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Politico takes a step towards clarity; drops false deportation claim for a day


In my last blog I criticized Politico and reporter Reid Epstein for repeating a false deportation claim without clarification. To be fair, they did not repeat the false claim in their March 13 story, "Obama calls for review of deportations."

On March 11, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson verified that deportation statistics under Obama cannot be compared to those under previous administrations because the Obama administration is counting different types of cases than previous administrations. Politico did not do a story on Johnson's revelation (few outside of the Washington Times did), but his statement before Congress may have prompted a slight tweak in Epstein's reporting. In his story from March 4th, Epstein wrote:

"By April, Obama will have overseen more than 2 million deportations, activists say, far more than any previous president."

Clearly misleading in light of Johnson's statement. A similar passage from Epstein's March 13 story is only moderately better:

"Pressure began to build on Obama to do something about deportations - which activists say will number 2 million by early April..."

According to Secretary Johnson, most deportations stem from border apprehensions, not people caught in the interior of the United States. But Epstein and his co-reporter Seung Min Kim didn't clarify that for readers.

Their story was punctuated with passages that favor irrelevant information at the expense of significant facts: "Key lawmakers and immigration reform advocates, highly skeptical that the GOP-led House will take up legislation this year, have upped pressure on the Obama administration to use executive action to suspend deportations they view as unnecessary."

Which deportations are viewed as "unnecessary?" How many of the "2 million" were "unnecessary?"

In Fiscal Year 2013, two-thirds of deportations stemmed from border arrests; of the one-third that came from the interior, 82 percent had previously been convicted of a crime; only 6 percent of ICE removals were persons without criminal records apprehended from the interior of the United States.

Politico did not report any of this. How can the public make informed decisions about the story without this critical information?

Are the anti-deportation activists quoted in Politico's story (pro-enforcement activists are rarely quoted in Politico) urging an end to all deportations from the interior, just the 6 percent without criminal records, or all deportations including those illegally crossing the border?

Those are questions Politico and other mainstream media should be asking.

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

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