4
Republican office-holders Immigrant rights advocates The President Pundits opposing SB 1070 Democratic office-holders other than the President Pundits supporting SB 1070 Anti-immigrant advocates
30% 22% 15% 13% 9% 6% 5%
Source: Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010, The Opportunity Agenda, March 2011.
Opponents of Arizona’s SB 1070 outnumbered supporters in studio appearances. Elected officials included Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), and Phil Gordon, Phoenix Mayor. Immigrant rights advocates were the most frequent in-studio guests. They included Clarissa Martinez, National Council of La Raza; Maria Cordona, Democratic strategist; Cathy Areu, Catalina; Frank Sharry, America’s Voice; and Bishop Minerva Garcano, United Methodist Church. Also arguing strongly against the Arizona law were Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal Constitution; Paul Krugman, The New York Times; Katrina Vanden Heuvel, The Nation; and Phil Donahue, former talk-show host. Expressing concerns about the wisdom or constitutionality of the law were a number of conservative pundits including Alex Castellanos (Republican consultant), David Brooks (The New York Times), and Matthew Dowd (former Bush strategist). In-studio guests who supported the law included J. D. Hayworth, former Arizona Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate; Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Ariz.); Sheriff Paul Babeu, Pinal County, Arizona; Michael Hethmon, Immigration Law Reform Institute; Roy Beck, NumbersUSA; Bay Buchanan, Republican strategist; and Adolfo Franco, Republican strategist. Also arguing for it were commentators Lou Dobbs, George Will, and Mark Smith. President Obama was not present in the studio for the programs we looked at, but clips of his speeches were included in half of them. By far the most popular clip was from his April 23rd speech in the Rose Garden at a ceremony honoring U.S. service members becoming citizens: “Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others. And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness we cherish as Americans as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe” (“New Immigration Law in Arizona Stirs Controversy; President May Address Immigration Reform After Financial Regulatory Reform,” CNN Newsroom, CNN, April 24, 2010). The same clip was used by ABC, CBS, PBS, and NBC. Its counterpart was a clip of Gov. Jan Brewer speaking at the signing ceremony; it was aired multiple times by most of the networks: “We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation” (“New Immigration Law in Arizona Stirs Controversy; President May Address Immigration Reform After Financial Regulatory Reform,” CNN Newsroom, CNN, April 24, 2010).
All the Republicans appearing in the news programs supported SB 1070 and all the Democrats opposed it.
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What overarching story is the mainstream media telling about immigration? What is the big takeaway for the reading, listening, and viewing American public? Several narratives are dominant today and, in broad strokes, they offer the public a framework for understanding the problem and for making judgments about policy alternatives.
Dominant print media narratives
X The immigration system is broken and the federal government is responsible for fixing it, but the administration and Congress are unwilling or unable to find a solution. The public is frustrated and increasingly angry. This narrative came through in most of the opinion columns and news reports. Supporters of Arizona’s law argued that the state had to act to control its border with Mexico since the federal government wasn’t fulfilling its responsibility to do so. Supporters of the immigrant rights movement accused the federal government of abdicating its responsibility to enact comprehensive reform, including bringing the 11 million out of the shadows. In this narrative, partisan gridlock in Congress and a lack of forcefulness on the part of President Obama in pushing for his campaign promise to reform the system are the major obstacles to change, which is urgently needed. X The Arizona law is misguided. Although Governor Brewer and other supporters of the law are quoted, the bulk of the coverage is negative. Arguments that the law panders to fear, will bring about racial and ethnic profiling, hurts the state’s image and reputation, and is contrary to American values dominate this narrative, which is reinforced by strongly worded editorials and prominent coverage of mass protests. X Comprehensive immigration reform is the solution. This narrative communicates the positive idea that a solution to this huge systemic problem is possible and expresses an emerging national consensus about the elements of reform. Through both op-eds and news articles, the term “comprehensive immigration reform,” once largely undefined, has begun to take concrete form. It is usually described as some combination of border safety and control, a path to legalization for the undocumented, a flexible visa program to match the country’s economic needs, fair hiring practices, employer sanctions, and a system of worker eligibility verification. Solution-oriented language gives CIR an aura of inevitability.
Dominant broadcast media narratives
The dominant mainstream broadcast narratives during the week following the enactment of SB 1070 were that the state’s action had brought the immigration issue to a head and that the nation was locked in a seemingly insurmountable dispute over what to do about illegal immigration. Solution-oriented rhetoric was less visible than in the print media. Rather, debate and sharp disagreement characterized both the format and the content of most of the news programs in our sample. MSNBC hosts and guests echoed the dominant print media narratives: the system is broken; the Arizona law is misguided; comprehensive reform is the solution.
The opposition narrative
Anti-immigrant advocates such as Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform 28
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and Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies were not quoted frequently in our sample. Instead, the opposition narrative was carried by Republican elected officials in Congress and in Arizona, and by conservative talk-show figures like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. The following quote from Hannity sums up the opposition narrative, which is based on the overwhelmingly scarce resources and the threat to national security: “Because we know the impact of illegal immigration, America can no longer afford it. It’s impacting our criminal justice system, our health care system, our educational system. We have people… if somebody can just walk across the border because they want to get a job and they want more opportunity, so, too, can a terrorist, somebody who wants to destroy an American city” (Hannity, Fox News Network, April 23, 2010).
Penetration of the core narrative
In 2008 The Opportunity Agenda collaborated with more than 150 immigrant rights leaders to map out a proactive and unified “core narrative” that advocates could use to guide their public statements about the need for comprehensive reform. (A core narrative is not a message or slogan but, rather, an overarching “big story” rooted in shared values and priorities.) Each of the elements of the proimmigrant core narrative—(1) workable solutions; that (2) uphold our nation’s values; and (3) move us forward together—represent a set of ideas about pragmatism, national principles, and progress through cooperation, respectively. A range of differing messages for different audiences can and should fit within the three narratives. The outcome of this process was an agreement to craft messages consistent with the overarching narrative of promoting workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together. To gauge whether and to what extent the core narrative was entering into the public discourse, we looked for quotes and articles that reflected the following broad themes: X Workable solutions—statements and reporting showing that comprehensive immigration reform and other pro-immigrant policies are practical and will work; that the pro-immigrant side of the debate is working to solve the immigration problem; and that anti-immigrant proposals like building walls and deporting 11 million people are not realistic and reflect anger rather than common sense. X Upholding our nation’s values—statements and reporting showing the comprehensive immigration reform and other pro-immigrant polices are consistent with American values, and emphasizing actual values such as fairness, accountability, order, family, and dignity. X Moving forward together—statements and reporting showing the contributions immigrants make to the national economy and to the fabric of our society, that they are creating jobs, rejuvenating communities, and enriching our cultural landscape. We found that all three themes were present in the mainstream media coverage over the past year. As previously noted, one element of the mainstream print media’s dominant narrative is that a solution is possible, that it is called “comprehensive immigration reform,” and that it comprises a number of different elements including a path to legalization. Variously described as “the federal solution,” “the four pillars plan,” or “the framework for comprehensive reform,” editorial and news reporting has positioned CIR as the only viable alternative to the current “broken system” and, as noted, the sheer frequency of solution-oriented language gives CIR an aura of inevitability. The passage of SB 1070 generated a robust national discussion about American values. The dangers of racial profiling, discrimination, and harassment of Latinos came up over and over again in both print and network media coverage. President Obama’s much-quoted statement—that laws like SB 1070 “threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness we cherish as Americans as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe”—skillfully connected the values of 29
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fairness and law and order, a theme reinforced in quotes from police spokespeople who worried that such laws “would likely negatively effect and undermine the level of trust and cooperation between local police and immigrant communities” (Kevin Johnson, “Ariz. immigration law creates rift,” USA Today, April 26, 2010). The theme of “moving forward together” was expressed through frequent allusions to the importance of immigration to the American economy. Political leaders, academics, and spokespeople from the business community argued that CIR was “essential to ensuring America’s future economic prosperity” and that reform would “guarantee the country’s future labor needs.” Speaking for “a coalition of chief executives of several major corporations,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “To remain competitive in the 21st century, we need effective immigration reform that invites people to contribute to our shared success. … If you want to solve the unemployment problem, you have to open the doors to immigrants who will come here, create businesses, because when the tide comes in, everybody’s boat rises” (Sara Kugler Frazier, “Coalition calls for immigration reform,” Detroit Free Press, June 25, 2010). Examples of coverage reflecting the core narrative: The tragedy is that the gridlock is avoidable. Democrats and Republicans agree on most of a unified, politically viable, and workable immigration reform package. Both parties agree that border security is a key part of any strategy. … Both parties also agree that we need a foolproof identification system that holds employers accountable and ends unauthorized work. … And we also agree that we need some level of legal immigration. Legal immigrants have been an engine of economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship on this continent for longer than we have been a nation. … The problem is that Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on what to do with the estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants already here. … GOP lawmakers, by and large, think our immigration policies should drive out, deport, or otherwise get rid of those people and their families. … Democrats, by and large, think that it is unrealistic to believe that a group larger than the population of Georgia will up and disappear” (Luis Gutierrez, “Immigration Problem Requires a Federal Solution,” U.S. News & World Report, July 30, 2010). Maybe Graham and his oddball crusade [to repeal birthright citizenship] to rewrite the Constitution can do the country a favor. Toss out his idea and then take up the challenge of finding a workable immigration policy (Editorial, “The wrong way to fix a broken border policy,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 2010). The president cited the Arizona law as a reason for action on immigration legislation. “Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken, and after so many years in which Washington has failed to meet its responsibilities, Americans are right to be frustrated. … But the answer isn’t to undermine fundamental principles that define us as a nation” (Erica Werner, “Obama: Begin work this year on immigration reform,” The Associated Press, May 6, 2010). “Of course this [SB 1070] is an invitation to racial profiling. Everyone with a Spanish surname, everyone with a certain look, you may or may not be Latino. There are people in my family who look as if they could be Latino. It harkens back to apartheid when all black people in South Africa were required to carry documents in order to move from one part of town to another” (Cynthia Tucker on The Roundtable; The Week’s “Politics,” ABC, April 25, 2010). “I’m extremely disappointed. I think it [SB 1070] hurts the Democratic values of this country and it’s impractical. It’s not a reform. It’s unenforceable. It’s going to spur racial profiling. … Hopefully, what this will spur is what the Congress has failed to do. And that is comprehensive 30
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immigration reform, an earned legalization program, accountability, where the 11 million that are here, speak English, prove that they have a viable background check, get in back of the line. We do need more border enforcement, an employer verification system” (New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on The Rachel Maddow Show, April 23, 2010). “One of the best opportunities lies in the DREAM Act, which would allow promising undocumented students to start a path toward citizenship if they meet certain standards. … The bill is a win not only for those students, but also for the country. In fact, the United States doesn’t have nearly enough students going through to finish college… we can hardly afford to obstruct ambitious, hardworking young people who want to attend college and join the great American mainstream” (Cynthia Tucker, “Illegal, but eventually invaluable,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 20, 2010).
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Public Opinion on Immigration
The public opinion section is based on a synthesis and meta-analysis of attitudinal tracking surveys and recent public opinion studies by nationally known and reputable research organizations, media outlets, and advocacy groups. All of the data examined are publicly available. We reviewed original data from 22 public opinion studies, the majority of which were surveys. All were conducted during 2010. We also looked at existing attitudinal surveys that have tracked opinion changes and trends in the United States with respect to immigrants and immigration. To synthesize and better understand the public opinion data collected over the past year, we grouped survey findings into four categories: X Immigrants and immigration X The immigration system and reform X The Arizona SB 1070 law, due process, and law enforcement X Birthright citizenship
Immigrants and immigration
The American public is conflicted about whether immigration and immigrants in general are good or bad for the country. The majority continues to say immigration, on the whole, is a good thing, though the public has been less positive about it since 2009 than it was at most points in the past decade.
fIgure 1. on The whole, do you ThInk ImmIgraTIon Is a good ThIng or a bad ThIng for ThIs counTry Today?
67 62 58 52 61 60
64 58 57
42 36 31 2002 2003 2004 2005 34 28 2006 2007 2008 33 36 30 2009 2010 36
% Good thing
% Bad thing
Source: “Amid Immigration Debate, Americans’ Views Ease Slightly,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, July 8–11, 2010.
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When the question is more specific, the public is evenly split on the role immigrants play in U.S. society, with 44 percent saying newcomers “threaten traditional American customs and values” and 44 percent saying they “strengthen American society” (“Opinions About Immigration” in Growing Opposition to Increased Offshore Drilling, Pew Research Center, June 24, 2010).5 As has long been the case, views about the undocumented are more negative, although research also indicates a significant degree of ambivalence. On the one hand, a majority (55 percent) of Americans say they have an unfavorable view of “illegal immigrants.”6 According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s survey, Democrats, the unaffiliated, and liberals are somewhat more positive: bare majorities of each group say they have a favorable view of “illegal” immigrants (51 percent, 51 percent, and 56 percent, respectively) (“Religion, Values, and Immigration Reform: National Survey,” Public Religion Research Institute, April 14, 2010). On the other hand, when asked whether or not they are “sympathetic” towards “illegal” immigrants, a majority of Americans (64 percent) answered in the affirmative, and only 17 percent said they were “very unsympathetic” (“Americans Value Both Aspects of Immigration Reform,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, May 1–2, 2010).7 The idea that undocumented immigrants are a drain on our economy and on public services continues to have traction. When asked which statement comes closer to their point of view, most Americans (62 percent) chose “illegal immigrants cost the taxpayers too much by using government services like public education and medical services”; only 32 percent chose “illegal immigrants in the long run become productive citizens and pay their fair share of taxes” (“Americans Closely Divided Over Immigration Reform Priority,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, June 11–13, 2010). An even larger percentage (74 percent) agrees that “illegal immigrants do more to weaken the U.S. economy because they don’t pay taxes but use public services” (“CBS News/New York Times Poll,” April 28–May 2, 2010). At the same time, a large majority (84 percent) agrees that the American economy would benefit if current “illegal” immigrants became tax-paying citizens (“Religion, Values, and Immigration Reform: National Survey,” Public Religion Research Institute, April 14, 2010). When asked which comes closer to “how you think about the issue of immigration and the economy,” 67 percent chose the statement: “We would be better off if people who are in the United States illegally became legal taxpayers so they can pay their fair share” over “We would be better off if people who are in the United State illegally left the country because they are taking away jobs that Americans need,” which was chosen by 28 percent (“Nationwide Poll: Majority Support for Immigration Reform Holds Strong Amidst Weak Economy,” America’s Voice/Benenson Strategy Group, December 19–21, 2009).
5 An almost identical split was evident in another poll taken at about the same time: 47 percent agreed that “immigration adds to our character and strengthens the U.S. because it brings diversity, new workers, and new creative talent to this country”; 44 percent agreed that “immigration detracts from our character and weakens the U.S. because it puts too many burdens on government services, causes language barriers, and creates housing problems” (“NBC News Survey,” NBC News/Hart/McInturff, May 20–23, 2010). 6 A national survey commissioned by the Public Religion Research Institute tested the terms “illegal immigrants” versus “undocumented immigrants” and found that a majority of Americans view “illegal immigrants” slightly more positively than “undocumented immigrants.” A majority of 55 percent had an unfavorable view of illegal immigrants, but an even larger majority (62 percent) had an unfavorable view of undocumented immigrants (“Religion, Values, and Immigration Reform: National Survey, April 14, 2010). Westen Strategies found the same trend :“Voters respond best to the term ‘illegal immigrants’” (“Speaking to Americans about Immigration and American Values,” Westen Strategies conducted for America’s Voice/Media Matters,, February 2010). However, The Opportunity Agenda’s survey of African Americans, Hispanics, and White Progressives uncovered differences based on race and ethnicity: Majorities of African Americans and Hispanics thought the term “undocumented immigrants” was “more appropriate” than “illegal immigrants” (54 percent and 60 percent, respectively) while White Progressives thought “illegal immigrants” was the more appropriate phrase (58 percent) (In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform, The Opportunity Agenda/GfK, September 2010). 7 The breakdown in that poll was: Very sympathetic (24 percent); Somewhat sympathetic (40 percent); Somewhat unsympathetic (17 percent); Very unsympathetic (17 percent).
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Views about the impact of undocumented immigrants on the job market are divided. The Public Religion Research Institute survey conducted in April 2010 found that the public is evenly split over whether or not undocumented immigrants take jobs that American workers want: 50 percent disagree, 48 percent agree. That survey also found that Americans with less education were more likely to believe immigrants take jobs that Americans want: 58 percent with a high school education or less thought so.8 Research commissioned by The Opportunity Agenda showed that a large majority of African Americans (68 percent) believed that the high rate of black unemployment was due to “the legacy of racial discrimination, poor educational opportunities, and the decline of factory jobs” rather than the presence of undocumented immigrants in the workforce (In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform, The Opportunity Agenda/Gfk Roper Public Affairs and Media, September 2010).
The immigration system and reform
Nationwide polling of the general public and specific subgroups demonstrates widespread agreement about the overall state of the country’s immigration system and about the importance of bringing about reform. The belief that the immigration system is “broken” is almost universal. In the Public Religion Research Institute’s survey, only 7 percent of Americans said the system was working, while a majority (56 percent) said it was completely or mostly broken; another 34 percent said it was working but with major problems. Similar views prevailed among three important constituencies in the effort to build support for CIR: African Americans, Hispanics, and White Progressives. When presented with two statements describing the state of the immigration system, large majorities of each group (66 percent, 71 percent, and 73 percent, respectively) agreed that “the immigration system is fundamentally broken and major reform is necessary” (In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform). Americans also overwhelmingly agree that illegal immigration is a serious problem, and a majority (61 percent) says it is a “very serious” problem (“CBS News Poll,” August 20–24, 2010). Although immigration is a mid-ranking concern, offered less frequently in response to an open-ended question about the nation’s “most important problem” than the economy, unemployment, and the federal deficit (“Americans Value Both Aspects of Immigration Reform,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, May 1–2, 2010),9 voters feel a sense of urgency about the need for “comprehensive immigration reform.” When asked whether they would tell Congress to take action now or wait, 76 percent chose “take action now,” and 67 percent felt strongly about it (“Findings from a Survey of 800 Registered Voters Nationwide,” America’s Voice/Lake Research Partners/Public Opinion Strategies, May 13–19, 2010).10 Public opinion research conducted soon after Arizona passed SB 1070 indicated that even the widespread support for Arizona’s action (see below) was largely due to the public’s increasing frustration with the federal government’s inability to enact comprehensive reform. Just weeks after the law was enacted, America’s Voice commissioned Lake Research Partners to conduct a national survey of registered voters. One of its major findings was that support for comprehensive immigration reform was stronger than ever, and those who supported the Arizona law were actually more likely to support comprehensive reform. They also found that voters saw immigration policy as a national issue and wanted federal action, not state-by-state laws. The researchers therefore concluded that support for
8 In a June 2010 survey, the split was 30 percent (take jobs away) to 59 percent (take unwanted jobs) (“June 2010 Political Survey,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, June 16–20, 2010). And in August, it was 39 percent (take jobs away) to 51 percent (take jobs Americans don’t want) (“CBS News Poll,” August 20–24, 2010). 9 In a July 8–11 Gallup poll, immigration ranked fourth among the “most important problems facing the country.” 10 In a poll taken at the time of the midterm elections, 67 percent of voters said they would “support Congress passing comprehensive immigration reform”; 55 percent indicated strong support (“Election Eve/Night Omnibus,” Lake Research Partners, October 31–November 2, 2010).
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the Arizona law came out of a desire for action and frustration with inaction on an issue that demands a solution (“Findings from a Survey of 800 Registered Voters Nationwide,” America’s Voice/Lake Research Partners/Public Opinion Strategies, May 13–19, 2010).11 A majority of voters (56 percent) think immigration should be the sole province of the federal government; among those who favored the Arizona law, most did so because of the federal government’s failure to solve the problem. When presented with head-to-head messages about the role of the federal government versus the state-by-state approach, most voters (53 percent) preferred to see a national, comprehensive solution (“Findings from a Survey of 800 Registered Voters Nationwide, May 13–19, 2010).12 Americans think that improving border control and “developing a plan to deal with the large number of illegal immigrants who are already living in the U.S.” are equally important. When asked about those two goals of immigration policy, a total of 89 percent agreed that border control is important (42 percent say “extremely important”) and 90 percent agree that developing a plan for those already living in the United States is important (36 percent say “extremely important” (“Americans Value Both Aspects of Immigration Reform,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, May 1–2, 2010). Americans strongly support (78 percent) comprehensive reform when it is described as follows: “Under this proposal, the federal government would strengthen border security and crack down on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants currently living in the United States would be required to register with the federal government, undergo criminal background checks, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for U.S. citizenship” (“Findings from a Survey of 800 Registered Voters Nationwide,” America’s Voice/Lake Research Partners/Public Opinion Strategies, May 13–19, 2010). Support remained unchanged at the time of the midterm elections: 81 percent of voters favored the proposal, 68 percent “strongly,” and 76 percent agreed with the following statement: “Deporting all 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States is unrealistic” (“Election Eve/Night Omnibus,” Lake Research Partners, October 31–November 2, 2010). In The Opportunity Agenda’s online survey of African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White likely voters, the policy proposal that was most favorably rated by all three groups called for improving border security and requiring “illegal immigrants” to pass a criminal background check before getting legal status, to pay taxes, and to learn English. This policy was favored by 85 percent of African Americans, 84 percent of Hispanics, and 87 percent of Progressive Whites (In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform, The Opportunity Agenda/ Gfk Roper Public Affairs and Media, September 2010). A number of recent surveys show that even when decoupled from border security—a concrete expression of the strong desire for “law and order” in immigration policy—the concept of earned legalization for immigrants already living in this country finds wide support today. According to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, the number of Americans who favor providing “illegal” immigrants with a way to obtain citizenship has increased by 10 points over the past three years. When asked, “Thinking about immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally, do you favor or oppose providing a way for illegal immigrants currently in the country to gain legal citizenship if they pass background checks, pay fines, and have jobs?” Fifty-eight percent answered
11 A poll conducted in June supported those findings; it found that 58 percent of the public supported the Arizona law, and 57 percent supported a path to legalization (“Nearly Six in 10 Back Arizona Law,” ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Immigration, June 3–6, 2010). 12 At the time just before the midterm elections in November, 56 percent of voters agreed that immigration was a national problem that should be dealt with at the federal level; 20 percent said it should be left up to individual states; and 19 percent said both (“Election Eve/Night Omnibus,” Lake Research Partners, October 31–November 2, 2010).
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affirmatively in December 2007, 63 percent in May 2009, and 68 percent in June 2010. Support is highest among Hispanics (83 percent), whites who have attended college (74 percent), those younger than 30 (76 percent), those between 30–49 (70 percent), and non-Hispanic blacks (69 percent) (“Opinions About Immigration” in Growing Opposition to Increased Offshore Drilling, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, June 24, 2010). Overall support increases when paying taxes is included as an explicit requirement. When asked, “Would you favor or oppose the following proposal: Creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay here and apply to legally remain in this country permanently if they had a job and paid back taxes,” 80 percent were in favor (“CNN/Opinion Research Poll,” May 21–23, 2010).13 According to The Opportunity Agenda’s survey of African Americans, Hispanics, and Progressive Whites, the requirement to pay taxes was the most popular element of comprehensive immigration reform, followed by passing a criminal background check and registering with the government (In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform, September 2010). The DREAM Act (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), an incremental reform originally introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2001 and reintroduced in the U.S. House in March 2009, is supported by a majority of voters. If passed, undocumented students would be eligible to earn legal status if they came to America when they were very young, lived here for at least five years, stayed out of trouble, earned a high school diploma or GED, and completed at least two years of college or military service. A survey conducted in June 2010 revealed that 70 percent of adults favored the DREAM Act, 51 percent strongly (“Public Support for the DREAM Act,” First Focus/Opinion Research Corp., June 10–13, 2010). In a more recent Gallup poll, a majority of voters (54 percent) indicated they would vote for a law that would “Allow illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children to gain legal resident status if they join the military or go to college” (“Slim Majority of Americans Would Vote for DREAM Act Law,” Gallup Daily tracking survey, December 3–6, 2010). During the past year, several organizations have commissioned research into the values underlying the public’s range of opinions on immigration policy and have tested various messages in support of comprehensive reform. The Public Religion Research Institute explored the values Americans believe “are important as a moral guide to immigration reform.” Respondents were asked to prioritize seven different values. In descending order of importance, they were: enforcing the rule of law/promoting national security (88 percent); ensuring fairness to taxpayers (84 percent); protecting the dignity of every person (82 percent); keeping families together (80 percent); following the Golden Rule (71 percent); recognizing America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants (54 percent); and welcoming the stranger (53 percent) (“Religion, Values, and Immigration Reform: National Survey,” April 14, 2010). The Opportunity Agenda tested a series of values and messages with African Americans, Hispanics, and Progressive Whites, including head-to-head testing of messages from the pro- and anti-immigration sides of the debate. For each audience, the progressive message—that legalizing undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States would benefit everyone by increasing the number of people paying taxes and removing the underground economy—prevailed by 3 to 1. The researchers concluded that the dominant values running through the persuadable block of voters centered on “law and order” and “respect for American culture” and that these constituencies also reacted positively to messages that focused on basic rights, practical solutions, and attacks on big business (for liking “cheap labor”). Finally, there was broad support across all groups for the core narrative focused on “workable
13 According to the PRRI survey, 86 percent of the public favored requiring all illegal immigrants to register with the government and meet certain requirements—working, paying taxes, and learning English—before having the opportunity to apply for citizenship; 60 percent strongly favor such a policy.
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solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together” (In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform, The Opportunity Agenda/Gfk Roper Public Affairs and Media, September 2010). America’s Voice commissioned Westen Strategies to test nine pro-immigrant messages against a strong opposition message using online dial-test surveys.14 Eight of those messages out-performed the opposition message, and the researchers identified four of them as “1st tier messages,” i.e., they out-performed the opposition message by margins of +9 to +28 (“Speaking to Americans about Immigration and American Values,” America’s Voice/Media Matters/Westen Strategies, February 2010). The four 1st-tier pro-reform messages which out-performed the opposition message led with phrases that were consistent with the core narrative of workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together. In descending order of resonance, they were: “We need immigration reform that’s tough, fair, and practical.” “Our immigration laws ought to reflect both our interests and our values as Americans.” “We need immigration reform that’s comprehensive, pragmatic, and consistent with our American values.” “The first and most important job of government is to protect its people, and you can’t protect your people if you can’t protect your borders.” The opposition message used by the researchers was based on arguments typically made by antiimmigrant advocates: “Illegal aliens” are law breakers who should go back where they came from; they are taking American jobs at a time when 15 million citizens are out of work; they cost taxpayers money by getting government services without paying taxes; we have to restore the “rule of law” by building “a good long fence” and deporting the “illegals” who are already in this country. The researchers also tested several headlines and taglines for a mock full-page ad. The strongest, drawing nearly 80 percent approval across the political spectrum, was: “We need immigration reform that’s comprehensive, pragmatic, and consistent with our American values. Obey our laws, learn our language, pay our taxes: Welcome to America.” The researchers concluded that “a tagline that starts tough and ends welcoming captures the ambivalence Americans have and wins acceptance from 80 percent of voters, with high emotional intensity” (“Speaking to Americans about Immigration and American Values,” America’s Voice/Media Matters/Westen Strategies, February 2010).
The Arizona SB 1070 immigration law, due process, and law enforcement
Americans seem to be of two minds when it comes to due process and the enforcement of immigration laws. A number of national polls and surveys probed the public’s reaction to the passage of Arizona law SB 1070, a law inconsistent with core due process values. All of them showed support for Arizona’s harsh approach by margins ranging from 59 percent to 64 percent (“Findings from a Survey,” America’s Voice, May 13–19, 2010; Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, June 16–20, 2010; and “CBS News Poll,” August 20–24, 2010). Republicans overwhelmingly supported
14 Online dial-test surveys track a listener’s perceptions of messages in real time using pre-/post-test metrics and dials. Listeners are instructed to turn the dial up when they hear something with which they agree.
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the Arizona law, and Democrats were evenly split: 45 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved (“Broad Approval for New Arizona Immigration Law,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, May 6–9 2010). The majority of Democrats approved of two of the law’s most contested provisions—requiring people to produce documents verifying legal status (65 percent approved) and allowing police to detain anyone unable to verify his or her legal status (55 percent approved) (“Broad Approval for New Arizona Immigration Law,” May 6–9, 2010). At the same time, large majorities expressed disquiet over the passage of “stricter new immigration laws” in general. In the very same week in May that the Pew Research Center conducted its survey, another survey indicated that a majority of the public had real concerns about increased harassment of Hispanics (74 percent) and the deportation of families “who have lived in the United States peacefully and productively for many years” (77 percent). A majority (64 percent) was also concerned that “taking strict measures against illegal immigrants would go against the American tradition of welcoming those who come to the U.S. to find a better life” (“Americans Value Both Aspects of Immigration Reform,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, May 1–2, 2010). In its survey of African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White voters, The Opportunity Agenda asked several questions focusing on due process rights. Majorities of each group agreed that laws encouraging local police to arrest people who “look like immigrants” violate “our basic right to freedom from discrimination” (African American, 53 percent, with 25 percent not sure; Hispanic, 62 percent, with 13 percent not sure; and Progressive Whites, 56 percent with 18 percent not sure). Majorities also agreed that: X Current laws that require the deportation of immigrants who have committed even a minor felony, with no judicial discretion permitted, violate the principle that “in America, punishment should fit the crime” (57 percent of African Americans; 63 percent of Hispanics; and 62 percent of Progressive Whites). X Indefinite detention of undocumented immigrants is a denial of due process and violates “American values of fairness and justice that our country was founded upon” (55 percent of African Americans, 61 percent of Hispanics, and 67 percent of Progressive Whites). X The current immigration system allows for the exploitation of workers and the denial of due process in violation of “the idea that we all hold certain basic rights and that it’s wrong for any group to be exploited or mistreated” (69 percent of African Americans, 71 percent of Hispanics, and 72 percent of Progressive Whites) (In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform, September 2010).
For the past several years, the Pew Research Center has been testing the public’s support for the Fourteenth Amendment provision that makes citizens of all children born in the United States, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. In June 2010 most Americans (56 percent) favored preserving birthright citizenship, a percentage virtually unchanged since the question was first asked in 2006 (“Opinions About Immigration” in Growing Opposition to Increased Offshore Drilling, Pew Research Center, June 24, 2010). In a poll taken just after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced his plan to introduce a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, however, the public was evenly split between those who supported the idea (47 percent) and those who opposed it (49 percent) (“CBS News Poll,” August 20–24, 2010). Support for leaving the Constitution as is was dramatically higher among Latinos (79 percent; “NBC News Survey,” May 20–23, 2010). When the question is posed outside the context of the Constitution, support for birthright citizenship for all children in this country goes down. In a poll asking voters if a child born to an “illegal 38
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immigrant” in the United States should automatically become a U.S. citizen, only 34 percent said yes while 58 percent said no (“Rasmussen Poll,” June 2010).
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Strategic Recommendations for Advocates
In 2010 the immigrant rights movement and its allies seized the opportunity and controlled the message in the mainstream media’s coverage of the immigration policy debate. The demand for comprehensive immigration reform, in which a path to legalization is firmly embedded, is now being carried forth by that media with the result that public opinion is shifting in the movement’s direction. Nevertheless, there are a series of disconnects that emerge from the media and opinion analyses: X Media framing and commentary were overwhelmingly against the Arizona law, yet a majority of Americans support it. X A majority of Americans support the Arizona law while also supporting comprehensive immigration reform. X Both public opinion and media coverage strongly favor comprehensive reform, yet a bipartisan reform bill failed to even come up for a vote, and anti-reform calls and letters to Congress dwarfed pro-reform calls and letters. The same was true for the DREAM Act. X Overall, pro-immigrant advocates have been winning the battle for the support of the American people overall, even as they have lost most federal legislative battles. Addressing these disconnects will be the challenge going forward; with this dynamic in mind, we make the following recommendations: 1. Maintain and build on past gains. Over the past five years, the pro-immigrant movement and its allies have crafted an effective core narrative, attained significant message discipline and delivery, garnered a majority of mainstream media quotes, and edged out anti-immigrant voices in the political blogosphere and online social networks. With considerable organizing and advocacy efforts, this has enabled them to gain and maintain majority support for most pro-immigrant policies within the American electorate—across partisan, ideological, and demographic groups—and to move mainstream media news coverage and commentary overwhelmingly in support of their major goals and principles. This is a significant achievement, especially in the context of an historic economic recession, and effort must be exerted to maintain and build on those gains. In other words, the tactics and infrastructure developed to date remain necessary, though not sufficient, to achieve national-level legislative victories. And they will be crucial to the continuing state and local debates on immigrant issues around the country. 2. Mobilize the base for rapid response. While the pro-immigrant side has succeeded in persuading a great majority of the electorate to its cause, opponents of reform are significantly more successful in mobilizing their members to contact lawmakers and to post caustic comments online in response to pro-immigrant news articles and blog posts. This rapid-response strategy skews lawmakers’ perceptions of their constituents’ views and creates the perception that voting for positive reforms is more costly than doing nothing or supporting negative policies. 40
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Communications strategies can help close urgency and activism gaps that currently exist. Just as anti-immigrant groups do, pro-immigrant organizations should direct additional resources toward responding immediately online when issues arise, and when stories or commentary on their topics appear. Coalitions like Reform Immigration for America have already made some headway in this effort, innovatively using text messaging technologies. 3. Engage progressive activists. The research shows that progressive whites and African Americans are persuadable on immigration, yet they are not part of a reliable base. That said, Arizona’s SB 1070 did draw positive media attention to immigration issues and attracted progressive media voices such as Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, joining those who support due process and opportunity for immigrants. This opening should be built upon, developing a groundswell by pitching stories and positions in progressive media vehicles and to progressive opinion leaders. 4. Expand the core narrative and messaging discipline into state and local debates. Advocates have significantly progressed in articulating a shared narrative in favor of immigrant integration and human rights where none had existed. The narrative should be customized, vetted, and applied to state and local debates around enforcement, due process, and integration policies. These events should be seen as opportunities to deliver messages using the framework of the core narrative. Advocates should avoid the temptation to be purely reactive; instead, they should be proactive, using their media access to insist on “workable solutions that uphold our nation’s values and move us forward together.” 5. Underscore core values, and redefine when necessary. The public’s reliance on the value of law and order makes it difficult to shape opinion in opposition to harsh enforcement laws. Messages need to invoke values that protect due process, remind people about the positive contributions of immigrants, and work to allay or mitigate feelings of unease about shifting cultural and ethnic demographics. 6. Rigorously focus on solutions and position the government as capable of achieving these solutions. The American public remains hungry for effective solutions, and the proimmigrant movement has built a reputation for such solutions in the mainstream media. As the comprehensive immigration reform debate wanes at the federal level, advocates and spokespeople should articulate pragmatic solutions to state and local problems. At the same time, it is important to position the government as capable of achieving these solutions. Research by the FrameWorks Institute and others suggests that the fact that Americans believe the system is in a crisis does not necessarily drive them to solutions (“Framing Immigration Reform: A FrameWorks Message Memo,” FrameWorks Institute, June 2010). The emphasis on the “broken system” can lead people to thinking that the problem just cannot be fixed, and can make them hopeless and possibly push them toward harsh measures. Positive stories are the best antidote to the scare tactics of the anti-immigrant movement. For example: X Stories about immigrants lining up to take English classes framed thematically. X Stories about how immigrants have saved dying industrial cities and rural communities from economic ruin. X Stories about the participation of non-citizen immigrants serving in the U.S. armed forces. X Stories about civic organizations reaching out to immigrants in their communities to build ties, learn from each other, and address mutual needs and interests. When pitching stories of individual immigrants, advocates need to make sure that these stories are framed to focus on the system and its failures, as opposed to the individual. The systemic frame can motivate target audiences to see policy changes, rather than individual behavior, as the solution to the immigration problem. 41
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7. Expand the roster of pro-reform messengers. Our scan shows that immigrant voices now occupy significant space in coverage of the immigration policy debate. Pro-immigrant religious and business leaders are also garnering media attention, along with law enforcement spokespeople who object to enforcing federal immigration laws on public safety grounds. All these voices should continue to be aggressively pitched to the media. Other voices need to be amplified, especially local civic leaders who have spearheaded integration programs or who have had positive experiences with immigrants. Their experiences underscore the idea that when the government meets its obligations by taking positive action, everyone benefits. These integration messengers should be identified and reporters should be steered in their direction. A proactive tactic such as the public release of a joint statement to Congress signed by a critical mass of local leaders should be considered.
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Organizations quoted or cited in print media coverage
American Civil Liberties Union Americans for Immigration Reform America’s Voice Arizona Latino Research Enterprise Asian Pacific American Legal Center Center for American Progress Centro Presente (Massachusetts) Chicanos Por La Causa Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles Council of Mexican Federations (L.A.) Dream is Coming Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center Florida Immigrant Coalition Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights Harvard Act on a Dream Hispanic Federation ImmigrationWorksUSA Los Angeles Archdiocese Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund Mi Familia Vota National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities National Association for the Advancement of Colored People National Council of La Raza National Day Laborer Organizing Network Reform Immigration for America Service Employees International Union Student Immigrant Movement Texas Civil Rights Project Trail of Dreams Unitarian Society Unite Here United Farmworkers United We Dream Network William C. Velasquez Institute Workplace Project
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Public Opinion and Media Research Sources
“Americans Closely Divided Over Immigration Reform Priority,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, June 11–13, 2010. “Americans Value Both Aspects of Immigration Reform,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, May 1–2, 2010. “Amid Immigration Debate, Americans’ Views Ease Slightly,” USA Today/Gallup Poll, July 8–11, 2010. “Broad Approval for New Arizona Immigration Law,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, May 6–9, 2010. “CBS News/New York Times Poll,” April 28–May 2, 2010. “CBS News Poll,” May 20–24, 2010. “CBS News Poll,” July 9¬–12, 2010. “CBS News Poll,” August 20–24, 2010. “CNN/Opinion Research Poll,” May 21–23, 2010. “CNN/Opinion Research Poll,” July 16–21, 2010. “CNN/Opinion Research Poll,” August 6–10, 2010. “Election Eve/Night Omnibus,” Lake Research Partners, October 31–November 2, 2010. “Findings from a Survey of 800 Registered Voters Nationwide, with an oversample of 300 Latino Registered Voters,” America’s Voice/Lake Research Partners/Public Opinion Strategies, May 13–19, 2010. “Framing Immigration Reform: A FrameWorks Message Memo,” FrameWorks Institute, June 2010. “Gallup Daily Tracking Survey”; multiple nationwide surveys, covering various topics and conducted throughout 2010. In Play: African American, Hispanic, and Progressive White Voters on Immigration Reform, The Opportunity Agenda/Gfk Roper Public Affairs and Media, September 2010. “Nationwide Poll: Majority Support for Immigration Reform Holds Strong Amidst Weak Economy,” America’s Voice/Benenson Strategy Group, December 19–21, 2009). “NBC News Survey,” by Hart/McInturff, May 20–23, 2010. “Nearly Six in 10 Back Arizona Law But Also a Pathway to Citizenship,” ABC News/Washington Post Poll: Immigration, June 3–6, 2010. “News Coverage Index,” Pew Research Center, Project for Excellence in Journalism, various weeks throughout 2010.
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“Opinions About Immigration” in “Growing Opposition to Increased Offshore Drilling,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, June 24, 2010. “June 2010 Political Survey,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, June 16–20, 2010. “Poll: Americans Split over Birthright Citizenship,” CBS News, Political Hotsheet, August 26, 2010. “Poll of Americans in Moderate-Conservative States,” America’s Voice/Hart Research Associates, April 14–18, 2010. “Public Support for the DREAM Act,” First Focus/Opinion Research Corporation, June 10–13, 2010. “Raising Arizona: Speaking to Americans about Arizona and Immigration,” Westen Strategies for Media Matters and America’s Voice, May 2010. “Rasmussen Poll,” June 2010. “Religion, Values, and Immigration Reform: National Survey and State-Level Surveys of Ohio and Arkansas,” Public Religion Research Institute, March 23, 2010; updated, April 14, 2010. “Slim Majority of Americans Would Vote for DREAM Act Law,” Gallup Daily Tracking Survey, December 3–6, 2010. “Speaking to Americans about Immigration and American Values,” Westen Strategies conducted for America’s Voice and Media Matters, February 2010.
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Part II: Web 2.0 Discourse Executive Summary
As numerous immigration-related issues garnered major media attention in 2010, online communities became prevalent voices in the immigration debate. The transformation in the most popular technologies and uses of the Internet that we have observed in the past few years is reshaping the public discourse. The readership of some mainstream blogs rivals those of major newspapers. Facebook, at about 500 million users, increased its number of active users by 200 million in just a year. It is currently the second most-visited website in the United States, followed by YouTube in fourth place and Twitter in eighth. The common element among these technologies is that they may be classified as “Web 2.0,” also referred to as the “social web,” “the movement away from static webpages to dynamic and shareable content and social networking.”15 Simply put, these technologies rely on user-generated content. In a very real way, the success of Facebook depends on the musings of your high school friends and the photos uploaded by your cousin. For those who seek the integration of immigrants into our national community and comprehensive immigration policies, a robust and positive experience on the social web is crucial. Because Americans of all walks of life increasingly use these sites to learn about issues and build relationships, the information they encounter will shape their views and influence the broader public’s perceptions. As we saw during the rancorous 2007 debate over immigration reform, as well as in other areas, online activism plays an important role in the legislative area. Advocates simply cannot afford to be underrepresented in this growing public space. Because these technologies increasingly influence public opinion and activism, The Opportunity Agenda conducted its third annual scan to determine the state of immigration advocacy on the social web in 2010, looking specifically at the following: Facebook, the largest social networking site; blogs that frequently cover politics and reach a mass audience; YouTube; and Twitter, whose popularity has continued to increase exponentially over the past year. The goal of our Web 2.0 scans is to identify the values, images, facts, and arguments that visitors to these sites typically encounter. As these sites continue to become major destinations, people will turn to them for information and activism. We wanted to know what people see on these sites when they search for immigration-related topics.
Overview of major 2010 findings
As numerous immigration-related issues garnered media attention, online communities became a prevalent voice in the immigration debate in 2010. Overall, most of the Web 2.0 discourse was related
Etymology of Web 2.0 at Wiktionary, http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Web_2.0.
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to one of the strictest immigration measures in recent history, Arizona’s Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB 1070), signed into law in April 2010. Compared to the past few years, 2010 offered some positive and some alerting developments. Our scan took place between June 14 and July 30, 2010.
An immediately conspicuous difference between this scan and the one in 2009 is the increased participation that we observed on Facebook. For example, in 2009, the largest immigration-related group had 16,538 members. In 2010, the largest recorded group had 1,625,117 members and is called “1 MILLION Strong AGAINST the Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070.” Most of the Facebook groups and pages in the 2010 scan were related to Arizona’s SB 1070. The remaining groups and pages were associated with either the DREAM Act or immigration reform in general. Finally, the current scan resonates strongly with the findings of the 2009 analysis that those who are involved with immigration issues on Facebook tend to hold pro-immigrant positions.
Although 2009’s scan found the blogosphere to be a very positive medium for immigration advocates, the 2010 scan of the top 10 American political blogs found that while there are strong pro-immigrant voices represented in the blogosphere, these voices are competing with equally strong blog writers and readers posting anti-immigrant messages. With Arizona’s SB 1070 being such a pressing issue—both politically and socially during the time of the scan—the blogosphere was abundant with immigrationrelated content.
When we looked at YouTube in 2009, pro-immigration videos had finally begun to outnumber the anti-immigrant ones. This trend continued through the summer of 2010. Videos presenting an antiimmigration viewpoint are consistently outnumbered not only by pro-immigration videos, but by ideologically neutral videos as well. This trend is present across all search terms used in this scan.
In 2009, pro-immigration tweets dramatically outnumbered those from the opposing point of view. As observed over the summer of 2010, this relationship changed. From the top 100 immigration Twitterers, anti-immigration tweets outnumbered pro-immigration ones almost 2 to 1, while the two sides drew about equal when immigration-related tweets from all users were searched for. At the same time, another very important trend observed in 2010 was that discourse on Twitter involved neither pro- nor anti-immigration tweets, but rather news tweets: the increasing use of Twitter as a platform to post breaking news.
Immigration Web 2.0 in 2009
We found an almost complete turnaround in 2009 from the results of the Web 2.0 scan in 2007. We saw positive developments on Facebook and YouTube, and we discovered progressive-leaning mainstream blogs to be a friendlier environment for pro-immigration discourse than just two years ago. With the apparent decline of MySpace as an advocacy tool, the most relevant numbers pertained to Facebook, where we saw most groups increase their rolls during the course of the scan. Advocates for immigration reform had increased their presence on YouTube; thus most YouTube searches on the
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topic yielded mostly pro-immigration videos. Finally, blogs continued to increase in popularity, and advocates for practical immigration reform have taken advantage of this new medium. Compared to our scan in 2007, the progress that pro-immigrant voices made in this space was striking. In Twitter, we observed an interesting relationship between consistency of immigration tweets and intensity of political beliefs on immigration. Among those who consistently tweeted about immigration, proimmigration voices outnumbered those against by more than 2 to 1. For inconsistent Twitter users, the results were similarly lopsided but with a group of ambiguous or neutral tweets equal to the negative tweets.
Immigration Web 2.0 in 2007
We conducted a similar scan in 2007. That scan found that, on social networking sites, anti-immigrant supporters and rhetoric outnumbered pro-immigrant activity by a ratio of 2 to 1. Most keyword searches (e.g., “immigration”) produced more results for anti-immigrant than pro-immigrant activism and yielded little in the way of Facebook or MySpace groups run by pro-immigrant advocacy organizations. On YouTube, the most popular immigration-related videos were neutral, using humor to educate viewers about the issue. However, anti-immigrant videos maintained a significant lead over pro-immigrant videos, yielding both more search results and frequently a much higher viewership. The previous scan also looked at the blogosphere and found that mainstream progressive-leaning blogs were often not supportive of immigration issues, causing schisms in the normally ideologically homogenous communities. Finally, the scan described a nascent, but growing, immigrant blogosphere.
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As numerous immigration-related issues garnered major media attention in 2010, online communities became a prevalent voice in the immigration debate. Our latest scan illustrated that the social networking site, Facebook, was a popular platform for users to post and discuss immigration-related content. Of the 156 Facebook groups and the 36 Facebook pages that were scanned, we found that the vast majority held pro-immigrant positions. Our scan resonates strongly with the 2009 findings that those who are involved with immigration issues on Facebook tend to hold pro-immigrant positions. We also found that the greater majority of the Facebook groups and pages in this scan were related to Arizona’s SB 1070. The remaining groups and pages were associated with either the DREAM Act or immigration reform in general.
To examine the public discourse on immigration on Facebook, we searched for groups and pages using the following terms: “amnesty,” “immigration,” “immigrant,” “immigration reform,” “DREAM Act,” “Senate Bill 1070,” and “SB 1070.” The differences between pages and groups are minor and not relevant for this discussion. Both allow users to post links, photos, videos, and events, and to carry on discussions. Our scan was limited to groups with at least 200 members and pages with at least 1,000 members. With these parameters, we identified 156 groups and 36 pages related to immigration on Facebook.
Current playing field
An immediately conspicuous difference between the 2010 scan and the one in 2009 is the increased participation that we observed on Facebook. In 2009, the largest immigration-related group and page had 16,538 and 16,628 members, respectively. These were both associated with the DREAM Act. In the 2010 scan, the largest recorded group had 1,625,117 members; it is called “1 MILLION Strong AGAINST the Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070.” Notably, the page with the most members is called “1,000,000 Strong SUPPORTING Arizona Immigration Law SB1070” and has 98,312 fans. While the largest and second-largest immigration-related pages on Facebook have anti-immigration messages, only eight of the 36 scanned pages hold such anti positions. The rest of the scanned Facebook pages are pro-immigration. Of the eight anti-immigration pages, all are associated with supporting SB 1070. The 29 other pages that are pro-immigration are divided as follows: 17 are related to SB 1070, seven are related to immigration reform, and four are related to the DREAM Act. Similar to what we observed with Facebook pages, the Facebook groups scanned held predominantly pro-immigrant messages, with only 24 of the 156 groups taking an anti-immigrant stance. While not all of these anti-immigrant groups were related to SB 1070, as was the case with the pages we scanned, 18 of the 24 groups were supportive of the bill. Of the remaining anti-immigrant groups, five were specifically opposed to immigration reform, and only one was against the DREAM Act. Although quantitative measures, such as membership rates, are an important factor in the success of dvocacy groups and pages on Facebook, an arguably stronger determinant of success and effectiveness is activity level. What sets the top groups and pages apart from the rest is how often people update the page or group with comments, photos, events, discussions, news links, and videos. The Facebook group 50
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with the highest membership, “1 MILLION Strong AGAINST the Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070,” made good use of all of the options that Facebook offers, and user participation was high. The “Wall” is where members can post comments, news links, and respond to other items already posted on the Wall. In this particular group, members most frequently used the Wall to quote articles, share news links and YouTube videos, and post inspirational quotes, such as “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. There was no notable distinction as to what sorts of Wall posts got the highest reactions; most posts would get at least a few responses in the form of a “Like” or a written reply. Anti-immigrant comments on the Wall were rare, scarce, and uncommon. This group also utilized the “Photos” section, where pictures of protestors, rally signs, and political cartoons related to SB 1070 were posted. It was exciting to see that members of this group participated in thoughtful discussions on immigration-related topics under the Discussions section that all Facebook groups and pages have an option to offer. Some examples of the topics found on this group’s discussion board were “Propaganda and How to Counter,” “Illegal immigrants pay taxes,” and “Information for those against SB 1070: empower yourselves.” Interestingly, while the Wall was for the most part void of anti-immigrant messages, discussions on this Facebook group often included discourse from both sides. A discussion thread, “This law is not racist. Illegal is illegal,” received more than 1,500 responses. The majority of the posts countered this anti-immigrant message, varying in length from a few sentences to a few lengthy paragraphs. An example response was “america was made for the land of the free! not to shackle us down and say only you are allowed. it is for everyone, and by the way the gov. is getting money from the illegals anyways with taxes the illegals dont get that, they pay sales tax just like legal people do.”16 One of the most useful tools that Facebook offers online advocates is the Events section, where groups and pages can create events that all members will be invited to. The group “1 MILLION Strong AGAINST the Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070” made good use of the Events page, updating it with information on upcoming rallies and marches. Kyle de Beausett, founder of the global justice blog Citizen Orange, says that one detriment of social media sites is that they often create an “illusion of helping to make change when in actuality nothing significant has been done.” However, using Facebook’s Events tool is a practical way to organize members and turn online rallying into real-life activism. One of the most popular anti-immigrant Facebook pages was 1,000,000 Strong SUPPORTING Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070 with over 98,000 members. This page allows its administrators to post only content while none of the updates on the wall are written by members. Members can reply, however, to whatever is already posted on the Wall. Like most groups and pages that we scanned, the Wall of this page was composed of news links and miscellaneous comments about current events, such as the midterm elections. In addition to taking advantage of the Photos section with lots of uploads, this page made good use of the Discussion board; for the most part, members wrote respectful, though intellectually provocative, remarks. Under one discussion topic, “Can America Live Without Immigrants?,” many of the commentators made pro-immigrant arguments such as “Immigrants are always seen with such negativity that people never realize how much they contribute to the U.S. I guess we just appreciate things more once they are gone.”17 When we compared the Facebook groups and pages that had relatively low membership numbers to the top groups and pages, the main difference was the level of participation. While the top Facebook
16 http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=113236852041063&topic=1083#!/topic.php?uid=113236852041063&top ic=1083. 17 http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=116650658359171&topic=397#topic_top.
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groups and pages updated their sites frequently and saw a wide variety of member participation, the smaller Facebook groups and pages were updated infrequently (many of them are now dormant); we often noticed that most of the page activity was coming from only one or two members. While membership is not the only indicator of how effective a group or page is in terms of advocacy, higher membership certainly increases participation and creates a more diverse, interesting page that members will want to read, making the message more likely to get across. Membership numbers are also important in the sense that if a page or group is updated frequently, its members are more likely to be alerted about the updates on their own Facebook homepages. The Facebook group “1 MILLION Strong AGAINST the Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070” has more than 1.5 million fans and is updated multiple times an hour by a diverse pool of members. Such a high level of participation indicates that the group’s members are efficiently utilizing this Facebook tool to post content, such as links to news articles, and discuss immigration issues among each other. The anti-immigrant Facebook page, “1,000,000 Strong SUPPORTING Arizona Immigration Law SB1070,” which allowed only page administrators to update the Wall, generally had no more than three Wall posts a day. However, members did take advantage of their ability to “Like” and comment on what the administrators posted each day. When an administrator posted a link to a pro-SB 1070 letter to the editor that was published in the Los Angeles Times, 570 members “Liked” the link, and 227 commented, with responses such as “I couldn’t have said it better myself!”18 While it is exciting to see so many pro-immigrant groups and pages on Facebook, the truth is that only a handful experience any sort of regular activity, and most are more or less dormant sites with intermittent user participation. It is likely that we observed such high numbers of immigration-related groups and pages in 2010 because SB 1070 dominated immigration news during the time of this scan. Although it is striking to see how the Facebook community reacted to this bill, many of the groups and pages that were created in response to the bill are now inactive and have not continued to address the overall topic of immigration.
A well-maintained Facebook group or page can be a great tool for advocacy work. The top immigration-related groups and pages on Facebook engage their members with interesting content, lively discussions, and events to get involved with. On the other hand, we observed that most of the immigration-related groups and pages are inactive and are not serving the Facebook community as effectively as perhaps the larger, more active groups and pages involved in the immigration debate are.
X Facebook can serve successfully as a launching pad for further participation beyond the platform itself. Encourage users to not just “like” but to call their Congressperson, for example. Ask for real-life activism. X Maintain a vibrant, interactive Facebook page; only a handful of pages and groups experience any sort of regular activity. Advocates who are running groups or pages on Facebook must be mindful of maintaining a site that is updated frequently with diverse content so members are not only engaged, but are also reminded to participate on the site by seeing frequent alerts on their own Facebook homepages.
18 http://www.facebook.com/pages/1000000-Strong-SUPPORTING-Arizona-Immigration-Law-SB1070/116650658359171?ref =search#!/note.php?note_id=133076783396206&comments.
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The term “blogosphere” encompasses the online world of blogs, bloggers, and the overall blogging community. As blogs are fast gaining legitimacy in the media world, and people are increasingly turning to blogs for their daily news, it is of great interest to see how this online community is discussing immigration-related issues. Although 2009’s scan found the blogosphere to be a very positive medium for immigration advocates, the 2010 scan of the top 10 American political blogs found that while there are strong, pro-immigrant voices represented in the blogosphere, these voices are competing with equally strong blog writers and readers posting anti-immigrant messages. With Arizona’s SB 1070 being such a pressing issue, both politically and socially during the time of the scan, the blogosphere was abundant with immigrationrelated content.
To analyze immigration-related public discourse in the blogosphere, we first looked at the top 100 blogs as ranked by blog search engine Technorati. Of this list, we selected the first 10 of these blogs that regularly cover political issues, and then used these for our six-week scan. The blogs that we scanned were Ben Smith’s blog on Politico, CNN.com’s Political Ticker, the National Review Online’s The Corner, TheAtlantic.com’s The Daily Dish, ABCNews.com’s Political Punch, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Hot Air, The Huffington Post, and ThinkProgress. While some of the scanned blogs were markedly either politically progressive or conservative, we found that many of the blogs posted immigration stories that were neutral. Nevertheless, personal positions on immigration were apparent in the comments sections.
Current playing field
The 2010 scan of online public discourse on immigration encompassed many significant immigrationrelated issues that, as they arose, dominated the news. During the six-week scan, a few major immigration-related incidents occurred, including: the U.S. Justice Department filed suit against Arizona over SB 1070; President Obama delivered a speech on immigration reform; DREAM Act protestors organized publicized rallies across the country; and candidates running for office in the midterm elections were taking sides on the immigration debate as part of their campaigns. Aside from these more specific occurrences during the time of our scan, Arizona’s SB 1070 was a huge issue that had a far-reaching impact all across America. Nearly all of the blog posts that we scanned had at least one mention or reference to SB 1070. Even if a blog post did not explicitly mention SB 1070, a mention of it would always appear in the comments section. Because immigration was such a huge point of political and social contention during our scan, we observed many more immigrationrelated blog posts last year in comparison to the 2009 scan. In 2010, we found that two of our scanned blogs significantly stood out for their consistency in regularly discussing immigration topics. The blogs with the most frequent immigration-related posts were The Corner and those on The Huffington Post. Over the period of our scan, we noted 68 immigration-related posts on The Huffington Post and 51 on The Corner. Interestingly, these are also the most politically pointed blogs of the 10 that we scanned. While many of the blogs in this latest scan posted content that we read as politically neutral (i.e., Political Ticker and Political Punch), both 53
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The Huffington Post and The Corner published blog posts that patently and assertively took opposing sides on the immigration debate, with The Huffington Post producing pro-immigrant content and The Corner producing anti-immigrant content. Even though The Huffington Post and The Corner stood out as the most consistent blogs to discuss immigration, there were a few notable differences between these two in terms of format and approach to the issues. To begin with, The Huffington Post published work from a very large pool of blog authors—many of whom are professionals in fields related to immigration—while most of the posts written for The Corner came from one author, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Also, The Huffington Post wrote in a more structured style, evoking a newspaper, while The Corner was quite informal. The final major distinction that we observed between the two was that The Huffington Post allowed reader comments, while The Corner did not. The Huffington Post has a comments section where logged-in readers can respond to the story. On The Corner there are no such tools for readers to leave feedback. In The Huffington Post, we found that anti-immigrant rhetoric dominated the readers’ feedback. The anti-immigrant comments frequently used crude, offensive language, and when there were positive comments, they were often countered with anti-immigrant remarks. One article written by Rev. Jesse Jackson about President Obama’s immigration reform speech received 554 comments, with many of these being back-and-forth responses among users. When one person commented, “Illegal aliens are taking jobs Americans could use, obama wants to ruin our Country by allowing illegals to take over,” another reader retorted, “Hardly. Conservatives have taken more jobs out of America than immigrants could ever take.”19 Most of the users who commented appeared to participate in the conversations solely to voice their own strong positions rather than engage in dialogue, which raises questions about the effectiveness of such debates. Kyle de Beausett, founder of the global justice blog Citizen Orange, agrees that comments to blog posts may not be incredibly influential, but it is still important for the pro-immigrant movement to be conscious of what sort of tools and rhetoric anti-immigrant readers are using in their comments. Although the other blogs we scanned did not cover immigration issues as frequently as The Huffington Post or The Corner did, for the most part they all covered the major immigration news and events that occurred during the time of our scan. For instance, all but two of the blogs (The Daily Dish and Gawker) posted at least one story on July 1 about President Obama’s speech on immigration reform. And after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Arizona over SB 1070 in early July, every single blog mentioned the suit in a post. In terms of the pro-immigrant messaging that was used, we saw that Political Ticker, Political Punch, and Ben Smith’s blog all posted very straightforward, relatively neutral messaging. On the other hand, The Daily Beast often took an emotional approach. One such article, “Arizona’s Latest Immigration Mess,” was technically about a debate on what color a school should use to paint the children in a mural, but a blogger used this story to discuss SB 1070, describing the mural incident as “a contentious small-town debate on race and identity inflamed by a larger controversy sweeping Arizona in the wake of the passage of SB 1070, the harshest immigration law in the nation.”20 Gawker, on the other hand, frequently used humor for its pro-immigrant messaging, posting headlines such as “No, Illegal Immigrants Do Not Kidnap and Behead Everyone in Arizona,”21 and “Terrible Minimum Wage Jobs For Real Americans Only!”22 Our scan in 2009 highlighted Political Ticker as a far-reaching blog that has the potential to attract a
19 20 21 22 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-jesse-jackson/obamas-speech-on-immigrat_b_632564.html. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-07-04/arizonas-mural-whitening-the-bid-to-recall-steve-blair/. http://gawker.com/5583581/no-illegal-immigrants-do-not-kidnap-and-behead-everyone-in-arizona. http://gawker.com/5573037/terrible-minimum-wage-jobs-for-real-americans-only.
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wide political spectrum of readers. In 2010, we added Political Punch to our scan, which is also likely to reach a wider political spectrum of readers than The Huffington Post might. Overall, we found that both of these blogs posted content that was relatively neutral on the immigration debate. However, we did observe a dominance of anti-immigrant comments following each blog post.
Blogs are gaining popularity as powerful media tools for people to gather their news. We found in this latest scan that both the pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant movements have a strong foothold in the blogosphere; advocates from both sides of the immigration debate are actively reading and commenting on top political blogs.
X Attempt to reach out to “persuadables,” those whose minds are not yet made, instead of allocating resources arguing or trying to persuade the opposition: people whose minds you cannot change. X Focus on placing stories on well-read blogs because of their high readership. X Use blog “diaries,” which are written by users, and then read and commented on by other users. X Attempt to counteract the anti- narrative in the comments sections. Citizen Orange’s Kyle de Beausett advises: “I often speak of blogs as monsters that you have to keep feeding and never get full, so they certainly take a lot of energy to maintain. Folks that are willing to do so should be supported, especially if they focus on issues that others value. Does that mean you have to start up your own organizational blog? Not necessarily, but you should be aware of and read blogs relevant to your organization and understand how they are run in the same way you understand the different sections of a newspaper.” On social media, pro-immigration activist Will Coley points out that “it’s a way to have a discussion, a fuller debate than what corporate media allow us to do. I think we should really be thinking about who’s there and who we’re going to connect with.”
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When we looked at YouTube in 2009, pro-immigration videos had finally begun to outnumber those from the anti-immigrant ones. This trend continued through the summer of 2010. Videos presenting an anti-immigration viewpoint were consistently outnumbered not only by pro-immigration videos, but by ideologically neutral videos as well. This trend was present across all search terms used in this scan.
When searching YouTube, the default option is to search by relevance. In keeping with our attempts to mimic what most users would experience in their day-to-day searching, this remained our procedure for this scan. Each week, the first page of search results was analyzed for four search terms: “immigration,” “Dream Act,”23 “comprehensive immigration reform,” and “undocumented.”24 This means that the traffic and comments for many of the videos were analyzed all six weeks because they continued to come up in our search, whereas some were analyzed only once. There is one aspect of this methodology that must be singled out as potentially unreliable: the occasional difficulty of assigning a “pro,” “anti,” or “neutral” categorization to each video. While the viewpoint of most videos is immediately clear, we did encounter a few problem cases. A classic example of this is one of the most consistently popular search results for “immigration”: “Bill O’Reilly Explodes Over Illegal Immigration.”25 The video features an episode of The O’Reilly Factor in which the host launches into a typical anti-immigration rant. However, the uploader of the video provided it with a description mocking O’Reilly and tagged the video with terms such as “crackpot” and “insanity.” We chose to categorize edge cases such as this one according to the uploader’s intent, and thus considered this video to be pro-immigration despite the anti-immigration bent of its raw content alone.
Current playing field
As in 2009, pro-immigration videos continued to outnumber both anti-immigration videos and those with a neutral point of view in 2010. Approximately 43 percent of videos found by searching for “immigration” could be classified as pro-immigration, compared to 31 percent that were neutral or ambiguous and 26 percent that were anti-immigration. For the other three search terms, the disparity was even greater:
Table 4. ImmIgraTIon sTands expressed In youTube vIdeos
Immigration Dream Act Comprehensive Immigration Reform Undocumented
43 100 65 50
31 0 25 25
26 0 10 25
Source: Public Discourse on Immigration in 2010, The Opportunity Agenda, March 2011.
23 For “Dream Act,” only the first half of the first page of search results was analyzed, as the view counts dropped off sharply afterwards. Additionally, the results consisted almost entirely of promotional videos for the act, several of which were duplicate copies of the same video. 24 For obvious reasons, videos unrelated to immigration—like a popular video depicting a Korg synthesizer’s “undocumented” features—were ignored. 25 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7Nt8MQaKko.
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However, a closer look at the data reveals a slightly more mixed picture. For “immigration,” likely the most popular immigration-related search term, the top four search results were occupied by a rotating selection of the same five videos almost every single week.26 These five videos had more views and comments than the other results—and ideologically, they were split almost evenly: two pro, two anti, and one neutral. (It should be noted that one of these videos, “Immigration Gumballs,”27 was actually against all immigration into the United States, not just undocumented immigration; it did not follow the typical anti-immigrant narrative. Instead of accusing immigrants of taking jobs or breaking laws, it presented immigration as a population-control problem.) Perhaps the most interesting trend of the 2010 scan was the relative stability of the search results over time. In 2009, many videos would appear in the results one week and then be absent the next. This trend was almost completely absent in 2010, where nearly 40 percent of the videos found under the “immigration” search appeared in the first page of results for all six weeks—and that statistic is heavily weighted down by the final, SB 1070 lawsuit-dominated week. More than two-thirds of the “immigration” videos appeared during the first five weeks of the scan, often in more or less the same order—and the results for “immigration” were, on average, less stable than the results for the other three search terms. The content of the videos across all viewpoints varied both in efficacy and in messaging strategy. Antiimmigrant videos ran the gamut from animated, historical cartoons to news clips of traditional antiimmigration figures, including pundits Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs. Some offered a lucid, intellectually framed presentation of anti-immigration rhetoric, while others were nothing more than homemade rants. For example, “Cost of Illegal Immigration,”28 a Dobbs report that consistently appeared in the top four, accused illegal immigrations of “undercutting wages and jobs . . . for Americans” and “crowding classrooms, hospitals, and prisons.” Meanwhile, in “Glenn Beck’s History of Illegal Immigration,”29 an animated version of Beck criticized previous attempts at immigration reform— including Ronald Reagan’s 1986 plan—as “amnesty.” Pro-immigration videos varied greatly. Some contained a values message, while others centered on the practical considerations of proposed anti-immigration laws. Pro-immigration were more comedic, on average, than others; SuperNews’ “The Immigration Debate,”30 a top result for several weeks, parodied the current debate by casting the Mayflower arrivals as undocumented immigrants; another video, “How to Solve Illegal Immigration,”31 featured a serious, intellectual discussion of the issue—by two cartoon cats. Perhaps due to the debate over Arizona’s SB 1070 in the summer of 2010, pro-immigration videos tended more towards the reactive than the proactive, pushing back against proposed anti-immigration policies as opposed to presenting solutions. (Search results for “Dream Act” and “comprehensive immigration reform” did not follow this pattern, but in those cases the phrasing of the search term itself undoubtedly biased the results.) Interestingly, videos directly related to SB 1070 did not appear in the top results at all until two weeks after the July 6th announcement of the federal government’s lawsuit against the bill. When they did appear, they were evenly split between being pro-SB 1070, anti-, and neutral. The nature of the videos seemed to be changing from previous years. Increasingly, people appeared
26 They were displaced only in the final week of the scan, when breaking news reports on the federal government’s lawsuit against Arizona’s SB 1070 dominated the results. 27 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7WJeqxuOfQ. 28 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY6t2ckpb5g. 29 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAaBgMmSrJo. 30 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhEl6HdfqWM. 31 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN1kp1ggWyM.
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to be turning to YouTube to find clips of TV news reports, especially around the time of a breaking news story like the SB 1070 lawsuit. Many of the top search results—in some weeks, as many as half— were clips from TV news. A number of Al Jazeera reports also popped up, suggesting that viewers were seeking news reports they may not normally be able to receive on their television. Another popular trend was clips of celebrities commenting on the issue; over the course of this scan, videos of Shakira, M.I.A., and the Phoenix Suns, among others, made their way into the top results. Animated videos were also surprisingly popular; whether this is indicative of a larger trend or just coincidental is difficult to tell. The top animated videos (“The Immigration Debate,” “How to Solve Illegal Immigration,” and “Glenn Beck’s History of Illegal Immigration”) were not connected in any obvious thematic way other than their basic topic and that they were all animated. Although pro-immigration videos outnumbered anti-immigration videos in this scan, the reverse was true within the comments. Hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric dominated the comments on videos of all viewpoints: the only videos without venomous comments were those that lacked comments at all. However, this might represents the overall tendency for confrontational comments on YouTube generally, not a prevalence of actual anti-immigrant feeling. YouTube is widely regarded as having—for unclear reasons—among the most antagonistic and distasteful comments. Will Coley, an immigration reform activist who specializes in new media, describes YouTube comments largely as “background noise.” A sample of some of the comments from “The Immigration Debate” supports this: badvagirl says “mexicans just drop their litters and let whites take care of them,” while “mastior” attributes the problem of illegal immigration to the Illuminati.32
The YouTube playing field is already tilted towards pro-immigration videos; prominently placing new videos in the search results may present challenges, given the relative stability of most results pages. Because of this, advocates should consider using alternative forms of social media such as blogs and Twitter to promote their YouTube videos, instead of relying solely on the site’s search feature.
X Use humor, animation, and other nontraditional techniques to create your videos. X Use other forms of social media to promote your YouTube videos. X Consider turning off comments. X Keep videos short and to the point. X If a cause or issue gets positive news coverage, see if that coverage has been uploaded to YouTube and, if so, consider spreading it around. When considering uploading footage yourself, remember that it is a violation of copyright law, even though news networks have not appeared to object such uploading to date.
32 YouTube does not provide a way to link to a specific comment, but these comments can be found on this page: http://www. youtube.com/comment_servlet?all_comments=1&v=YhEl6HdfqWM.
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The explosive growth and popularity of Twitter continued to increase exponentially over the past year. In 2009, Oprah Winfrey devoted a segment of her show to explaining the tool, which was big news; in 2010, The New York Times regularly mentioned Twitter without explanation. Twitter’s simplicity offers both challenges—condensing your message into 140 characters or less—and opportunities. Because Twitter is so simple, almost anyone can use it; it’s much easier to write a tweet than to create a video, for example. Furthermore, Twitter lends itself especially well to access from mobile phones and other nontraditional computing devices.
We used Twitter’s search feature, search.twitter.com, to conduct this scan, keeping track once a week of the top 100 results for “immigration.” Additionally, we followed a list of top 100 immigration-related Twitterers, keeping track weekly of a random selection of 100 tweets by those users. (Occasionally, a tweet by a different user would make its way into this list because of “re-tweets”—a Twitter feature that allows users to directly repeat, with citation, another user’s tweet.) We took note of the frequency with which these users were tweeting about immigration, as well as the tweet’s stance on the issue: pro-, anti-, or neutral in the form of news reportings.
Current playing field
In 2009, pro-immigration tweets dramatically outnumbered those from the opposing point of view. As observed over the summer of 2010, this relationship had changed. From the top 100 immigration Twitterers, anti-immigration tweets outnumbered pro-immigration ones almost 2 to 1, while the two sides drew about equal when immigration-related tweets from all users were searched for. However, this may not be a cause for serious concern. Unlike with YouTube, where users doing a search is a real possibility, most Twitter users do not directly search the site, instead viewing tweets only from a limited number of users whom they follow. Thus, the overall balance of viewpoints on the site is not as important as with other forms of social media. Indeed, a very important trend observed in 2010 was that discourse on Twitter involves neither pronor anti-immigration tweets, but rather news tweets: the increasing use of Twitter as a platform to post breaking news. From the top 100 immigration Twitterers, news and neutral tweets ran about even with anti- tweets, thus outnumbering pro- tweets; in the general “immigration” search, news and neutral tweets vastly outnumbered both pro- and anti- tweets combined. In this scan, most neutral tweets came from organizations—the law firm “SparBernstein” providing legal tips to undocumented workers, for example, or the Twitter accounts of nonprofit organizations announcing rallies or events. News also often came from organizations—mainly newspapers tweeting links to longer stories on their websites—but there were also a substantial number of individuals tweeting about news, sometimes with an additional opinion such as “Yes!” or “Bad news . . .” but just as often without. Frequently, individuals who tweeted news stories seemed simply to be saying, “These are the news topics I consider to be important.” One surprising trend in this newest scan was the dramatic viewpoint disparity among the top 100 immigration-related Twitterers, who were fairly evenly split along ideological lines. But our research indicated that many of the anti-immigration Twitterers among them tweeted far more frequently than 59
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the pro-immigration voices. In fact, one anti-immigration Twitterer alone, “Calroofer,” was responsible for an average of over 5 percent of all tweets from that top 100. The reasons for this disparity are unclear, although one possibility is the small segment of anti-immigration Twitterers—Calroofer included—tend to tweet what amounts to a larger rant in 140 characters. Such rants lend themselves especially well to frequent bursts of five, 10, or even 20 tweets at a time. This is rarely seen on the proimmigration side, where tweets usually come one at a time.
While Twitter remains a place for individuals to share thoughts and opinions, it is increasingly used as a source of breaking news. Advocates should keep in mind that publishing tweets is only half the challenge; getting Twitter followers is equally important and requires targeted effort.
X Use Twitter to share links to other, longer content such as blog posts and YouTube videos. X Consider using a link-shortening service such as bit.ly to condense long URLs. X Consider having an official Twitter account for your organization, in addition to having individuals tweet. X Seek new followers, and follow those who follow you.
The Opportunity Agenda
As numerous immigration-related issues garnered major media attention in 2010, online communities became a prevalent voice in the immigration debate. Compared to the past few years, in 2010 we observed some positive as well as some alarming developments. Participation in the discourse about immigration on Facebook increased dramatically in 2010 and pro-immigrant related content dominated. On YouTube, videos presenting an anti-immigration viewpoint were consistently outnumbered not only by pro-immigration videos, but by ideologically neutral videos as well. The explosive growth and popularity of Twitter continued to rise. On immigration topics, Twitter is being used increasingly as a platform to post breaking news. In 2010, in the debate between pro- and antiimmigrant stands, anti-immigration tweets outnumbered pro-immigration ones almost 2 to 1 within the top 100 immigration Twitters. Overall, most of the Web 2.0 discourse was related to one of the strictest immigration measures in recent memory, Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, which was signed into law in April 2010. For those who seek the integration of immigrants into our national community and comprehensive immigration policies, a robust and positive experience on the social web is crucial. As we saw during the rancorous 2007 debate over immigration reform or in other areas, online activism is vital in the legislative arena. Advocates simply cannot afford to be underrepresented in this growing public space.
The Opportunity Agenda
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The Opportunity Agenda is a project of Tides Center.