TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2022
...the chaos of our procedures: As we noted yesterday, we're forced to say that John from New York didn't have it totally right.
More specifically, he didn't have it totally right concerning the way the New York Times—and even, perhaps, the Washington Post—has covered, or has at least attempted to cover, the tortured and torturous topic of American immigration policy and procedure.
John called C-Span's Washington Journal on Sunday morning. In our view, he made a good point—or at least, he made a good point on balance.
But along the way, he overstated the state of play concerning the work of the New York Times. As we noted yesterday, this is the way he began:
JOHN FROM NEW YORK (9/18/22): Yeah, thanks for taking my call.
The topic today is "GOP governors send migrants to Democratic areas." Now, it took this long for this topic to come front and center in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and actually be front and center on the Washington Journal.
Basically, this has been going on for—since Biden was elected president. The first day in office, he changed all kinds of restrictions with executive orders. We've had two million people coming across our borders, and we haven't discussed it until Ron DeSantis and Abbott, the governor of Texas, sent a couple of busloads with a couple of thousand people to New York City...
Had John been discussing the conduct on "cable news," we'd say his statement was basically accurate.
As we noted yesterday, immigration issues are endlessly discussed on Fox News, though with something less than obsessive accuracy.
By way of contrast, such issues are very rarely discussed on blue tribe cable channels. Instead, our tribunes obsessively focus on our one controlling topic:
Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail.
That said, the New York Times has made several attempts, in recent months, to explore this hopelessly complex topic, sometimes in front-page reports.
In these reports, the Times has tried to explore the complexities which get massacred on Fox and ignored by MSNBC. Consider the report which appeared in print editions on August 6, appearing beneath this headline:
Bused Far From Border, to Shelters, Tents and Park Benches
Miriam Jordan penned the report. In print editions, it topped the first page of the paper's National section.
As she started, Jordan described the plight of a recent migrant from Venezuela. This was an early attempt by the Times to discuss a certain "political tactic" being pursued by a pair of Republican governors:
JORDAN (8/6/22): Lever Alejos was out of money and out of options when he arrived in South Texas last month, after an arduous journey from Venezuela that culminated with him crossing the Rio Grande in water up to his chin. The Border Patrol quickly arrested him, and after his release, he was offered a choice: a $50 bus ride to San Antonio, or a free bus ride to Washington, D.C., paid for by the State of Texas.
“I wanted San Antonio, but I had run out of money,” said Mr. Alejos, 28, who has no family in the United States. “I boarded the bus to Washington.”
A few days later, he arrived in the nation’s capital, among a busload of weary migrants. He spent the first night in the plaza across from Union Station but eventually found a bed at Central Union Mission, where he hopes to stay until he can apply for asylum, get a work permit and find a job—a process that could take months.
Offered a choice, Lever Alejos took the bus ride which would be free. As she continued, Jordan offered the background on the choice Alejos had been offered:
JORDAN (continuing directly): A political tactic by the governors of Texas and Arizona to offload the problems caused by record levels of migration at the border is beginning to hit home in Washington, as hundreds of undocumented migrants arriving on the governors’ free bus rides each week increasingly tax the capital’s ability to provide emergency food and housing.
With no money and no family to receive them, the migrants are overwhelming immigrant nonprofits and other volunteer groups, with many ending up in homeless shelters or on park benches. Five buses arrived on a recent day, spilling young men and families with nowhere to go into the streets near the Capitol.
Amazing! Migrants were arriving at the southern border "with no money and no family to receive them." According to Jordan, many were ending up "in homeless shelters or on park benches." They'd been allowed to enter the country, but they had nowhere to go.
In that passage, Jordan described a certain "political tactic by the governors of Texas and Arizona"—a tactic designed "to offload the problems caused by record levels of migration at the border."
In that passage, Jordan seemed to empathize with officials in D.C. while possibly snarking a bit at the "political tactic" of the Republican governors. Later, though, Jordan offered a thumbnail account of those governors' stated concerns:
JORDAN: Cities along the border in Texas and Arizona have at times been overwhelmed with a surge in unauthorized border crossings that peaked under the Biden administration, which has sought to unravel some of the harsh border restrictions imposed by former President Donald J. Trump.
While thousands of migrants have been swiftly expelled under a pandemic-related health order known as Title 42, thousands of others are being allowed into the country to pursue asylum claims because they cannot be returned to Mexico or their own countries.
State officials in Texas and Arizona have been greeting many of the migrants after their release from U.S. Border Patrol custody, offering them free bus rides to Washington in a bid to force the federal government to take responsibility for what they say is a failed immigration system.
After reaching their destinations, migrants may remain in the country for months or even years while they fight their deportation cases in court; they are allowed to work while they pursue asylum claims.
The situation has become acute in recent weeks with the arrival of so many Venezuelans, who cannot be expelled under Title 42 because Mexico will not take them and their own government does not have an agreement with the United States to accept deportation flights. And unlike most migrants from Mexico and Central America who have family and friends in the United States, Venezuelans often arrive with no money and nowhere to go.
We can't begin to capture all the complexities explored in Jordan's full report. These complexities tend to get massacred on Fox while being wholly ignored on MSNBC.
Last week's flight to the Vineyard did change that state of affairs. Suddenly, these immigration issues were being cited all across the blue tribe's world as well as over on Fox.
That said, the situation was being explored in a highly partisan way. On September 6, the Times had made another attempt to flesh these complex matters out. It did so with a front-page report which now carries these headlines:
Biden Administration Has Admitted One Million Migrants to Await Hearings
The presence of asylum seekers in the United States is both a humanitarian challenge and a political flash point in a divided country.
In this report, Eileen Sullivan took Times readers all the way to Portland, Maine. Sullivan began her report with this remarkable portrait:
SULLIVAN (9/6/22): At a modest hotel a few miles from the ocean here, most of the rooms have been occupied this summer by families from African countries seeking asylum—192 adults and 119 children in all.
They are among the more than one million undocumented immigrants who have been allowed into the country temporarily after crossing the border during President Biden’s tenure, part of a record-breaking cascade of irregular migration around the world.
Distinct from the hundreds of thousands who have entered the country undetected during Mr. Biden’s term, many of the one million are hoping for asylum—a long shot—and will have to wait seven years on average before a decision on their case is reached because of the nation’s clogged immigration system.
The hotel in South Portland is among a handful in the region, in addition to Portland’s family shelter, that are offering temporary housing for hundreds of new immigrants. Maine is unusual in that it allows asylum seekers to receive financial support for rent and other expenses, in part through its General Assistance program.
Astounding! The migrants in question have, in fact, "been allowed into the country" as they pursue asylum status. They are separate and distinct from the hundreds of thousands who have entered the country undetected—without legal authorization.
That said, these migrants "will have to wait seven years on average before a decision on their [asylum] case is reached." And Sulivan says their chances for eventual legal success tends to be "a long shot."
In the meantime, as they wait, Sullivan further describes the complexity of these cases:
SULLIVAN: While immigration is among the country’s most hotly debated political issues, the focus is almost always on the surging numbers of people seeking to cross the southwestern border. Less attention has been paid to what happens to those who get released from government custody to lawfully await immigration court hearings and who end up scattered around the country. Some disappear into the shadows, never showing up for their court dates or required check-ins with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Others struggle to comply with reporting requirements in a system that is ever more overloaded and unorganized.
Their presence is both a humanitarian challenge and a political flash point for a divided country that has failed for decades to agree on who should be admitted, and for what reasons. It takes about a year before the federal government grants asylum seekers permission to work, and there is no designated funding to help support them in the meantime, as there is for refugees.
Astounding! According to Sullivan, it will take "about a year" before these people receive permission to work. After that, six more years before their cases are heard.
This is the ultimate portrait of a failing nation's failing systems. In the meantime, as in Casablanca, so too here:
"They wait—and wait, and wait."
In her front-page report, Sullivan said that immigration "is among the country’s most hotly debated political issues." That isn't exactly true on cable, where immigration issues are often demagogued on Fox while being ignored on MSNBC.
On Fox, you'll rarely hear the distinction drawn between (lawful) asylum seekers and those who enter the country without legal authorization. On MSNBC, you'll rarely much beyond this:
Trump Trump Trump Trump Jail.
Why is the state of Maine housing these migrants in those Portland motels? Eventually, Sullivan speaks to that question in her frpont-page report.
That said, the issues here are overwhelming and hopelessly complex. And, as Sullivan notes, these issues are all "part of a record-breaking cascade of irregular migration around the world," with attendant political problems on display in a wide array of lands.
These migrants—more specifically, these asylum seekers—wait and wait and wait. On Sunday, John from New York had the germ of an accurate point—but many C-Span callers repeated the familiar, comforting talking points of their warring red and blue tribes.
Our nation has largely ceased to exist in the face of such pseudo-discussions. In the meantime, as our giant nation fails, a very large number of good decent people wait and wait and wait.
Tomorrow: Dueling C-Span callers