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Hard as it is to believe, The Washington Post news department’s coddling of illegal immigrants looks to have passed a new milestone. On April, I explained how the paper’s news editors and reporters (not the opinion folks) apparently have decided that drunk driving isn’t a serious crime when the guilty are living in the United States illegally.

This past week, the Post has acted conspicuously determined to ignore crucial questions of suspected criminals’ immigration status when they threaten to ruin or even complicate another prized narrative – that Muslim Americans are being victimized by a record surge in hate crimes prompted by irrational fears of Islamic terrorists stoked cynically by politicians like President Trump. Such journalistic selectivity is bound to intensify questions about the legality of any Americans of Hispanic heritage arrested for crimes, both when they’re justified and when they’re not.

There’s an alternative explanation for the paper’s behavior that’s comparably disturbing: In an effort to calm public fears about the public safety risks created by indulgent immigration policies, it’s been trying to sweep such immigration questions under the rug because it did report the status of two Hispanic teenage immigrants just a month before, when they were charged with a rape at a high school in the area. In early May, the charges were dropped, seeming to vindicate allegations that immigration policy critics had been using the case to demagogue their cause.      

The latest crime in question was the abominable killing of an Muslim teenage girl from the Virginia suburbs early last Sunday morning. The story quickly attracted national attention, and the Post‘s early coverage demonstrated the obvious reason: The local police seemed determined to classify the murder as an instance of road rage, while many in the local Islamic community — including the victim’s family — along with others insisted that it amounted to the latest hate crime committed against innocent Muslim Americans.

As the Post pointedly reminded readers in its report on Monday:

“Police said Monday they aren’t investigating the death as a hate crime, but the issue was on the minds of many Muslims on Sunday.

“Last month, two men on a Portland train were stabbed and killed after they intervened to protect two girls who were being harassed with anti-Muslim threats, according to authorities.

“Sunday night, a van struck a crowd of pedestrians, including worshipers leaving a pair of mosques in London. Witnesses said the pedestrians were struck as they departed late-night prayers.

“The ADAMS Center [victim Nabra Hassanen’s mosque] has a paid armed security guard at the Sterling site, according to [Arsalan Iftkhar, an “international human rights lawyer and commentator” who attended services at the mosque]. He said many mosques have increased security since six Muslim worshipers were killed at a mosque in Quebec earlier this year.

“Sunday night, a van struck a crowd of pedestrians, including worshipers leaving a pair of mosques in London. Witnesses said the pedestrians were struck as they departed late-night prayers.

“The ADAMS Center has a paid armed security guard at the Sterling site, according to Iftikhar. He said many mosques have increased security since six Muslim worshipers were killed at a mosque in Quebec earlier this year.”

And this focus on the hate crimes charge continued through the Post‘s last comprehensive coverage of the murder, on Wednesday.

But from the start, one crucial aspect of the murder appeared to be undermining claims that animus against Muslims was the suspect’s motivation – an aspect oddly neglected by the Post. As the paper specified from the outset, he was a young Hispanic-surnamed male – Darwin Martinez Torres. But nothing else about him was reported.

That may not sound suspicious to someone unfamiliar with that part of northern Virginia – or even worth writing about at all. But Sterling and environs have long hosted a large population of illegal immigrants. The offense in question was unmistakably felonious and abhorrent, not some trifle. So there are valid public safety issues involved, with large numbers of Americans understandably wanting to what kinds of individuals their leaders have – knowingly – welcomed into their country and their neighborhoods.

Moreover, a Post update later that day offered evidence suggesting Torres’ illegal status: U.S. immigration authorities had requested that local officials put a “detainer” on him – meaning that they were looking into deportation. Now on the one hand, the federal government can place detainers on and deport legal immigrants as well as illegal. But on the other hand, that decision should have raised a red flag with the Post right away, and the question could have been answered with little effort. But no one on the team of reporters assigned the story by the paper seems to have pursued the matter. The hate crimes issue and related concerns voiced nationally about American Muslims’ safety clearly were their top priorities.

As early as Monday, however, it was clear that Martinez’ immigration status was indeed in doubt with the authorities. The Associated Press reported that day that they determined he is “a citizen of El Salvador and there’s probable cause to believe he lacks permission to be in the U.S.”

But even though this AP report appears on the Post‘s website, it prompted no investigation of Torres’ status by the paper itself, either.

Moreover, on Tuesday, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson announced that Torres is in the United States illegally. Readers of the The New York Times, FoxNews.com, The Daily Caller, and CNN received this information. But nearly a week later, the Post staff itself still has not mentioned it. Neither, weirdly, has the Associated Press – but it’s not the Washington, D.C. area’s leading news organization.

Sadly, this journalistic inevitably raises the question of whether the Post has decided to cover up the legal status of other Hispanic Americans arrested for crimes. For example, also earlier this month, two Germantown, Maryland high school students were murdered on the eve of their graduation. The trio arrested? Jose Canales-Yanez, Edgar Garcia-Gaona, and his brother Roger Garcia. Any mention of their immigration status in the Post coverage? Nope.

But like Sterling, the Germantown area is home to many illegal immigrants, as well as a center of violence from criminal gangs whose crimes are becoming ever more brutal and that are often extensions of similar organizations in Central America. The police force of surrounding Montgomery County has not ruled out a gang angle, and according to Help Save Maryland, an organization favoring stricter immigration controls and enforcement, a photo of one of the suspects reveals a form of tattoo often sported by Central American gang members.  

It’s true that Montgomery police chief Thomas Manger has stated that “to my knowledge, there were no ICE detainers filed in those cases” resulting from some of the suspects’ previous arrests.” But it’s also true that Montgomery County has declared itself to be a safe haven for immigrants – if not an out-and-out sanctuary city – and that Manger has dutifully declared that it’s not his job to determine anyone’s immigration status.

Curiously, moreover, Post reporters and editors were decidedly more aggressive in March, when two Hispanic teenagers, including a minor, were accused of raping a younger schoolmate at Rockville High School in Rockville, Maryland — also in Montgomery County.  The paper’s first article on the incident prominently mentioned that Henry E. Sanchez “a native of Guatemala who arrived in the United States about seven months ago, has a pending ‘alien removal’ case against him, court officials said Friday. ‘He is a substantial flight risk,’ Montgomery County Assistant States Attorney Rebecca MacVittie said in court Friday.

“[Jose O.] Montano has been in the United States for about eight months, MacVittie said. Details about Sanchez’s removal case, or Montano’s immigration status, couldn’t immediately be learned Friday.”

Moreover, the Post‘s own reporting several days later contend that both suspects “were among tens of thousands of young people who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in 2016.” Prosecutors dropped the rape charges against the pair in early May. Was the paper’s much more restrained coverage of immigration issues in the two, more recent, murder cases an attempt to keep anti-immigration sentiment in the public under control?    

It’s vitally important to be clear here. As suggested immediately above, I believe that many municipalities and states are ignoring their responsibilities to help the federal government enforce immigration law. But insisting that the Post inquire about the immigration status of criminal suspects is completely different from insisting that state and local governments, whose immigration law enforcement responsibilities are limited and reactive, proactively publicize the immigration status of criminal suspects.

It’s also completely different from insisting that the federal government, whose immigration law responsibilities are extensive and often proactive, seek out and publicize this information whenever an arrest is made by any level of government, even for serious infractions (although I’m leaning strongly in this direction, given the nation’s enormous and possibly still growing population of illegals).

Instead, insisting that the Post and the rest of the media at least seek this information simply entails insisting that they play their proper role as watchdogs of democracy – pressing for accountability for wielders of public and private power, and letting the chips fall where they may.

Viewed from a different perspective, the government at all levels enjoys certain established authority to keep information from the public for various, highly specific reasons – e.g., to protect national security or safeguard Constitutionally guaranteed privacy rights. In order to help ensure that this authority is not abused, the media’s job is to release whatever information it can procure, with certain exceptions that it generally has complied with voluntarily (e.g., protecting information whose exposure would immediately threaten national security and/or the lives of military and intelligence personnel whose lives literally are on the line, or the privacy of minors). When disputes arise over where these respective lines should be drawn, the judiciary steps in to try to provide the answer.

At least since the era of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers, the Post has epitomized a national media that understands these distinctions and acts accordingly. Does it now believe that, for reasons it has yet to explain, that its coverage of illegal immigration is an exception?