As the United States enters a chaotic election season, media outlets on the left and right offered very different perspectives on how non-citizen activism might play a role in the 2020 election.
Ahead of Super Tuesday, a headline from Breitbart (which AllSides gives a Right media bias rating) published March 3 read: “Illegal Aliens Hope to Influence Super Tuesday Primaries for 2020 Democrats.” A HuffPost (Left media bias) headline from late January stated: “Non-Citizens Mobilize For Iowa Caucuses, Even Though They Can’t Vote.”
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The left media outlet frames non-citizen activism favorably. After reading the HuffPost story, you may feel charmed that people who are not citizens are trying to impact the direction of the nation. They’re portrayed as being hard-working contributors to American life. Reading Breitbart, you may feel concerned that people who are not citizens are trying to sway the election. They’re noted as competing with native-born Amerians for jobs and endorsing far-left policies.
Check out the differences in the subheadlines and ledes:
HuffPost: “They’re making sure communities of color have a voice by organizing caucus trainings and setting up dedicated Spanish-language voting locations.”
Breitbart: “Illegal alien activists with organizations promoting open borders are hoping to influence Super Tuesday primaries for the 2020 Democrat presidential primary field.”
The HuffPost article profiles multiple people who are not citizens, but are engaging in political activism and rallying behind Democrats. One is a man who works in an auto body repair shop, is a staunch Bernie supporter, and organized a Sanders-sponsored soccer tournament to educate people about the caucus.
Conversely, the Breitbart article profiles organizations that support open borders, like United We Dream Action, which includes people who are in the country illegally as part of its membership and supports ending all deportations. The piece notes that the group endorsed Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who “have endorsed a platform that forces America’s working and middle class to compete against the world’s workforce for jobs, including decriminalizing U.S.-Mexico border crossings, amnesty for the majority of the 11 to 22 million illegal alien population, and taxpayer-funded healthcare for all illegal aliens, noncitizens, and foreign nationals.”
Many on the left see illegal immigration as a non-threat, and believe illegal immigrants contribute positively to the economy and enrich the country’s culture. The right sees illegal immigration as a threat to native-born Americans, driving down wages, burdening the tax system, and fundamentally changing our laws and culture.
There are also differences in terminology. The left may use the term "non-citizen," while the right uses the term "illegal immigrant" or "illegal alien." In fact, editors on the AllSides team had a back-and-forth discussion about whether to use the term "illegal immigrant" in the headline of this blog post, with some thinking it is okay and others advising against it. People on the left and right often think and feel differently about the same word or issue; read about the different perspectives and disagreements over the term "illegal immigrant" on the AllSides Red Blue Dictionary.
These very polarized worldviews are visible in how left and right media cover illegal immigration. The takeaway from HuffPost is that non-citizens are engaged, hard-working people hoping to influence the direction of the country whether they can vote or not. The takeaway from the Breitbart piece is that activist non-citizens will steer policies and the workforce in a direction that is not good for native American-born labor or our tax system.
Two different biases, two very different takes on non-citizen activism — and an important reminder to read across the political aisle in order to spot media bias.
Julie Mastrine is the Director of Marketing at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.
This piece was reviewed by John Gable, President and co-founder of AllSides (Lean Right bias) and Henry Brechter, AllSides Managing Editor (Center bias).