Immigrant crash story a magnet for myths

The newest immigration uproar in Colorado involving an undocumented immigrant who allegedly caused a car accident killing three people in Aurora has emboldened media outlets and conservative radio hosts to parrot factual inaccuracies related to immigration.

When it was reported a little over a week ago that Francis Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant who was arrested 16 times in the state but never deported, was possibly responsible for a killing two adults and a 3-year-old boy after crashing his vehicle into an ice cream shop, the media went into a tizzy spouting facts that weren’t true, according to a report released by local watchdog group Colorado Media Matters last week:

Newsradio 850 KOA’s “Gunny” Bob Newman parroted the unsubstantiated assertion that illegal immigrants kill 12 Americans every day, KDVR Fox 31 aired the baseless claim that “25 to 30 percent of the entire inmate population in most jails are aliens subject to deportation,” and columnist Chuck Green in The Pueblo Chieftain and The Aurora Sentinel repeated the myth that Colorado is a “sanctuary state” and Denver is a “sanctuary city.”

Right-leaning radio programs have traditionally been the worst factual offenders on immigration so far, but the watchdog group’s report reminds readers that when tragedy strikes, print and broadcast news organizations are prone to make fictitious claims as well.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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