Inside the mind of Lou Dobbs

Is there anything the CNN host can't connect to his obsession with illegal immigration?


Alex Koppelman
December 4, 2008 2:20AM (UTC)

In Lou Dobbs' world, apparently, everything is about immigration. Even the case of New York Giants wide reciever Plaxico Burress, who's in trouble with the law after accidentally shooting himself over the weekend.

Dobbs was up in arms Tuesday night because of recent comments New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made about Burress: "If we don't prosecute [him] to the fullest extent of the law, I don't know who on Earth we would. It makes a sham, a mockery of the law."

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If this sort of comment doesn't immediately make you think about New York City's immigration policy, well, you're clearly not watching enough "Lou Dobbs Tonight." One of the CNN host's favorite topics is the issue of "sanctuary cities," which are cities that, in most cases, employ a "don't ask, don't tell" approach when it comes to their residents' immigration status. For almost 20 years now, that's been New York City's policy. To Dobbs, it seems, that means  Bloomberg is a hypocrite for wanting to apply the law in any other situation.

Dobbs' commentary -- as well as reporter Bill Tucker's story on the issue -- was full of misrepresentations, even outright factual errors.

For example, introducing the segment, Dobbs said, "Mayor Michael Bloomberg says Burress should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, even though the mayor himself ignores some other serious violations of the law."

Tucker made a similar remark: "Bloomberg says to ignore the law is to make a mockery of the law, but apparently not every law. Federal immigration law is Bloomberg's exception. New York is proudly a sanctuary city for illegal aliens breaking federal immigration law... Mayor Bloomberg is a defender of his city's policy to ignore federal immigration law."

This is just untrue. New York City does not "ignore" federal immigration law. You can see this article I wrote about sanctuary cities in 2007 for more, but long story short, what city officials do is make a completely legal choice about when they'll check a person's immigration status. They don't check it when a child is enrolled in school, or when someone goes to a hospital or comes forward as a victim of or witness to a crime -- that is, as long as that person isn't suspected of having committed a crime besides the immigration violation. And if they are being investigated for another crime, even jaywalking, their immigration status is checked. Moreover, NYC cooperates fully with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and ICE even has its own office in the city jail. 

The law sanctuary city opponents typically accuse these locales of breaking is a section of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which says local jurisdictions can't restrict their officials from exchanging information about a person's immigration status with federal immigration authorities. But people like Dobbs can't actually name a city that breaks this law. That's most likely because, as a 2007 report by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General showed, there aren't any

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Dobbs said some other silly things during the segment. But it was during his closing that he added the perfect topper for the spectacle. "The NFL has, by the way, a specific written policy on possessing guns," Dobbs observed. "The policy bans all NFL employees, including ball players, from carrying a firearm in any facility used by the NFL and from carrying a gun while traveling on league business... Players or others who violate the rules could be fined, suspended or thrown out of the league by the way. Second Amendment apparently notwithstanding."

Yes, Lou, Second Amendment notwithstanding. Because the Second Amendment doesn't apply to the NFL.

This sort of thing shows a pretty basic lack of understanding regarding the Constitution. The Bill of Rights was intended to be a check on the powers of the federal government, not on the powers of citizens. If, say, Lou Dobbs comes to my home packing heat, I can tell him that he can't come in unless he leaves his gun outside without violating his Second Amendment rights.

Similarly, the NFL is allowed to make certain rules for its employees even though those rules would, if instituted by the government, violate the Constitution. The league can prohibit its employees from carrying a gun in an NFL facility, it can conduct random drug tests, it can even fine them for uniform violations and penalize certain kinds of touchdown celebrations. First Amendment apparently notwithstanding.

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Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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