Jeremy Beck's picture


  by  Jeremy Beck

I have my fair share of criticisms of how immigration is covered by the fourth estate. Chiefly, the media's tendency to frame the debate as a binary choice between "pro-immigration" and "anti-immigration" (as if immigration policy was a light switch) leads to a lot of bad habits that breed misinformation and mischaracterizations. Hey, if immigration were that simple why did the Gang of Eight need over 1,000 pages to "reform" it?

So I was sympathetic when I came across this comment on Thomas Edsall's column "The Democrats' Immigration Problem":

The New York Times, the Washington Post, and actually the mainstream media generally, handed the election to Donald Trump on a silver platter. It would be wonderful if the politicians, of both parties, could read these comments. The "inside the beltway" support for an open borders immigration policy, exemplified by the Times obsessive, relentless presentation of the issue as a humanitarian problem which could be solved only by "immigration reform", which meant amnesty for the illegal immigrants presently here, and which could only be opposed by racists, completely discounted the overwhelming opposition of most Americans to current immigration policy, espoused to some degree by both parties.

"As comments have said, there are many legitimate reasons to oppose large scale immigration, both legal and illegal. The first is environmental. Our country is already overpopulated, and the main driver of population growth is immigration. Population density, loss of habitat, strain on resources such as water, and increased pollution and environmental degradation are results.

"Immigration also has a devastating effect on the wages and available jobs of many Americans, and particularly on low income workers. Why cannot the liberals of the Democratic Party acknowledge this and not obfuscate this issue?

"In brief immigration was the issue which gave the Presidency to Mr. Trump, and the media and cowardly politicians are the reason for this."

A couple of things: First, immigration did seem to be one of the key issues, along with security and "change," where Trump had a decided edge over Clinton with voters. Edsall acknowledged as much in his column.

Second, criticisms aside, there is some very good reporting and analysis on immigration, and has been since before the election.

Ezra Klein's interviews with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton probed deeper into their immigration philosophies than the televised debates or campaign speeches.

Kelefa Sanneh, Larissa MacFarquhar, and George Packer wrote articles in the New Yorker that offered nuanced insight into how the presidential contest drifted into a debate over open-borders and globalization. Packer also offered up this insight into the politics of the moment:

"The left-versus-right division wasn’t entirely mistaken, but one could draw a new chart that explained things differently and perhaps more accurately: up versus down. Looked at this way, the élites on each side of the partisan divide have more in common with one another than they do with voters down below. A network-systems administrator, an oil-and-gas-company vice-president, a journalist, and a dermatologist hire nannies from the same countries, dine at the same Thai restaurants, travel abroad on the same frequent-flier miles, and invest in the same emerging-markets index funds. They might have different political views, but they share a common interest in the existing global order."

Chris Cillizza put it in starker terms:

"The distance between the financial circumstances and policy views of elites and the average person has never been wider. On trade. On immigration....On almost everything."

John B. Judis warned that "simplistic dismissals" of the Trump and Sanders campaigns overlooked a "growing public dissatisfaction with the political consensus" on, among other things, record immigration levels.

T.A. Frank offered singular insight and analysis on the politics (and policy) of immigration throughout the campaign.

And Thomas Edsall, who wrote the column that inspired the reader comment above, wrote last year about important drawbacks of liberalized immigration policies:

"...the costs of liberal immigration policies are borne most heavily by two key Democratic constituencies. Both are current targets of voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives: recent immigrants to this county and all workers without high school degrees, a group that is majority minority, 29.5 percent African-American and 35.2 percent Hispanic."

These are just some examples of reporting and analysis that advance a productive, civil debate -- which is what we at NumbersUSA also seek to promote. There is a tendency - with some justification - to feel like the legacy media just doesn't get immigration. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is some good stuff out there!

JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Project for NumbersUSA

Updated: Fri, Mar 10th 2017 @ 9:00am EST

NumbersUSA's blogs are copyrighted and may be republished or reposted only if they are copied in their entirety, including this paragraph, and provide proper credit to NumbersUSA. NumbersUSA bears no responsibility for where our blogs may be republished or reposted. The views expressed in blogs do not necessarily reflect the official position of NumbersUSA.