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Local News Coverage of the Press Conference held Friday on recent ICE arrest and detention of Brandon Reyes

February 23, 2019

On Friday, a Press Conference was held in the law offices of immigration attorney Richard Kessler, the lawyer representing Brandon Reyes and his mother, two of the most recent victims of ICE violence in West Michigan.

Those who spoke during the Press Conference were Richard Kessler, Gema Lowe (Movimiento Cosecha GR), Kathleen Underwood (Michigan United) and two of Brandon’s relatives who talked about the impact his and his mother’s arrest has had on the family.

The local news media present during the Press Conference were MLive, WZZM 13, Michigan Radio and El Vocero Hispano. As of this writing, only stories from MLive and WZZM 13 have been posted on their websites.

In addition, one thing we would encourage people to do is look at the entire press conference that was video taped by GR Rapid Response to ICE, at this link. It is always useful to compare what was actually said in its entirety and then compare it to the constructed news story.

We begin with the story posted on MLive and written by reporter Justin Hicks, with the headline One-time ‘Dreamer’ detained by ICE in Grand Rapids.

The article begins with some basics on what happen to Brandon Reyes and his mother on Tuesday, February 19. However, the article early on cites an ICE official, thus leading with law enforcement as the primary voice, even though the Press Conference was called by those who support Reyes.

The article then shifts to talking about a drinking while under the influence charge that Reyes had last year, a charge which he plead guilty to and had been fulfilling the consequences of that action. The MLive article spent three paragraphs on the alcohol-related charge.

Then the article does provide some background on Reyes, followed by the first comments made by those who called the press conference. Gema Lowe, with Movimiento Cosehca GR was quoted as saying, It is inhumane for ICE to target and kidnap beloved members of our community when they are just trying to go to work, live their regular lives, and support their families.

During the Q & A period of the Press Conference, Lowe was asked to clarify what she meant by ICE violence, which she did, as is reflected in the MLive article. However, what is interesting is that the reported appeared to have interpreted Lowe’s comment to mean that some sort of physical violence had been done. In other words, this reporter from MLive would not consider the arrest and detention by ICE as violence, despite the economic hardship and trauma that it causes for individuals and families.

The comments by Lowe were followed by other people who spoke at the Press Conference, first by Kathleen Underwood who has Brandon as a student at GVSU and worked with him in a volunteer capacity with Michigan United. Reyes’ cousins, Nelly Gudino and Ana Ramirez, then spoke with specifics about how the arrest of Brandon and his mother impacted their family.

The MLive article then quotes immigration lawyer Richard Kessler, who said, “2019 has been the “darkest hour” of his 38 years as an immigration lawyer.” This was an important comment made by Kessler, but it should be stated that this was the very first thing said during the Press Conference and would have provided a much different framing of the story, had MLive led with this comment.

From there the MLive article cites other ICE officials about the arrests that they make, stating:

“ICE deportation officers carry out targeted enforcement operations every day in western Michigan and locations around the country as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to protect the nation, uphold public safety, and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.”

Unfortunately, the MLive reporter did not question or verify the claims made by the ICE official about how these arrests “protect the nation, uphold public safety, and protect the integrity of our immigration laws and border controls.” By not questioning or verify the claims made by ICE, it is simply reported as fact.

WZZM 13 Coverage

The online post from WZZM 13 is headlined, One-time ‘Dreamer’ detained by ICE in Grand Rapids. The channel 13 story begins with the focus and intent of the Press Conference, which was people in the community were calling for the release of Brandon Reyes and his mother from ICE. This was in sharp contrast to how MLive frame the issue at the beginning.

The WZZM 13 story also makes it clear early on that the arrest of Reyes and his mother was one of 40 to 60 arrests that ICE has made in the past few days, in what are called by ICE “fugitive operations.”

The article then  goes on to say that the Trump administration has engaged in efforts to eliminate DACA, a program that has allowed Reyes to remain in the country.

The article continues by talking about his driving while under the influence charge from last year, but finishes with mention of a petition that Movimiento Cosecha GR put together calling for a judge to allow Brandon and his mother to be released on bond and to rejoin their family. 

These two stories as reported by local English language news media, provides a clear example of how media is constructed and why we cannot rely on commercial journalism to provide the public with complete coverage of crucial issues that affect our community, such as ICE violence against the immigrant community.

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