Caplis, Silverman falsely claimed Boulder proposal would allow illegal immigrants to serve in local government

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On their August 21 show, 630 KHOW-AM co-hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman mischaracterized a Boulder City Council proposal that would allow noncitizens to serve on city advisory boards and commissions as permitting illegal immigrants to serve in local government. Caplis cited a Denver Post article that, in fact, made no mention of illegal immigrants. Moreover, other media outlets have reported that the proposal was limited to immigrants in the country legally.

Referring to an August 21 Denver Post article about a proposal before the Boulder City Council to enable noncitizens to serve on city advisory boards and commissions, 630 KHOW-AM co-hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman falsely claimed on their August 21 show that the proposal would permit illegal immigrants to serve on "government bod[ies]" and "city boards." Caplis further surmised that Boulder City Councilwoman Robin Bohannan, who introduced the proposal and was unavailable to the Post for comment, "is hiding somewhere from us and from The Denver Post" because the proposal "would allow illegal immigrants that ... right to serve on government boards." Later, when a caller challenged the hosts' references to illegal immigrants, Caplis admitted to having made an "assumption" but further argued that the proposal probably did benefit illegal aliens because that would explain why Bohannan was "hiding" and why "the Boulder City Council won't pass it out to the ballot."

However, the Post article to which Caplis and Silverman referred never mentioned illegal immigrants. Instead, the article reported, "The Boulder City Council will decide tonight whether to let voters consider allowing noncitizens to serve on government boards." Furthermore, previous reporting in the Boulder Daily Camera and by the Associated Press made it clear that Boulder's proposal addresses legal, not illegal, immigrants. As the Daily Camera reported on August 14, "Members of the Boulder City Council have been clarifying language to limit the proposal to immigrants who are in the country legally."

Referring to topics "that caught our attention," Caplis said, "[W]e'll be talking about this article in The Denver Post: 'Boulder weighing non-citizen service.' The council votes tonight on sending residents a measure that would let immigrants get spots on government boards." Caplis added, "We've tried to find the city council member who's sponsoring that up there. And I guess, understandably, she's not interested in coming on, 'cause ... [f]rom the way I understand this ... I don't know how you could justify it." Later, Silverman further mischaracterized Boulder's proposal, saying, "[S]peaking of Boulder ... you might think instinctively, 'I don't want illegal aliens serving on any government body up there.' " Caplis similarly stated later in the broadcast, "I consider myself a steadfast defender of the basic human dignity of folks who are here illegally. They don't lose their ... human dignity because they chose to come here illegally, which I think was wrong, but they don't lose their human dignity because of that. But they sure as heck don't have a right to sit on city boards."

After Caplis asked, "Bottom line: Should they or shouldn't they?" Silverman replied, "Well, of course not. And the reason they lost even in San Francisco is because illegal aliens can't vote. What's next? You're going to grant them the right to vote?"

Besides mischaracterizing the Post article to make the claim that the Boulder City Council proposal would permit illegal immigrants to participate in Boulder's government, Caplis and Silverman ignored previous news reports stating that the proposed change in the city's charter would permit legal immigrants -- not illegal aliens -- to serve on city boards.

In addition to reporting that Boulder is considering a proposal to allow "noncitizens" to serve on government boards, the Post further noted, "Boulder City Councilwoman Robin Bohannan resurrected the issue at a meeting this month after the council chose not to put it on the ballot in 2004." The article continued:

Bohannan has not returned telephone calls to The Denver Post to discuss her reasons.

In 2002, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to vote on the issue, where it was defeated by a 2-to-1 ratio. The Board of Supervisors had voted unanimously to put it before voters in a city where 50 percent of residents are foreign-born.

About 12 percent of Boulder's population is foreign-born, according to a 2005 study.

Moreover, contrary to Silverman's question about granting "illegal aliens" the "right to vote," a Post article from August 9 explicitly noted, "The Boulder measure, if passed, would not grant voting rights to noncitizens but would remove a requirement that those on city panels be registered voters, which requires citizenship."

Similarly, the Daily Camera reported, "Boulder's elected officials are refining a proposal to allow non-U.S. citizens to serve on some advisory boards and commissions." The Daily Camera further reported:

Members of the Boulder City Council have been clarifying language to limit the proposal to immigrants who are in the country legally. And the proposed charter change would still leave in place the citizenship requirement for people serving on boards that have quasi-judicial powers, such as the Planning Board.

"It's meant to include people with green cards or permanent visas, like professors at CU or students who are here on visas," City Councilman Ken Wilson said.

Likewise, the AP reported on August 8 that Boulder "City [C]ouncil members are considering changing the city charter so legal immigrants can serve on boards and commissions."

As the Daily Camera reported on August 22, "A proposal to change Boulder's charter to allow non-citizens to serve on city boards took another step forward on Tuesday night":

The change would allow immigrants who are in the country legally to serve on some advisory boards, but would leave in place the citizenship requirement for people serving on boards that have quasi-judicial powers, such as the Planning Board.

The City Council voted 7-2 to bring back the measure for a final reading Sept. 4. If approved, it would go before voters in November.

Later in the broadcast, a caller said, "I'm just a little bit confused, because when you read about the vote in Boulder, it was talking about noncitizens, but yet when you talk about ... it, it's talking about illegal aliens. And I think they're not exactly the same thing." Caplis responded, "No, you're right. But my assumption -- and maybe I'll be proven wrong eventually -- but I bet it's the reason why the councilwoman [who introduced the measure] is hiding somewhere from us and from The Denver Post, is that it would allow illegal immigrants ... that right to serve on government boards."

From the August 21 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Caplis & Silverman Show:

CAPLIS: Great topics today. Hey, now we're moving ahead to a couple others that caught our attention -- we'll be talking about this article in The Denver Post: "Boulder weighing non-citizen service." The council votes tonight on sending residents a measure that would let immigrants get spots on government boards. We've tried to find the city council member who's sponsoring that up there. And I guess, understandably, she's not interested in coming on, 'cause --

SILVERMAN: Why?

CAPLIS: From the way I understand this, I, I don't know how you could justify it. 303 --

SILVERMAN: Are you kidding me?

CAPLIS: Let me just finish this. 303-713-8255, the number. KHOW.com to instant message us.

[...]

SILVERMAN: But, speaking of Boulder, where CU plays, you might think instinctively, "I don't want illegal aliens serving on any government body up there." But you have to consider the fact that Boulder was the home of one of the most celebrated illegal aliens ever, who I think was well-qualified. Do you know who I'm referring to?

CAPLIS: No.

SILVERMAN: Did you ever watch --

CAPLIS: Oh, Mork & Mindy.

SILVERMAN: -- Pam Dawber and Robin Williams? Mork. Don't you think Mork could have served on Boulder's city council? There was an illegal alien who I think was worthy of a government position.

CAPLIS: Yeah. Interesting.

[...]

CAPLIS: I guess an interesting subquestion would be, why would anybody in their right mind propose this? And, listen, you know, I consider myself a steadfast defender of the basic human dignity of folks who are here illegally. They don't lose their, their human dignity because they chose to come here illegally, which I think was wrong, but they don't lose their human dignity because of that. But they sure as heck don't have a right to sit on city boards. 303-713-8255, the number. Love your take on this, brother. Bottom line: Should they or shouldn't they?

SILVERMAN: Well, of course not. And the reason they lost even in San Francisco is because illegal aliens can't vote. What's next? You're going to grant them the right to vote? There are certain privileges that go along with citizenship.

[...]

CALLER: Hey, Dan and Craig, love listening to you guys on my way home.

SILVERMAN: Thank you.

CAPLIS: Thank you.

CALLER: I'm just a little bit confused, because when you read about the vote in Boulder, it was talking about noncitizens, but yet when you talk about, if we prefer it, it's talking about illegal aliens. And I think they're not exactly the same thing.

CAPLIS: No, you're right. But my assumption -- and maybe I'll be proven wrong eventually -- but I bet it's the reason why the councilwoman [who introduced the measure] is hiding somewhere from us and from The Denver Post, is that it would allow illegal immigrants that, that right to serve on government boards. I think that's the reason she's in hiding. I think it's the reason why it was defeated 2-to-1 in San Francisco, and why even the Boulder City Council won't pass it out to the ballot.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.