Amidst much fanfare and immigrant-bashing, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) Wednesday presented Tucson Weekly reporter Leo W. Banks with its annual Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration.
CIS is the research arm of an intertwining network of groups started by John Tanton, the racist architect of the modern immigration movement. Its reports, heavily skewed to show that immigration – both legal and illegal – is a scourge on the U.S., are often cited in the lobbying efforts of the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Introducing Banks, CIS head Mark Krikorian cited the journalist's refusal to stick with the "predictable sob stories" as one of the main reasons he had been chosen for the award. Krikorian praised him for getting "real stories" rather than "the formulaic pap we see too often" and complimented him for being "non-PC."
Banks, who according to Media Matters refers to undocumented immigrants as "illegals," "invaders" and "deports" in his articles, told the audience at the awards ceremony that reliable sources had revealed to him that the wildfire now raging in Arizona was started by drug cartels. "What they're doing is, they're going into ranches in northern Sonora and trying to buy the ranch. When the rancher says no, they just torch his pasture as a little incentive," he said with all the confidence of someone in the know.
A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service told Hatewatch quite emphatically that the matter is still under investigation.
Nicholas Stein, producer of National Geographic Television's "Border Wars," gave the evening's keynote speech. The show, which selectively documents U.S. Border Patrol activities, has helped to perpetuate the myth that undocumented Mexican immigrants were the source of the 2009 swine flu outbreak. (The illness did originate in Mexico, but its spread was attributed to people who had traveled to Mexico and brought it back with them, not to Mexican nationals entering the U.S., illegally or otherwise – a distinction that obviously was not important enough for Stein of National Geographic to stress in their coverage.)
Stein was also involved in the production of "Homeland Security USA," the ABC reality series whose executive producer roped last year's Katz Award. "Homeland Security USA" was modeled after a popular Australian TV show, leading Slate's Troy Patterson to comment ironically that ABC execs were "importing shows about xenophobia."
For reasons known only to National Geographic staff – who did not respond immediately to a request for comment – CIS was required to exclude the text and video of Stein's speech from the group's website as a condition of his participation in the function.
Perhaps the cable channel is hoping to avoid the lambasting suffered by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009 after staffer Jaxon Van Derbeken accepted the Katz for his coverage of San Francisco law enforcement's policy of not reporting undocumented minors arrested on criminal charges to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities for deportation. Opponents of CIS called out Jaxon and the Chronicle for the ethically questionable decision to accept from CIS both the money to travel to and from the ceremony and the honorarium that came with the award. Asked point-blank by San Francisco Bay Guardian reporters if he was aware of CIS's hard-core anti-immigration orientation, Van Derbeken said, "No one should mistake their decision to endorse my work for my endorsement of theirs."
Other past Katz honorees include immigrant-defaming former CNN host Lou Dobbs, who among other things spread the lie that Mexicans were bringing leprosy to the United States and who invited Glenn Spencer, leader of the Arizona-based hate group American Border Patrol, onto his show more than once. In 2005 and 2007, the award went to immigration reporters for the hard-right Washington Times.