I'm in my third decade of following politics and media and I thought I had seen it all, but I must say that I was taken aback by the national reaction to SB 1070--how could the reaction to the bill have been so widespread while the information about the bill was so utterly wrong?
The two are obviously connected. The media portrayal of the bill made it sound like Kristallnacht and naturally the rest of the country reacted when they thought that Arizona was implementing a bill that violated the constitution on several fronts.
I've been trying to figure out the exact point at which incorrect information went national and I think I found it here.* E.J. Dionne--arguably the most influential political reporter in Washington--used his "Post Partisan" column to decry Arizona's "Shameful" immigration bill.
It is nothing short of astonishing that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer Friday signed a bill that could make it dangerous just to look Hispanic.
Based on what he knew, Dionne had the right to be astonished and the national media soon descended on Arizona. Later President Obama himself would blast Arizona's "irresponsible" actions.
However, most of the factual information that E.J. Dionne used in his analysis was simply wrong. What was the source of these errors? Dionne made it clear that he got his information from an April 22nd Arizona Republic editorial--Dionne included a link as well as a large block quote from the editorial. Unfortunately, ALL of the facts about the bill that Dionne used as the basis of his column--a column that lit a national fire and ended with the President singling out Arizona for ridicule--were wrong.
I've copied the block quote (in blue) that Dionne used and will analyze the statements line by line, but rather than just trusting my analysis of the bill, please refer to the sidebar in the article in today's paper that the Republic itself used to describe the bill. It seems that once the Republic had time to analyze what the bill actually did, they described the bill in dramatically different terms than the editorial.
Here's the first "fact" that E.J. Dionne picked up from the Republic
The broad anti-immigrant bill passed by the Legislature this week makes it a crime to be in the country illegally
Wrong. It's already a crime to be in the country illegally. SB 1070 made it a STATE crime by copying the federal language. This makes a huge difference because opponents used Dionne's quote to say that Arizona was adopting its own immigration policy as well as criminalizing being in the country illegally. Both of those assumptions are wrong. Sunday's article got it right by emphasizing that the bill made it a "state crime."
and gives local cops the job of demanding documentation if they have reasonable suspicion someone lacks it.
Wrong. Local cops have the job of asking for documentation only if they believe it's "practicable" and even that requirement is eliminated if they believe that asking for documentation "may hinder or obstruct an investigation." The essence of this provision is that it prohibits cities or police departments from adopting a policy that stops the police from checking immigration status. Again Sunday's explanation of the bill's provisions got this point right.
Back to the editorial upon which Dionne relied...
The need to carry proper ‘papers’ falls squarely on Arizona's Latino population -- including those born and raised in the Grand Canyon State.
Wrong--and frankly outrageous. Federal law already requires resident aliens to carry registration documents. SB 1070 makes it a state crime to violate the federal law. The law doesn't apply to "those born and raised in the Grand Canyon State" because they are obviously citizens. The law also lists documents that provide a presumption of citizenship one of which is a Driver's License. There is no need for citizens to carry their birth certificate or passport. Once again, if you read the explanation in Sunday's Republic, you will see how incorrect the editorial is.
The bill invites racial profiling and ignores the fact that Latinos are an intrinsic part of Arizona's history and its future.
Wrong. Actually, the bill prohibits racial profiling by saying that race can only be considered to the "extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution." And under no circumstances can the officer "solely" consider race, color or national origin. (He can "consider" race as a factor just like he can under federal and Arizona law now.) Sunday's version doesn't even address this point because the bill makes it so clear that racial profiling is NOT allowed that it wasn't even worth a mention--that's because there's no change in the law. Racial profiling was not allowed before the bill and it's not allowed after the bill.
The bill . . . is bringing thundering bad publicity that will echo for years to come. It will lead to lost economic-development opportunities, lost tourism and lost opportunities to expand our trade and commercial ties with Mexico.
Well, this part is actually true. The bill really is bringing bad publicity that will echo for years to come. It's too bad that the bad publicity is based on a factually inaccurate editorial that received national exposure.
So what's the Republic going to do about it? Obviously simply correcting the editorial on A2 is inadequate. Randy Lovely needs to tell us who wrote the editorial and what went wrong. After all, the faulty reporting has had nation wide implications and may cost Arizona billions of dollars. It's not possible to un-ring this bell. But I for one would like to hear how the Republic is going to ensure that it doesn't get rung again.
Footnote: Dionne's post couldn't have been part of the first wave in which the wrong information went national, because the post was written after Governor Brewer had already signed the bill. But I think it was likely responsible for the second wave--the one that included the President--and I think that the first wave probably also relied on the Republic editorial. I used Dionne as an example because he CLEARLY relied on the editorial. My guess is that the editorial was widely read beforehand and was responsible for the initial wave as well.