Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The New York Times continues to struggle to keep its editorial-page agenda out of the news-section immigration debate. On Friday, the Times ran an above-the-fold, front-page story, “Immigration Bill Provisions Gain Wide Support in Poll: Majority Favors Path to Legal Status for Illegal Aliens.” The findings, of an NYT/CBS News poll, show that “there is broad support among Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike — for the major provisions in the legislation.” Taking a “pragmatic” view “on a divisive issue,” the article said, “a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status and to create a new guest worker program to meet future labor demands.”

But a careful reading of some of the questions highlighted by the newspaper suggests they were skewed. Poll question No. 1 asks: “Would you favor or oppose a guest worker program?” Sixty-six percent of Americans said yes. But what exactly does this mean? The question only mentions a “guest worker program.” But it is unclear whether the respondents even know what a guest-worker program is, or whether they knew that the beneficiaries of such a program include millions of illegal aliens. Would Americans have voted by more than two to one in favor of in favor of a question framed as follows: “Would you favor or oppose a guest-worker program that would benefit illegal immigrants?” We wonder.

Another question featured asks: “Should illegal immigrants get a renewable visa if they pay a fine, have a clean record and pass a background check?” Unsurprisingly, 67 percent responded “yes,” while just 27 percent were opposed. But the agency that would likely be responsible for overseeing the program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has been skewered by the Government Accountability Office and other investigators, and it is entirely possible (even likely) that some of those who “pass a background check” will be undesirables who pass due to the poor quality of bureaucratic recordkeeping. How does such a question translate into a political mandate for Teddy Kennedy and President Bush?

Buried on inside pages of the NYT or omitted from the print version were findings that contradicted the front-page lead of the story. Eighty-two percent of those surveyed believe the federal government could be doing more to “keep illegal immigrants from crossing into this country.” Sixty-one percent consider illegal immigration a “very serious” problem for the United States, while 75 percent favor higher fines and increased enforcement being directed at employers who knowingly hire illegals. These findings are consistent with virtually all other polling on immigration. Last week, Rasmussen Reports released data showing that 72 percent of Americans believe it is “very important” for the United States to “improve border enforcement and reduce illegal immigration.” By a 2-1 margin, Americans believe that it is more important to gain control of the nation’s borders than to “legalize the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States.”

As Rasmussen and some of the Times’ own polling suggest, there is plenty of reason to believe Americans are highly skeptical of the open-borders agenda. Politicians who base their votes on the dubious political spin by the New York Times may be in for a rude awakening.

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