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Bill Hemmer Advances Nativist Myth Of Illegals Immigrant“Crime Wave”

Reported by Priscilla - June 7, 2010 -

Let’s imagine that within an unidentified period of time, in Washington state, three crimes (two rapes and a murder) were allegedly committed by evangelical Christians. Would that be enough to constitute a “crime spree?” Would that be enough to warrant an article on the Fox News website as well as a segment on an actual Fox “news” program? I think not – but given that illegal immigrants were charged with the crimes, Fox took notice – to the point where these crimes were considered “an illegal immigrant crime spree.” But it’s not surprising given that the narrative for the nativist right wing, a key Fox demographic, is that illegals are scary furriners who are committing crimes against virtuous “real” Americans. Of course, the fact that these folks are drawing pay checks from employers whose actions could be criminal doesn’t seem to be a factor on Fox where the myth of dangerous illegals is part of the very fabric of “news” and “opinion.”

The June 1st article on the Fox News website, by Dan Springer, is titled “Illegal Immigrants Crime Spree.” It claims that three recent crimes, in Washington state, were, according to the police, “committed by a different illegal immigrant.” (Uh, until the crime is adjudicated, the word “alleged” would be more accurate.) The article goes on to cite scary statistics about the percentage of illegals in Washington and the percentage of illegals in Washington jails. Springer’s data starts getting squishy when he claims that over half of the “Most Wanted” are suspected illegal immigrants. He cites a source in the US Marshall’s office who says that 30-40% of felony warrants are believed to be illegal immigrants. Towards the end of the article, Springer mentions that the State Patrol don’t know the status of the “most wanted” suspects. But he gets to the real deal with the last sentence: “Last week, the city of Tacoma joined Seattle in admonishing Arizona for its immigration law. While the council did not go so far as passing a boycott, the ordinance does criticize Arizona for its stand against illegal immigration.” The lesson – Washingtonians are being hypocrites for criticizing Arizona when they have “an illegal crime spree.” However, when you actually read Springer’s article, quoted by all the usual right wing blogs and then some, it turns out that the “illegal crime spree” might not be as advertised.

In case Fox fans missed the article, “America’s Newsroom,” (cept if your brown) picked up the message on June 1st. Bill Hemmer, in referring to a “Washington Crime Spree,” was a bit more cautious than Springer. However, he then went on the connect illegal immigrants to this “crime spree” which Washington state is “grappling with.” While he said that “half of the folks on WA’s ‘most wanted’ list are suspected illegals, the chyron didn’t use “suspected:” “Illegals Top Washington State’s Most Wanted List.” This doesn’t jive with Springer’s article which simply states that “18 of the 26 on the list are Hispanic with no place of birth identified” and that “most are wanted for vehicular homicide.” Fact Check – The last available data for Washington crime shows that WA is number 31 (best to worst) for a crime rate which changed (from 2007 to 2008) by 1 percentage point. Hemmer immediately got to the agitprop message with his comment, “cities like Seattle are dead set against Arizona’s strong new immigration law.” (bad, bad Seattle) He then tossed to (surprise, surprise) Dan Springer. When Hemmer asked “what kind of crimes are we talking about,” Springer said “the serious kind, one murder, two rapists.” (I thought most were wanted for vehicular homicide). He commented about how several of the accused have been deported several time. (Note – trials haven’t taken place.) He claimed that police said that one of the suspects murdered his girlfriend. (What ever happened to presumption of innocence?) Springer noted that Washington isn’t even in the top ten states for illegal immigrants in his attempt to “prove” how the rate of WA crime is disproportional to the demographics and cited Franklin County “bookings.” Hemmer said that “some people in your state say” not enough is being done to capture “these criminals.” Springer described how those on the Most Wanted, with Hispanic surnames, have “no country of origin” and the State Patrol “can’t even tell us if these guys are illegal.” He showed video of a Captain from the State Patrol who said that the priority is finding out where these people are right now. Springer concluded with his data about the outstanding felony warrants. Throughout the piece, the chyron remained the same: “Illegals Top Washington State’s Most Wanted List." Too bad he didn't speak with anybody from the state Attorney General's office who might have been able to put some of Dan's numbers in persective but we can't cut the narrative buzz, can we?

Comment: “News” propaganda message – 1) Illegal immigrants are scary criminals who are part of a “crime wave” in Washington State. 2) Folks in Washington who object to the Arizona immigration law have a lot of nerve. 3) Tolerance towards illegals (see #2) causes “illegal crime sprees.” But I learned something – three crimes = “crime spree.” Who knew!