Immigrant Heroes and Foreign-Born Suspects

A suspected mass arsonist was arrested in Los Angeles this week by Iranian-American immigrant Shervin Lalezary, who was serving as a reservist for the sheriff’s department. Early news reports incorrectly stated the suspect, German national Harry Burkhart, had an angry outburst in an immigration courtroom as his mother faced deportation.

But while both hero and suspect in this case are foreign-born, much was made of Burkhart’s status as a foreign national, while little mention was made of Lalezary’s story, writes our sister blog Multi-American.

As an immigration reporter who has been covering the increase in deportations and divided families, the notion that the son of a potential deportee might have snapped grabbed my attention, as it did that of other reporters. Later on, when it became clear that the elder Burkhart had appeared not in immigration court, but in federal court related to fraud charges in Germany -and that her arrest might have prompted her son’s anger – it became a matter of setting the record straight.

Perhaps most importantly, as typically happens in stories like these, reporting on the suspect took priority. That said, the point made is good food for thought.

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