The national media have turned illegal immigration into an especially juicy telenovela. You may have to suspend any sense of reality to believe what you’re seeing, but in the end, you know it’s just a show.
Almost everything said, especially on cable news, about the crisis at the border is meant to mislead the public, starting with the repeated lie that the Trump administration created something new in order to separate illegal immigrant families.
To believe that is to believe that the decision to enforce existing law should be regarded as an exotic novelty.
A New York Times article on June 18 referred to President Trump’s aggressive enforcement of border entry as “his policy of separating children from their parents at the border.”
But there is no “his policy.” There are different degrees of law enforcement, but that’s a matter of presidential discretion.
The liberal news site Vox on Thursday said Trump “created family separation” but admitted in the same article that it only happened to a far lesser extent under the Obama administration (it did happen) because, “As a general rule — though not always — people who said they feared persecution in their home countries and wanted asylum were not prosecuted [and] neither were people who came to the U.S. with their children.”
It’s not a matter of whether under former President Barack Obama illegal immigrants broke the law, in which case the parents would have to be sent to a jail, where children cannot follow them. It’s that certain immigrants simply weren’t prosecuted when they the law says they should have been.
If the media standard under Trump had been applied to Obama, you would have read headlines about Obama’s “new policy to make up his own border entry laws,” but you never did.
Trump has since signed an order that temporarily keeps illegal immigrant families together but the “new policy” fever was always a deception, without which immigration coverage would read like a bill to rename a local library.
The Associated Press reported Thursday on a lawsuit against a detention facility for illegal immigrant teenagers in Virginia, which stands accused of abusing the detainees.
The complaint, filed in October, alleges that the detainees are stripped naked and left in their rooms, called names like “Mexican monkey” and physically assaulted. Two detainees cited in the complaint said they were stabbed by a staff member with a pen.
The initial version of the AP report attempted to tie the lawsuit solely to Trump’s immigration enforcement, noting that “Many of the children were sent there after U.S. immigration authorities accused them of belonging to violent gangs, including MS-13” and that “President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited gang activity as justification for his crackdown on illegal immigration."
The article noted that the allegations in the complaint “span from 2015 to 2018,” but nowhere is Obama specifically mentioned, though he was in office at the time of the first complaint until Jan. 20, 2017.
You have to read the actual complaint to see that it said “John Doe,” the lawsuit’s main plaintiff, arrived at the detention center in April 2016. It was only six weeks later when he “first disclosed ... that he had engaged in self-harm" and that "prior to his arrival in the United States, Doe had not engaged in self-harm. He reports that he learned this behavior while in ... custody.”
Only after I asked the AP why it hadn’t included any reference to Obama did it update the story to make one single mention of the “Obama administration.” (There were four mentions about Trump.)
Maybe the detention facilities do suck. If they do, that didn’t start with Trump.
But you’re only hearing about it now because reporters and commentators need a new thing that will hopefully make you hate him as much as they do.
There is no “new” family separation policy and illegal immigrants aren’t suddenly subject to a rash of new abuse. But the telenovela won’t work unless you believe it.