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Soft focus on hidden-camera video of illegal aliens

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Soft focus on hidden-camera video of illegal aliens

Anti-immigration org behind web doc doesn't get much scrutiny

  • A frame from 'Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2: Drugs, Guns, and 850 Illegal Aliens.'
    Center for Immigration Studies videoA frame from 'Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2: Drugs, Guns, and 850 Illegal Aliens.'
  • A frame from 'Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2: Drugs, Guns, and 850 Illegal Aliens.'
    Center for Immigration Studies videoA frame from 'Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2: Drugs, Guns, and 850 Illegal Aliens.'

Gaining attention online is a compilation video of footage of illegal aliens in the Arizona desert produced by the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies.

Although it's billed as a documentary that shows the "reality of illegal entry," the video was produced by an anti-immigration group rather than an objective news organization.

"Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2: Drugs, Guns, and 850 Illegal Aliens" (below) has received over 100,000 views on YouTube since its July 14 release.

A previous CIS video, "Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border: Coyotes, Bears, and Trails," (sidebar) has been played over 58,000 times since it came out one year ago.

The producer of "Hidden Cameras on the Arizona Border 2," the Center for Immigration Studies, says "at minimum, the inescapable conclusion is that hidden cameras reveal a reality that illegal-alien activity is escalating."

The video, billed as a hidden-camera "mini-documentary," has received attention from many television, print and Internet news organizations - most of which don't report on the group behind the production.

The video shows a series of hidden camera shots from earlier this year, from the Coronado National Forest, an illegal immigration route near Nogales, and near Casa Grande.

The cameras captured "about 850 illegal aliens" in "60 days between February and March 2010," the video says.

Illegal immigrants are seen, following well-worn paths through the desert. So are drug smugglers, large packs strapped to their backs, accompanied by armed escorts. Still photos of a trash-strewn wash are shown.

"Illegal immigration threatens nature's delicate balance," says the video's narrator, CIS Director of National Security Policy Janice Kephart. It shows clips of mountain lions and a bear and her cub, who "over time, are becoming attracted to the scent of smuggled humans."

Coverage of the CIS video has been widespread, but far from comprehensive.

From the progressive watchdog group Media Matters:

Over the course of three of Fox News' "straight news" programs, the hosts and correspondents channeled CIS's claims, treating the 10-minute documentary as groundbreaking. Bill Hemmer described the video as "shocking," Megyn Kelly called it "stunning," correspondent Molly Hennenberg uncritically reported that CIS "says these videos show the escalating illegal alien activity," and Bret Baier said the film "shows the situation along the border getting worse." Trace Gallagher further suggested that the video is evidence that "the feds" are not protecting the lands that appear in the video.


More notably, Fox News didn't even try to provide context for the number of undocumented immigrants that appear in the video. "850 illegal aliens" over "60 days" sure sounds like a lot. But in the Tucson Sector, where the hidden cameras were placed, Border Patrol apprehended 449,654 illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2001, the year Bush took office [Associated Press 10/01/02]. That's 1,232 people every day. In 2006, there were 1,074 apprehensions per day in the Tucson sector.

By fiscal year 2009, the number of Tucson sector apprehensions was down to 241,600, or 662 per day, reflecting a drop in the number of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the United States, due to the recession and increased enforcement. (The Southwest border and the Tucson sector are now policed by more Border Patrol agents than ever before.)

About CIS

The Center for Immigration Studies was founded in 1985 by John Tanton, a Michigan opthalmologist and nativist by also founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Tanton has promoted "a European-American majority" in his political writings, which have warned of a "Latin onslaught."

The group, headquartered on K Street in Washington, D.C., describes itself as "an independent non-partisan research institution" that is "the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States."

CIS has issued studies claiming that, among other things, foreign terrorists are attempting to marry U.S. citizens to gain entry to the county.

The group wants to limit all immigration, legal and illegal. CIS says "current, high levels of immigration are making it harder to achieve such important national objectives as better public schools, a cleaner environment, homeland security, and a living wage for every native-born and immigrant worker."

CIS' relationship to FAIR has led to controversy for the organization.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks what it terms "hate groups." FAIR is on its list.

From the SPLC report on the CIS:

"CIS' attempts to blame immigrants for all of the U.S.'s problems have been laughable," said Angela Kelley of the Immigration Policy Center, a Washington, D.C., organization that uses well-known scholars to produce reports on immigration-related issues and has debunked many of the studies issued by CIS. "It is clear that CIS is not interested in serious research or getting the facts straight."

According to the SPLC, "CIS Senior Policy Analyst Stephen Steinlight pretty much captured CIS' brand of 'independent' analysis when he told the Inter Press Service News Agency in 2005 that immigration threatens 'the American people as a whole and the future of Western civilization.'"

CIS's executive director, Mark Krikorian, has downplayed the group's connections with Tanton and FAIR.

The exaggeration of Tanton's "tenuous and minor" connection to CIS is part of "a broader, concerted effort to delegitimize any skeptic of amnesty or increased immigration," he told The City Paper in Nashville, after the local sheriff canceled a meeting with the group.

"They (SPLC) don't have the balls to describe us as a hate group, they have to do this McCarthyite kind of guilt by association thing," he said. "Their function is to provide information for this campaign of vilification."

In March, a CIS publication called the SPLC a "kangaroo court" and a "propaganda arm" of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic-rights advocacy group.

CIS has received funding from the Census Bureau to study immigration data, and from the U.S. Justice Department to study how gangs can be combated with immigration laws.

The SPLC was founded in 1971 by civil rights attorneys Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. It says it's a "nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry."

Among other cases, the organization has sued the Ku Klux Klan for setting fire to a black Baptist church in South Carolina, the Aryan Nations for terrorizing a mother and son in Idaho, and won a $12.5 million dollar verdict against neo-Nazi leader Tom Metzger in the beating death of an Ethiopian student in Portland by a skinhead gang.

What's your take?

Is the video by CIS accurate? Does the group's opposition to immigration, illegal or legal, affect its production? Should news organizations examine stories from advocacy groups more closely?

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