Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fisking the Enquirer's 'Butler Co. talks tough on illegal immigrants'

Cincinnati Enquirer staff writer Sheila McLaughlin's 'Butler Co. talks tough on illegal immigrants' deserves a good old fashion fisking. (Hat Tip: BizzyBlog) :

HAMILTON - Officials in this county with one of the region's fastest growing Hispanic populations are taking extreme measures to clamp down on undocumented immigrants.

It's only the opening paragraph to this article and already Ms. McLaughlin gives us a lot to work with:

1. Ms. McLaughlin sets a high bar in her introduction making a claim of 'extreme measures'. Having set the bar to this height, the onus is on her to make the case that the measures are indeed extreme.

2. Ms. McLaughlin utilizes the description of 'illegal' in the title of the article but switches to 'undocumented' in her introduction. 'Undocumented' leaves the impression that the 'illegal' immigrants in question may have some as of yet undetermined status that proper documentation could resolve.

3. What does the fact that Butler County has one of the fastest growing Hispanic populations have to do with 'undocumented' immigrants?

The article references Census data showing estimated (estimated because the last official Census was in 2000) increases in sevaral counties' 'Hispanic' population from 2000 to 2004.

From the U.S. Census website we learn that the data have a Net International Migration (NIM) component which includes data on foreign born residents. Foreign born includes "persons illegally present in the United States".

For an article dealing with illegal immigrants, Ms. McLaughlin references statistics that include both legal and illegal residents. Illegal residents are the only individuals subject to deportation, an issue later addressed in the article. It's not clear what she intends to illustrate with the statistics.

Her reference to general Census data that commingles both legal and illegal resident statistics is juxtaposed in review of legal policy and confuses rather than illuminates. This fruit salad of apples and oranges ill serves the reader.

It's sloppy at best to use general population Census statitistics as a backdrop to a story dealing with illegal immigrants. If Ms. McLaughlin's intent was to provide her readers with a sense of the order of magnitude of the issue, she should have researched specific illegal immigration statistics and referenced them in the story.

For example, it would have been appropriate to look at information sources like the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) which cites the following government statitics on the specific issue of illegal immigration on state law enforcement resources:

"Ohio has received partial compensation under the federal State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) that was established in 1994 to compensate the states and local jurisdictions for incarceration of "undocumented," aliens who are serving time for a felony conviction or at least two misdemeanors.

The recent SCAAP amounts that Ohio has received were:


The amount of SCAAP awards has been declining in both total distributions and even more as a share of the state’s expenses. In FY’99 the state received 38.6% of its costs for 200 prisoner years of detention. By FY’02, the state’s reported illegal alien detention rose by 94 percent to 387 prisoner years, while compensation fell by 10 percent and since has decreased sharply. "

Other references that would have added the appropriate 'color' Ms. McLaughlin may have been seeking include:

  • Ohio Immigration from the US Immigration Lawyers which cites that an estimated 40,000 illegal aliens resided in Ohio as of 2000, according to INS figures.
  • Undocumented Immigrants: Facts and Figures from the Urban Institute which estimates the Ohio's undocumented immigrant population is between 50,000 to 75,000 in 2002.
Saying the federal government isn't doing enough to stop people from living in the country illegally, the sheriff, a county commissioner and a state representative, all from Butler County, are pushing to create a state trespassing law aimed at deporting people who have entered the country without permission.

OK...still looking for the evidence of 'extreme measures'...Isn't deportation of illegal immigrants U.S. policy already? There's ample precedence for state/federal law enforcement cooperation.

County Commissioner Mike Fox said the measure is not targeting Hispanics but noted that 90 percent of the illegal immigrants in the United States are from Mexico.

The Hispanic population in Hamilton, the Butler County seat, has grown by 500 percent from 1990, to about 4,000.

Ms. McLaughlin serves up another cup of the apples and oranges fruit salad alluded to earlier.

"This is not about an ethnic group. This is about national security. This is about the federal government's failure to act," Fox said Friday.

He said the government is too "politically correct" in dealing with immigration issues and alluded to a recent civil rights action against a Mason bar that posted a sign saying "For Service Speak English."

"My theory is that if you're too stupid to learn how to say 'I want a beer' in English, you're too stupid to drink to begin with," Fox said.
Mr. Fox is correct in his accusation of 'political correctness', but 'stupid' only begins to describe the quote Ms. McLaughlin attributes to Commissioner Fox. There's no two ways about it; that was a dumb thing to say along the lines of, "For Service Speak English", from the sign in Mason that Fox refers to.

Let's look at the implications of "For Service Speak English" for a moment. What would you call instructions directed at non-English speaking customers written in English?

Freedom of speech? Yes, but the Constitution does not guarantee intelligent speech from its citizens. And both Mr. Fox and the Mason shopkeeper, are fully exercising their rights to unintelligent free speech. [Update 12/18/2005: Porkopolis now sees this as a conflict of rights issue as detailed in Facts and Thoughts on "For Service Speak English" ]

State Rep. Courtney Combs, R-Fairfield, who earlier this year introduced legislation to make English the official language in Ohio, said he intends to propose the law at the state level by year's end.

His staff is researching the issue to make the sure the bill would pass constitutional muster.

South Carolina legislators are considering a similar proposal that was introduced in April. Police in New Hampshire ran into trouble in August when a judge threw out criminal trespass charges against seven illegal immigrants, saying the law could only be applied to private property.

"The illegal aliens need to be rounded up and need to be deported," Combs said. "They can follow the law. They can get (permits) and come back in legally but pay taxes so United States citizens do not pay the price for this so-called cheap labor."

Still waiting for evidence of the 'extreme measures'. Mr. Combs is just echoing federal policy.

The proposal would call for people who are arrested for crimes or stopped for traffic infractions to be charged with trespass and order them to be deported instead of waiting for the federal government to make that decision, Sheriff Rick Jones said.
By people, Ms. McLaughlin surely means 'illegal' (or was that 'undocumented') individuals. Note that the statement is not a direct quote from Sheriff Jones. Which leads to a question about the next statement of "ordering" deportation "instead of waiting for the federal government to make the decision".

Were "order them to be deported" the actual words Sheriff Jones utilized, or was the sentiment more along the lines of "initiate deportation proceedings"?

And did Sheriff Jones really imply, as Ms. McLaughlin reports, that his intent is to act before the federal government acts (by not 'waiting'), or is he acting because the federal government is not acting?

It's easy to see how during the course of a criminal investigation a determination of illegal status can be made, but how will it be determined during a traffic infraction? Let's take a look at that scenario.

Drivers are normally asked to provide a license during a traffic stop. To get a license in Ohio or any other state, an applicant's immigration status is first determined. If the driver can not produce a legally issued license, an officer has the right to detain an individual after taking reasonable steps to confirm that the driver can't produce evidence (Name, SSN, address, etc.) that can be verified against state license records via a squad car computer.

Worst case scenario, a properly licensed individual that was driving without a license might be temporarily detained until that individual can produce proof of a license.

Best case scenario, an illegal immigrant would be detained and deportation procedures would be initiated.

Hopefully this wasn't the example of 'extreme measures' Ms. McLuaghlin was referring to. If so, she's guilty of hyperbole.

"Right now, I cannot arrest anybody for being in the country illegally," he said. "The federal government has to pick and choose. They are doing the best they can. The officers who work for Immigration & Customs Enforcement don't have the people to do we have to start dealing with it ourselves."

Greg Palmore, spokesman for the agency's operations in Ohio and Michigan, said his agency responds to reports of undocumented immigrants, but ultimately, judges at the federal level are the only authority to decide whether a person is deported. He denied that the agency's resources are stretched so thin locally that they ignore requests for action.

"If they are brought to our attention, and they don't have a qualified right to be here, they will go through the deportation process," Palmore said.

Jones plans next week to institute a symbolic protest against the federal government's immigration policies by adding a charge of falsification against inmates who lie about their citizenship when they are booked into the jail on a crime.

Jones said he will then demand that the immigration agents take the inmate into federal custody immediately to begin deportation proceedings or he'll charge the federal government $70 a day to keep them incarcerated in Butler County. Jones conceded that the government isn't obligated to pay.

Jones said undocumented immigrants are costing the county money because many of them keep getting arrested on other crimes after the federal government chooses not to deport them, allowing their release back into the community. He said 885 foreign-born inmates have been booked into the already-crowded
jail in the past year, costing Butler County taxpayers $302,400 to incarcerate

"I'm bulging at the seams here, and I know of no other way to deal with it," Jones said.

Ms. McLaughlin finally gets around to addressing the core issue of how illegal immigrants are impacting Butler County's resources..."costing Butler County taxpayers $302,400 to incarcerate them." The FAIR statistics noted above would have added additional context at this point.

Did Sheriff Jones really say 'undocumented' and 'foreign-born' or are they instead the euphemisms for 'illegal' Ms. McLaughlin keeps utilizing throughout the article?

The reaction from some in the Hispanic community was less than favorable.

Lourdes Ward, a Hispanic woman who operates Reach Out Lakota food pantry in West Chester Township, said such a measure will destroy the trust and good will that police have been trying to build with the local Hispanic population, which have been taught to fear police in their home countries.
Reporter McLaughlin would have been journalistically complete by addressing the following questions to Ms. Ward:

  • What would a legal resident have to fear?
  • Isn't it a good thing that illegal law breakers exhibit some fear of law enforcement?
  • Do we want to promote a 'disrespect' for the law instead?
  • Don't law abiding, legal 'Hispanic' citizens support the immigration laws of the United States?
It also would have ramifications in the work force because Hispanics, who will accept a lower salary and no benefits, will be less likely to come to Ohio for jobs, she said.

"There's going to be a lot of jobs that depend on them, like landscaping and construction that they are not going to be able to fill because nobody is going to be willing to take $3 or $4 less an hour to do the same job," Ward said.

It's unfortunate that Ms. McLaughlin does not quote Ms. Ward directly on the 'ramifications' issue. The reader is left to wonder about the reference to Hispanics. In light of the article's topic, illegal immigration, it's reasonable to assume that Ms. Ward's concern's are over 'Hispanics' that are in Ohio illegally.

With regard to the jobs not being filled, an exploration by Ms. McLaughlin of wages being depressed by illegal immigrants in Ohio would have been appropriate as well at this point.

The notion that Hispanics bleed the social service system is a fallacy, she said. The most common complaint she said she hears from Hispanics who visit the food pantry is they can't find a second or third job to support their families.

"It's not like they are coming here and thinking, 'I'm going to live off the system and stay home and fit the stereotype of nothing but sitting around outside my apartment and drink beer all day,'" Ward said.

Michael Florez, chairman of the Ohio Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs, said he understands the economic issues involving immigration but thinks that Butler County's approach is misguided.

"It is an emotional, polarizing issue. I don't think that local enforcement of trespass cases is the way to handle it," said Florez, who also is a Cincinnati lawyer. "It has to be a federal response, a 50-state federal response, and it has to come from our Congress. Otherwise, it's a patchwork approach."
And we all know that the federal response has been working so well up to this point.
He compared the Butler County idea to "squeezing a balloon" that will force
illegal immigrants to simply move to other states to avoid deportation in Ohio.

But Jones says he doesn't care about that.

"The only balloon I'm concerned about is the balloon in Ohio," he said.
It's telling that Ms. McLaughlin asks Sheriff Jones about the social/political implications of the proposed state trespassing/deportation policy, but doesn't explore the willful undermining of the immigration laws with the two critics of the policy, Ms. Ward and Mr. Florez.

Sheriff Jones is asked to justify the county's law enforcement efforts while Ms. Ward is allowed to criticize them without being challenged on her tacit support of illegal immigration.

Which leads to the following question for Ms. McLaughlin and reporters like her that attempt to cover this issue: "What part of illegal don't you understand"?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was an awfully good fisking.

McLaughlin was very clever in her movements between direct quotes and "he said" quotes to avoid having to use words she found inconvenient.


October 23, 2005 at 11:48 AM  

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