Sunday, June 13, 2010

The news is doing a crap job

I've been watching the news coverage of Arizona's SB 1070. The news has done a crap job of providing any context and I think this is born out by the recent shooting of a boy by border patrol in Juarez, Mexico.

The media keeps explaining that this law may lead to the harassment of people with legal status, or citizens, but then provide no further information. What they fail to mention is that U.S. authorities have a pretty crappy track record of distinguishing undocumented immigrants from anyone else who's brown. There was a little coverage of a truck driver who was taken into custody until his wife could bring his birth certificate, but there has been no coverage over previous "mistakes" by law enforcement.

Roundups of citizens go back at least to the Great Depression. California notoriously rounded up anyone who had Mexican ancestry and put them on a train back into deep Mexico. In the late 90's authorities in Chandler, Arizona arrested numerous citizens in an attempt to round up "illegals". What's sad is that if you do a google search for roundups in California or Chandler, Arizona, at best you can find fringe articles about these round ups. The Latino community knows about them through first person accounts and word of mouth.

You can't have a reasonable conversation about SB 1070 if you aren't aware that the government has tried these methods before and failed. They have violated the Constitution each time. In the Chandler raids, the government had to settle a lawsuit that cost tax payers, on top of what they paid for the failed raids.

This lesson doesn't hold just for Latinos, you can look at the treatment of immigrants all the way back to the founding and see accusations that they were "too French" and would destroy the colonists' way of life, even though France had just helped them gain their independence. Or you can look more recently to the round ups of people of Arab descent after 9/11, or even more recently, look at racial and ethnic break down of police stops and searches. Every jurisdiction that has dared to look honestly at this information has found that police were at least twice as likely to search Latino's and blacks, but more likely to find contraband on whites.

The media fails to provide any of this context when talking about Arizona's bill or immigration policy in general. That brings us to the young kid that border patrol shot in Mexico.

The U.S. has also had problems with shooting Mexican children while trying to "enforce the border". I didn't read every article, but I didn't see one mention of the incident back in the late '90s when a marine, who was stationed at the border, shot a young shepherd on the Mexico side of the border.

And, once again, when I google various search terms for this incident all I can find are forum comments.

When the media fails to adequately report these things in the first place, it controls the discussion for a long time after and the picture that is presented is totally distorted.

You can watch the video of what happened to the kid in Juarez. I don't see any rocks landing near the border patrol agent. If the rocks were big enough to be dangerous they would show up on that bleached out concrete. I also don't see the agent or the guy he's collared flinch because a rock got close. All I see is a guy shot at some kids.