Cable news caricatures immigration issue with ubiquitous footage of border-crossers

››› ››› NATHAN TABAK & HANNAH DREIER

A Media Matters analysis found that April 9 reports about immigration policy on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News frequently featured footage of people apparently crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The footage distorts the issue; it does not address in any meaningful way the reality of their lives or the nation's challenges in dealing with the issue.

On April 9, following a New York Times report that President Obama "plans to begin addressing the country's immigration system this year" and will seek a path for undocumented immigrants to become legal residents, Media Matters for America reviewed coverage of the issue that day by CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, all of which aired numerous reports on immigration policy. Consistent with a frequent and long-standing practice, these reports frequently featured footage of people apparently crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally -- jumping border fences, hiking through the desert, or being pursued or detained by law-enforcement officials in what appears to be the vicinity of border. The ubiquitous use of this footage as a visual backdrop distorts the issue: The footage does not in any meaningful way illustrate the reality of the lives of immigrants who are in this country illegally, nor does it meaningfully depict the complex array of issues involved in immigration reform. Moreover, the footage does not even capture the common experience of undocumented immigrants, nearly half of whom, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report, entered the country legally.

The following CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News teasers and segments on immigration reform included footage of immigrants apparently crossing the U.S.-Mexico border or being pursued or detained by law-enforcement officials in what appears to be the vicinity of border:

Start time (ET)

Channel

Program

Type of segment

5:28 p.m.

CNN

The Situation Room

report

7:07 p.m.

CNN

Lou Dobbs Tonight

report

6:06 a.m.

FNC

Fox & Friends

discussion

6:50 a.m.

FNC

Fox & Friends

teaser

6:54 a.m.

FNC

Fox & Friends

discussion

8:37 a.m.

FNC

Fox & Friends

discussion

5:01 p.m.

FNC

Glenn Beck

teaser

9:19 a.m.

MSNBC

MSNBC Live

teaser

9:25 a.m.

MSNBC

MSNBC Live

discussion

10:42 a.m.

MSNBC

MSNBC Live

discussion

11:09 a.m.

MSNBC

MSNBC Live

teaser

11:20 a.m.

MSNBC

MSNBC Live

report

12:20 p.m.

MSNBC

MSNBC Live

discussion

5:01 p.m.

MSNBC

Hardball

teaser

6:13 p.m.

MSNBC

The Ed Show

teaser

6:18 p.m.

MSNBC

The Ed Show

discussion

The segments featured the following images:

cnn

cnn

fnc

fnc

fnc

fnc

fnc

msnbc

msnbc

msnbc

msnbc

msnbc

msnbc

msnbc

msnbc

msnbc

Posted In
Immigration, Immigration Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN
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