A Rare Voice in the Spanish-Language Press

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on July 30, 2010

The Spanish language press coverage of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 has been remarkable for the narrowness of its perspective. The pervasive message is this: Those who oppose it are noble defenders of human rights, while those who support it are anti-immigrant racists. This attitude is reflected in public opinion in Mexico where, as political columnist Sergio Sarmiento writes, "Many Mexicans have begun to shred their garments because of the law."

Sarmiento goes on to offer a point of view that shows admirable independence from the group-think that is characteristic in the immigration coverage of Spanish-language media on both sides of the border. The Mexican press, in particular, is often bluntly nationalistic and quick to condemn opposition to illegal immigration as "anti-immigrant" and "racist." Mexican reporters rarely make an effort to pursue possibilities that would show that much of the opposition to mass illegal-immigration from Mexico is based on legitimate concerns.

"The truth," Sarmiento wrote this week, "is that Mexicans discriminate against foreigners more than Americans."

Despite the fact that a scant one-half of one-percent of those who live in Mexico were born outside the country, 38 percent of Mexicans think that the number of foreigners living in the country is very high, Sarmiento writes. By contrast, he notes, that 12.6 percent of the U.S, population was born elsewhere.

"If we talk about immigrants' rights, 65.9 percent of Mexicans surveyed think that foreigners have no right to criticize what happens in the country," he writes. Such a figure makes one wonder how Mexicans would react if tens of thousands of Americans living illegally in Mexico took to the streets to demand legal status. After discussing other examples of Mexican hostility to foreigners, Sarmiento draws this conclusion: "Perhaps one could blame these xenophobic attitudes on ignorance. What we can't do, however, is question the United States for its laws when we have laws that are considerably more restrictive, laws which have meant that the number of foreigners in our country is one of the lowest in the world."