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Trafficking in fear - Channel 6's "driver's license" expose (updated)

(SEE UPDATE AT THE END OF THIS POST)

On July 12, Channel 6 aired a "special report" observing that illegal immigrants can come to Maine and get driver's licenses, and including allegations from US Attorney Paula Silsby that illegal immigrants have come to Maine, gotten a driver's license, used the license to prove residency required under federal law for purchasing a gun, and then used the gun to commit a crime.

Where have those crimes happened? The report didn't say. How many times? Not included. What was the crime? Unspecified. The closest any of it gets is a short note by one of the news anchors that two people have been prosecuted for bringing illegal immigrants to Maine for the purpose of getting driver's licenses. When? No idea. How many people did they bring - 1, 100, 1000? Not said. (These questions are addressed in the update below.)

The US Attorney's office - part of the Bush-Gonzales department of "justice" - wants Maine to tighten things up, and become part of the federal government's failing effort to crack down on illegal immigrants. In April 2004 Maine governor John Baldacci issued an executive order barring state employees from asking people about their immigration status.

Silsby, apparently unable to handle whatever influx there is of illegal immigrants - which she fails to specify and is not questioned on in Channel 6's report - wants Maine officials to join the side of the Bushies.

But this is all a charade anyway, part of a widespread fearmongering campaign by the feds to distract people from the continuing disaster in Iraq, which is killing our soldiers and permanently affecting those who survive.

Channel 6 and reporter/anchor Kara Matuszewski fail to observe that (12 years after the Oklahoma City bombing) it remains perfectly possible - and legal - for a US-born-and-raised white man to serve in the US Army, come home, rent a Ryder truck, buy a bunch of diesel fuel and a lot of fertilizer, and drive that truck on ANY PUBLIC ROAD ANYWHERE IN THE US - including in front of YOUR HOME. And you know what can happen next - the truck, packed with diesel and fertilizer, can be DETONATED, causing a MASSIVE EXPLOSION, even killing federal employees in a federal building.

But immigrants are the real problem - and illegal ones, at that. So by all means, let's spread the fear.

(Disclosure: Kara Matuszewski is the president of the Maine Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. I'm the group's vice-president. For the group's upcoming elections, she nominated me to be on the ballot for president, and I nominated her to be on the ballot for vice-president.)

UPDATE July 16:

Kara Matuszewski notes in an e-mail to me that her report did say that the number of people who had not given their Social Security numbers when applying for - and receiving - driver's licenses increased between August 2006 and May 2007.

She is correct about that, and I should have noted it in my original post - but neither her report, nor the US Attorney, nor her e-mail response offer any proof that the increase from 3788 in August 2006 to 5372 in May 2007 in the number of people whose Social Security numbers are all 9s (999-99-9999) in the state's driver database is, in fact, due to illegal immigrants getting licenses.

(Her report does include the assertion by the US Attorney that "most of them are illegally in the country," but also a qualification that "some of those are people here legally." How many? Again, no answer. And again, it serves to strengthen my point that lack of information breeds fear, and fear is all the Bushies have to go on now, since evidence is now completely incontrivertible that they are, in fact, the ones telling lies for their own benefit.)

And Matuszewski offers in her e-mail some more details not included in her broadcast: The two people prosecuted for bringing illegal immigrants into Maine to get driver's licenses had charges filed against them in September and October 2006, and each of the two people were charged with attempting to help three people. That definitely helps contextualize the scope of the problem, and its immediacy.

Silsby is pulling out data from nearly a year ago - and not-that-scary data, to boot. (Compare six people trying to get driver's licenses with, say, the incidence of domestic violence in Maine. Or drugs, or even murders!) More than six people have been murdered in Maine since these folks were charged 10 months ago. Why does the US Attorney want us to pay attention to illegal immigrants? And why now? Gosh - could it be that the war in Iraq is going terribly, and the Dems are preaching moderation on immigration?
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