Saturday, October 6, 2018

WashPo “Migration ‘Crisis’” Piece Could Use Some Context

In a September 30 article, the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) covers a visit to Central America by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) head Kevin McAleenan. Miroff reports that border apprehensions of migrant families along the southwest border increased by 38 percent in August over the month before; he also notes that the number of Guatemalan families apprehended in fiscal 2018 is nearly double the number from the previous fiscal year.

Miroff is an excellent reporter who has broken a number of stories, notably on the child separation policy. But in common with most of the corporate media, his reporting often lacks context.

“Trump erupted earlier this year when border arrests skyrocketed,” he writes. It’s true that there was a major increase in asylum seeker arrests, but terms like “skyrocketed” reinforce the impression that alien hordes are pouring across the border. The rise in these arrests actually turns out to be a blip if we view it historically. Even with the new arrests, border apprehensions remain—and have remained for a decade—at their lowest level since before the majority of the current U.S. population was born.

Migration crisis? Washington Office on Latin America, from Border Patrol
The article also discusses push factors in Central America’s Northern Triangle, and warns that “[n]ew instability and political polarization in Guatemala could make things worse in the coming year” because of actions by corruption-prone President Jimmy Morales. “American officials have been hesitant to criticize Morales,” Miroff writes. He doesn’t mention that “American officials” have in fact backed every corrupt regime in Guatemala at least since a CIA-backed coup in 1954.

The biggest push factor in Guatemala appears to be poverty and malnutrition in the western highlands, a “crisis…exacerbated by consecutive years of drought and meager harvests.” There’s no mention of the serious possibility that global warming is behind the drought in Guatemala. Ironically, just two days earlier the Washington Post noted that the Trump administration has now admitted that, in the words of scientist Michael MacCracken, “human activities are going to lead to [a] rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society. And then they’re saying they’re not going to do anything about it.”

All this context could have been added in a few words, with links. Its absence will lead less informed readers to assume that the flight of Central Americans from their own countries is “not our problem.” 

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