Promoting Stalemate: The Media and U.S. Policy on Migration
U.S. media coverage of immigration has hindered effective policy reform for years, a trend which has been exacerbated by the recent transformation in the ways Americans get their news. The rise of cable television, talk radio, and the Internet has influenced public opinion of immigrants and even shaped immigration policy through their emphasis on “breaking news,” their disproportionate focus on illegality, and their oversimplification of a complex phenomenon by painting the migrant as the protagonist. This has conditioned and even distorted public perceptions by portraying a largely gradual, orderly, and legal phenomenon as chaotic, criminal, and controversial.
While this paper does not argue that the media was the principal impediment to immigration reform during past legislative debates, it shows that news coverage did play an important role in influencing public opinion and creating the current policy stalemate. Despite the public’s overall support for much of the reform agenda and widespread dissatisfaction with existing policies, the media coverage in many ways has heightened skepticism about immigration policy and thus made it more difficult to enact new policies.
III. How Media Coverage Has Influenced Immigration Policy