Immigrants Excluded in News Coverage of Immigration Reform

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Though immigration figured prominently on the national political agenda in February 2013, an analysis by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) of news coverage during that month shows that immigrants themselves are not getting their say.  The study examined all ABC, CBS and NBC news programs, the PBS NewsHour, CNN’s Situation Room, Fox News’ Special Report and MSNBC’s Hardball for all of February.  It found 54 reports on immigration featuring 157 news sources during that time.

Most of these sources were white male politicians born in the U.S. with no personal ties to immigration.  Although more than fifty percent of immigrants in the U.S. are female, only 19 of the 157 sources were women. Latinos, African-Americans, South Asians, and Native Americans together made up less than 30% of the 150 total sources where ethnicity could be identified.  Furthermore, a few specific members—including President Obama and Senator Marco Rubio—account for most of the 30% figure.  As Eunji Kim reports, “Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida accounted for 14 of the 24 Latino appearances, while 12 of 16 African-American sources were President Obama.”

Only three sources were current or former undocumented immigrants.   The media tends to focus more on the political aspects of immigration and their impacts to politicians themselves, rather than how it affects the country and immigrants themselves. As Kim writes, “With politicians (111) and journalists (33, not including the show hosts or correspondents) dominating the discussion, the immigration issue was mainly framed around the political process and the implications for politicians, rather than the implications for immigrants and society as a whole.”

Though Democrats seek a way to address all aspects of the immigration dilemma, Republicans prioritize tighter border security over all else. Regardless of political opinion, the opening discussion of the bi-partisan immigration bill is sure to kill all attention immigrants had received up to that point, as politicians will become distracted discussing the bill.  Kim concludes, “Those with the most at stake in those debates will be almost entirely ignored.”


Eunji Kim, “Immigrants Missing From Immigration Debate,” Extra! (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), May 30, 2013,
Student Researcher: Tyler Petersen (Santa Rosa Junior College)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Santa Rosa Junior College)