In his new Center for Immigration Studies backgrounder, "Sulzberger's Voice," former Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jerry Kammer details how the New York Times editorial page became a destructive voice in the immigration debate by taking an intolerant view of - and casting aspersions on - those who disagree with their policy preferences. Kammer has also written backgrounders on the immigration advocacy of the Carnegie Corporation ("The Carnegie Corporation and Immigration: How a Noble Vision Lost Its Way," March, 2011) and the Southern Poverty Law Center ("Immigration and the SPLC," March, 2010). You can find them all at www.cis.org.
Kammer describes a culture at the highest level of the Times that is blinded by its conviction that racism, bigotry, and xenophobia are the only conceivable motives for seeking reduced immigration numbers and increased enforcement. That conviction enables (or perhaps requires) the editorial board to ignore mass immigration's costs and to overlook multiple U.S. commissions on immigration including the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform that inspired NumbersUSA's guiding principles. Often called the "Jordan Commission" for its chairwoman the late Barbara Jordan, the bi-partisan commission rejected amnesty, stressed deportation and and enforcement, and called for a one-third reduction in immigration numbers. Bill Clinton appointed Jordan to head the commission.
Kammer does not malign the motives of Sulzberger or the editorial board. In fact, he praises their "determined advocacy for the tolerance and inclusiveness that are essential in a pluralistic, democratic society." Kammer adds that unfortunately, "the Times has carried its good intentions to a destructive extreme. Its editorials have poisoned the national discussion of a complex and emotional issue."
People come to the immigration issue for diverse reasons and Kammer notes that advocates for reduced immigration "are hounded by their association — whether direct or remote — with their own version of lesser lights, particularly those whose vehement views are truly nativist and bigoted and destructive of civil debate."
NumbersUSA is committed to the Jordan Commission's belief that race and ethnicity should play no part in immigration policy. Yet the media elite often morally condemn millions of Americans who favor enforcement by wrongly associating them with radical anti-immigrant views.
Anti-enforcement/immigration-expansionist advocates do not hold a monopoly on self-righteous snap judgments. Anyone who reads comments online knows that vitriol flows both ways. Neither side advances knowledge or understanding when they engage in character assassination. Institutions like the Times, however, have a bigger megaphone than your average online commenter and they play an outsized role in establishing the tone and framework of public debate.
Kammer laments that the Times "has rejected the consensus-building moderation that used to characterize the policy prescriptions it presented on its editorial page." Indeed, a pre-Sulzberger New York Times editorial contributed the kind of concise, non-charged summation of immigration policy that is sorely lacking today: "Unlimited immigration was a need, and a glory, of the undeveloped American past," it said, "Yet no one believes America can still support it. We must choose how many people to admit, and which ones."
JEREMY BECK is the Director of the Media Standards Program for NumbersUSA
Updated: Sat, Mar 16th 2013 @ 8:18am EDT