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On the March 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly responded to an email from a viewer complaining about his statement the previous day that the victims of a March 7 fire in the Bronx in which one adult and eight children were killed "may be illegal aliens" by stating: "Your so-called compassion helped kill those kids." He later added: "It's people like you, [viewer], who promote that kind of chaos in the name of compassion, who look the other way while poor workers and children are exploited by greedy landlords and businesses because you don't like the immigration laws."
Later in the program, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera chastised O'Reilly, claiming that "to make the connection between illegal immigration and that horrific fire in the Bronx two days ago is an injustice to the victims of that fire."
On both March 8 and March 9, O'Reilly complained that New York City policies regarding illegal immigrants made it impossible to determine if the fire victims were illegal immigrants because New York "is a sanctuary city." According to a March 2004 Congressional Research Service report titled "Enforcing Immigration Law: The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement," which lists New York among "[c]ities and counties currently that have sanctuary policies," "Most cities that are considered sanctuary cities have adopted a 'don't ask-don't tell' policy where they don't require their employees, including law enforcement officers, to report to federal officials aliens who may be illegally present in the country."
From the March 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight, a new tactic by the pro-amnesty, open-border crowd: using children to demand sanctuary for illegal aliens.
In New York City, eight children were killed last night after a fire broke out in the Bronx. Twenty-two people were living in just two apartments, 17 of them children.
Those involved are from the West African nation of Mali and may be illegal aliens. The city of New York is a sanctuary city and does not give out that information.
Four New York City firefighters were hurt trying to save people in the blaze.
From the March 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: And then there is that terrible fire here in New York City, where eight children were killed, children of parents born in Mali, West Africa. Because New York is a sanctuary city that protects illegal aliens, The Factor cannot confirm whether or not all these children were in the USA legally.
What we can confirm is that 17 children were living in a rowhouse, along with five adults, that one of the men in the house had two wives -- one upstairs, one downstairs -- and that living conditions were chaotic and dangerous.
After our report last night, I received this letter from [viewer] in Houston. "O'Reilly, it was despicable to hear you question the status of those children. I was a big fan of yours but I'll never watch you again and urge others who feel compassion for immigrants not to watch you as well."
OK, [viewer], but here's the no-spin truth, so listen up. Your so-called compassion helped kill those children. They should have never been in that circumstance. If the authorities had investigated as they should have, those kids might be alive right now, legal or not.
It is against the law to overcrowd a dwelling. It is against the law to have two wives. If any one of those people were here illegally, that is another infraction. But New York City looks the other way. It doesn't want to know.
It is people like you, [viewer], who promote that kind of chaos in the name of compassion, who look the other way while poor workers and children are exploited by greedy landlords and businesses because you don't like the immigration laws.
Yeah, it's great to be compassionate sitting at home watching the tube. But for decades, our government has allowed people from all over the world to walk in here without supervision. That's why these children are dead -- because their chaotic situation was ignored by New York City authorities.
O'REILLY: I'm basically saying that we must get this situation of illegal immigration under control. The chaos is killing children. Go.
RIVERA: I think to draw -- to make the connection between illegal immigration and that horrific fire in the Bronx two days ago is an injustice to the victims of that fire. Why did they die?
There's no code violations that they found. There were no required, you know -- everything in the building so far --
O'REILLY: Twenty-two people in the house.
RIVERA: There were two batteries missing in the fire alarm.
O'REILLY: Twenty-two people in a house.
RIVERA: But, Bill, the status of the immigration is not relevant.
My legal nanny has children in school with three of those victims. It is the human cause. And if you --
O'REILLY: This is what you missed. I'm going to give you the last word. But this is what you missed. This is a sanctuary city. That means the authorities do not ask any questions about anybody's status or anybody's condition.
RIVERA: Bill, they're dead children, for God's sake, they're dead children.
O'REILLY: If they had been American children --
RIVERA: They'd still be dead children. It would still be heartbreaking.
O'REILLY: No, the authorities would have gone in and checked them out.
RIVERA: No, please. That's not so.
O'REILLY: Yes, it is.
RIVERA: You don't know that to be a fact.
O'REILLY: Yes, I do.
RIVERA: You don't --
O'REILLY: You know it is.
RIVERA: -- there are little babies dead. There are people -- mothers throwing babies out the window. They're dying. Falling onto the -- you've got to be compassionate, brother. You've got to be compassionate.
O'REILLY: Twenty-two people in a rowhouse. They don't let people do that.
RIVERA: You gotta take a step back and say, "Wait a second, this isn't about illegal immigration. This is about the human cost of a terrible tragedy."
O'REILLY: This is about a system --
RIVERA: Those firemen were crying. They were crying because the babies died.
O'REILLY: Four of the firemen were almost killed.
RIVERA: That's right.
O'REILLY: And that situation never should have existed. Never.
RIVERA: Please, I've covered poverty in this country for 35 years. I've seen legal poor people living under conditions far more squalid than that. That was a working family at a good school. You've gotta divorce their status from their victimization.
O'REILLY: They have to be supervised. And they weren't.