Saturday, March 16, 2019

Ignore the Evidence: the “Invasion” Story, Continued

The Hype. Montage: BBC
Unauthorized immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border is now the lowest it’s been in the past 25 years, Center for Migration Studies (CMS) demographer Robert Ewing wrote in February, citing reports from the CMS and the Pew Research Center. The current undocumented population is estimated at 10.7 million, down more than a million since 2010.

We might expect this finding to appear in a few headlines, especially at a time when President Trump has declared a national emergency on the basis of a supposed security crisis at the southwestern border. Instead, the U.S. media went with headlines like “February had highest total of undocumented immigrants crossing U.S. border in 12 years.” Some of the articles did note that even with the one-month increase, border apprehensions remain dramatically lower than they were in 2000, but this was unlikely to offset the effect of the headlines.

And few noted a point made by University of Illinois at Chicago Latin American and Latino Studies professor Adam Goodman in a twitter thread: many of the undocumented immigrants were asylum seekers that government agents turned away at ports of entry, “forcing them to (a) wait in precarious conditions and in violation of domestic and international law, or (b) or cross the border without authorization.”

“By inflating apprehension statistics,” Goodman goes on, “officials simultaneously (a) create the notion of a surge or invasion at the border, (b) call attention to the need for additional funding, and (c) celebrate DHS's ‘accomplishments.’” The administration then releases the “inflated statistics with hope that mainstream media outlets will pick them up, in turn reinforcing [the administration’s] desired political narrative.” If the media take the bait, the government sends out “inflammatory email blasts citing media reports of the inflated statistics [it] circulated as evidence of a CRISIS AT THE BORDER that constitutes a national emergency.”

Unfortunately, there’s an ongoing problem with the corporate media allowing the White House to create hysteria about asylum seekers at the border—despite Trump’s routine assistance that the “fake news” media are mistreating him. In reality, Trump owes a lot to the media outlets: all the way through the 2016 they failed to push back on repeated claims by all the GOP candidates about a wave of unauthorized immigration that had actually ended in 2008.

The Reality. Graph from Center for Migration Studies
Meanwhile, Trump shows no sign of toning down his anti-immigrant hate speech even after an Australian white supremacist murdered 49 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques. The killer had justified the massacre as a way “to show the invaders that our lands will never be their lands.” At the White House the next day the U.S. president echoed this rhetoric: “People hate the word ‘invasion,’ but that’s what it is,” he said, referring to unauthorized migrants crossing the southwest border.

Trump also discounted the dangers posed by violent white supremacists. “I think it’s a small group of people,” announced the white-supremacist-in-chief.

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