As details of Osama bin Laden's assassination spread virally throughout the internet, so are rumors that one of the Navy SEALs involved in arguably one of history's most anticipated deaths is an "anchor baby" or a child born to illegal immigrants in the U.S. Not only has this information NOT been confirmed or denied, it is likely a fabrication. But why?
To be clear, neither the White House nor the Navy have released or verified this information which is customary with covert operations, in part to protect those involved and their loved ones from retaliation. This includes identifying one of the Navy SEALs--an elite military unit that concentrates in special operations no matter the terrain: sea, air, and land--as Rubén Mejía. Instead, he is named by the quasi-official Mexican news agency Notimex which conducted an interview with Martín Mejía (as did Los Angeles radio station 97.9 La Raza), an immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico who lives in the Los Angeles area and claims to be the father of one of the SEALs. This story has been reprinted in several outlets, including the Mexican newspaper El Universal.
Read the El Universal reprint in Spanish here:
The elder Mejía says, "A few hours ago my family was shocked to see a group of military officers arrive at our house. When they knocked on the door, we started crying because we thought they brought bad news [my translation from the Spanish]."
He continues to say that the officers didn't bring news of Rubén's death, but instead informed the family that he had accomplished an important mission for the U.S. and presented the Mejías with a folded American flag in recognition of Rubén's service.
The elder Mejía claims to have spoken with Rubén who informed his dad that he saw bin Laden's body, President Obama congratulated him over the phone, and that he was promoted to Sergeant.
Although many legitimate doubts have been raised, including military protocol, if any exists, in regard to informing loved ones of service member's participation in covert operations, especially those who survive, my criticism is aimed at the reporting in numerous blogs and websites, the invention actually, that Rubén Mejía is an anchor baby.
WRONG REPORTING #1: The source for this information is incorrectly given in many outlets as El Universal instead of Notimex, which conducted the interview and wrote an article on the senior Mejía that was reprinted in El Universal, among others.
WRONG REPORTING #2: No where in the article is the Mejía parents' immigration status mentioned, only identifying them as immigrants from Guanajuato, Mexico who settled in the Los Angeles area and Papi Mejía as a machine operator. That they speak Spanish can be deduced from the interview being conducted in this language.
WRONG REPORTING #3: In some reports, Rubén Mejía is called an "immigrant" yet the original Notimex report identified him as having been born in southern California.
WRONG REPORTING #4: This information was reprinted or cited, but not sourced at least twice.
THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE: A Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrant who identifies himself as the father of a man he says is a Navy SEAL involved in the bin Laden death mission.
HOW DID THIS BECOME: "SEAL: An Immigrant" or more egregiously, "SEAL: an Anchor Baby?"
CONCLUSION: Shoddy reporting at best, pushing an immigration reform agenda at worst. No matter your views on immigration reform, it is inappropriate and reveals poor judgement and taste to push this agenda--or any--during a national event of the magnitude of Osama bin Laden's death which partly allows the nation to exorcise the horror of September 11, 2001. Add that Latino blogs jumped to and disseminated this conclusion based on what appears to be stereotyping of Mexican immigrants who speak Spanish as illegal. This is as preposterous and it is offensive, and hurts the politically emerging Latino community.
The blogosphere has created a space where perspectives that are still excluded from the mainstream media can be heard, contribute to our national debates, and thrive. But this carries a responsibility, especially when it comes to spreading information with heavy political repercussions to an audience that might not be examining other sources.
You only have your credibility. You only have once to get it right. Your audience deserves better.