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On Eve of Law, 'Fear-Driven Exodus' from Arizona Distresses ABC

Less than two days before Arizona's immigration enforcement law is scheduled to go into effect, ABC delivered another installment in the national media's efforts to discredit it and paint the law as doing more harm than good as anchor Diane Sawyer warned that "undocumented immigrants - many working in this country for decades - are fleeing the state, or hiding in fear."

With the on-screen heading "PREPARING FOR WORST" over video of an abandoned house, reporter Bill Weir intoned: "There is a fear-driven exodus going on in Arizona tonight. More vacant apartments, more empty shops, more kids disappearing from school."

Weir explained that "Latino activists are urging their community to check their taillights, not travel in big groups and even remove the Catholic rosary beads from their rear view mirrors" while "law student Daniel Rodriguez, undocumented since his mother brought him at age six, tells me of all the parents giving power of attorney to neighbors in case they're deported without their American-born children."

Finding more victims, Weir highlighted a man who "has been in Phoenix without papers for 14 years, but says now he's afraid to walk the streets. So he'll take his family and leave as soon as he can." So the law is already working.

Weir's whimpering came two nights after Sunday's World News (BiasAlert item) where ABC anchor Dan Harris set up a story framed around the same agenda of Arizona law antagonists: "Many Hispanics, both legal and illegal, are already heading for the borders. And there's a heated debate over whether that will cost the state more than it saves." Barbara Pinto zeroed in on a woman who "worries about the quiet exodus - immigrant families already leaving the state in droves" and how "apartment building owner Rollie Rankin is hurting already."

Weir's take was reminiscent of a CBS Evening News story from back on May 3 (BiasAlert's recitation), when Katie Couric noted that "hundreds of thousands" of illegal aliens live in Arizona, "but as Kelly Cobiella reports, many no longer feel welcome." As if that were a bad thing.

Cobiella focused on the plight of one family and their children upset they would lose friends when the family fled to Colorado, complete with Cobiella pulling at heartstrings by showing teddy bears sitting on a sofa the family left behind on the street.

And NBC, from July 8: "NBC Reporter Discovers New Immigration Law Causing Illegals to Leave Arizona."

July 15 BiasAlert post: "Indignant Over List of Illegals in Utah, ABC Condemns 'Campaign of Intimidation' by 'Vigilantes'"

The full story on the Tuesday, July 27 ABC World News, transcript provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

DIANE SAWYER: Day after tomorrow, that new Arizona immigration law will take effect unless a federal judge steps in. Tonight, undocumented immigrants - many working in this country for decades - are fleeing the state, or hiding in fear, and Bill Weir has that from Arizona.

BILL WEIR: There is a fear-driven exodus going on in Arizona tonight. More vacant apartments, more empty shops, more kids disappearing from school.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN, CRYING: This is my home, and I don't want to be separated from my family.

WEIR: It's happening as police departments ready their jails and themselves for a surge in arrests. This video is now mandatory viewing, giving guidance on the new fine line between enforcement and profiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: Diplomacy may be the greatest asset in these days to come.

WEIR: Meanwhile, Latino activists are urging their community to check their taillights, not travel in big groups and even remove the Catholic rosary beads from their rear view mirrors. All the better to avoid suspicion. Law student Daniel Rodriguez, undocumented since his mother brought him at age six, tells me of all the parents giving power of attorney to neighbors in case they're deported without their American-born children.

DANIEL RODRIGUEZ, LAW STUDENT: Kids will be placed in child protective services and may not see their parents again for a long time.

WEIR: Beefed up patrols and the recession have actually made American borders more secure than any time in decades. But anger is still high in this state, and while this law may add another deterrent, it is most frightening to people already here. Francisco has been in Phoenix without papers for 14 years, but says now he's afraid to walk the streets. So he'll take his family and leave as soon as he can.

FRANCISCO AVILES: My kids born here, and now I have to come back to Mexico.

WEIR, TO RODRIGUEZ: What do you say to the person who says you are breaking the law by being in this country?

RODRIGUEZ CLIP #1: I think I would tell that person that the laws do not make sense.

RODRIGUEZ CLIP #2: I didn't commit any moral wrong by being six and a half and coming with my family here.

WEIR: He is just one of many, hoping for reform while bracing for possible arrest. Bill Weir, ABC News, Phoenix.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.