WHEN KGBT PUBLISHED“Government wants to deport Mission man with 3 burglary convictions” on Sept. 13, it probably went under your radar. This might have been because of the nature of our news cycle this year, but it was also probably because these articles have become staples at KGBT, and pieces like these from the local news station have become almost indistinguishable.
Since June, the CBS affiliate, which serves the Rio Grande Valley, has published more than 30 articles with similar headlines: the government, they report, wants to deport someone because of the latest crime committed by the immigrant. Other times the headline tells us that Border Patrol has arrested someone just days after they have been deported.
With such a huge viewership in an area on the U.S.-Mexico border, one must ask themselves what intentions they have of posting essentially the same story several times a month that politicizes immigration in a way that closely resembles when President Donald Trump called all Mexican immigrants “rapists.”
Screenshots from KGBT’s website
While the crimes reported on are completely reprehensible, they are highlighted in a way that seems to attempt to make a (nonexistent) connection between the person’s immigrant identity and their criminal record, as if one somehow influences the other. These reprehensible acts also seem to only be highlighted when they are committed by an immigrant and not by someone who is U.S. born and are then used to further politicize the immigration narrative. These reports typically seem to be sourced after some scouring of a police report or “criminal complaint.” No one but the police report is quoted and typically the only photo featured in the story, if there are any photos at all, is a mugshot. These stories, credited to no particular reporter but rather KGBT news at large, when shared on their social media accounts garner the typical anti-immigrant comments from people on the internet. “This person has been deported how many times?” they’ll ask before pointing out that the perpetrator’s crime spree is why the U.S. should further militarize the border.
While it’s understandable that keeping the RGV informed of the crimes happening in our backyard is a must for local news channels, many of the crimes reported are those committed by immigrants and have now become part of the anti-immigrant background noise that has been increasing, especially under the Trump administration. Right-wing news site Brietbart has even cited these reports from KGBT’s website as part of their anti-immigrant rhetoric on their website.
We don’t know how exactly KGBT deems a particular crime story as newsworthy, but the whole business becomes unsettling when we know that KGBT is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a telecommunications company that is quickly monopolizing the news broadcasting industry.
After the FCC allowed a loophole to remove the cap of news stations a single media company can own, Sinclair made a move to buy Tribune Media which, if approved by the FCC, would mean that the broadcasting company would reach about 72 percent of households in the country, as reported by Vox.
While the idea of news broadcasting being owned by the same entity is worrisome, it becomes more so when we know that Sinclair has been criticized for their conservative-leaning coverage and input in local broadcasts. They recently hired Boris Epsteyn, a former Trump White House official, who featured in what the company refers to as “must-runs”, or segments of content that must be broadcasted by Sinclair-owned news stations. Besides Epsteyn’s segments, other must-runs include segments featuring conservative commentator Mark Hymen and reports from the Terrorism Alert Desk.
As the broadcast giant closes on their deal with Tribune Media and gains more scrutiny from media watch groups, KGBT continues to periodically publish their immigrant crime announcements. Sinclair Broadcast Group bought KGBT in 2013 when the news channel was owned by Barrington Broadcasting. The news station today has the potential to reach more than a million residents in the RGV metropolitan area.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced the Department of Homeland Security would be opening up a new office. The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement, or VOICE, would include resources for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, a hotline where one could call to get more information or to track where an immigrant that was found to have committed a crime was in the deportation process, and a weekly-published list of crimes committed by immigrants.
While ICE’s broader website does have a news section where they share their latest triumphs in the shape of notable criminal deportations, a regular list from the VOICE office has yet to be seen. But with news stations like KGBT frequently publishing the same immigrant-as-criminal articles, VOICE’S job of publishing such a list is already being done for them.