Media Go Heavy On Fear, But Light On Facts, When Covering ICE
Jennifer G. Hickey
The news about a recent report on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) courthouse arrests were packed like a sardine can with hyperbole and anti-enforcement propaganda. The only thing missing, naturally, were the facts.“ICE Courthouse Arrests Up 1700% Since Trump’s Inauguration: Report,” roared the Daily Beast.They followed up in the lead paragraph with a wild assertion that ICE courthouse arrests in New York (a small fact missing from the headline) “have become so sudden and aggressive that bystanders think they have just witnessed a kidnapping.”The New York Daily News’ lead paragraph “reported” that the arrests were “forcing immigrant families to endure terrifying episodes that witnesses have mistaken for kidnappings, according to a new report.”All of the parroted claims are based on findings from a report from the Immigrant Defense Project, an organization that, unlike the media, makes no attempt to hide its anti-immigration enforcement bias.IDP’s goals include ending “an immigration system that every year tears hundreds of thousands of immigrants with convictions from their homes, their families, and their communities” and “the current era of unprecedented mass deportation.”The IDP says the findings of the 15-page report released on Monday were drawn “from hundreds of reports collected by IDP’s staff over the course of 2018.” But there are no names, nor publicly-available information to verify the dates of arrests or whether any nature of force was used, as the report alleges.And the media simply replays allegations that it later contradicts with statements from court officials.For example, tacked onto the very end of one report is a statement from New York State’s Office of Court Administration (OCA), which oversees all state courts.According to OCA, ICE implemented a new policy in January in which the agency would limit arrests to criminal proceedings and make the arrests with Judicial warrants.“Additionally, as a result of our continued communication with them, they have effectively changed their tactics shying away from making arrests inside court facilities. Arrests inside of courthouses declined by over 50 percent from 2017 to 2018 from 40 to 13 in New York City and 54 to 26 statewide.”So, arrests inside courthouses have actually decreased in the last year.An article in the Queens Eagle claims arrests “have surged at Queens courts,” but that appears to conflict with a spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.“Despite the public attention, there have been relatively few instances of ICE making arrests in and around the courthouse. As far as making arrests in the courthouse, ICE agents appears to be complying with the court directive of identifying themselves to court personnel and stating their purpose,” said the spokesperson.Why would the media intentionally mislead the public on the matter of ICE fulfilling its mission?Consider that the IDP report is now a prominent and very public part of the debate over further limiting the presence of ICE in and around public courthouses – not to mention simply abolishing ICE.According to the New York Law Journal, the state’s Office of Court Administration is mulling the idea of barring federal immigration officers from arresting illegal immigrants “in state courthouses without a warrant signed by a federal judge.”Public support for this contemplated policy and the politicians who back it will be needed if it is to succeed. Given the news media’s prior history of biased reporting on immigration, only a fool would believe they do not have a dog in this hunt.
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