Commentary

Time for Journalists to Stop with Selective Compassion, Cheap Emotive Thrills on Immigration

Dan Cadman
By Dan Cadman | March 22, 2018 | 4:24 PM EDT

(MRC Photo)

In a recent post, I decried the propensity of many mainstream reporters these days to go for the quick, cheap human interest/"live in fear" aspect of illegal immigration to the United States, rather than consider at length the full spectrum of what it means for our country, good, bad, and in between.

In that vein, my attention was caught by a recent Miami Herald article: “Fearing deportation under Trump, these immigrants prepare to become untraceable.” It speaks to the possibility that aliens previously protected under a plethora of amnesty-like programs will again be at risk when those programs — including Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the time-limited administrative amnesty, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — expire.

Perhaps I'm becoming figuratively tone deaf, because to me the article strikes any number of false notes.

Curiously, for instance, although the article is listed online under the "Haiti" subhead, much of the article is about a Chilean woman, presently a beneficiary of DACA, who plans to disappear with her daughter rather than making plans to stay in South Florida and buy a new home, a new car, or the like. Here is a small snippet from the article:

“Listening to her mother, Anabell teared up. The first-grader likes her school and said she does not want to live in Chile because she is afraid.

“‘What are you afraid of?’ a reporter asked her.

“‘Earthquakes,’ Anabell answered without hesitation.”

Earthquakes? Puzzled, I looked up country-specific earthquake mortality rates, and discovered that Chile doesn't even make the top-10 list.

By contrast, Florida, where this mother and child live, ranks in the top 10 states for lightning strike mortalities for the period 2005 through 2014. In fact, it is No. 1, with 47 lightning-related deaths.

I'm not ridiculing the child, but I do wonder why the mother hasn't calmed her fears with a gentle dose of reality: You have more to fear from lightning where we live now, than you likely would from an earthquake in Chile.

 

And, honestly now, while I don't fault the child, inserting that bit in the article is an absurdist reportorial stretch whose sole purpose is to tug at our heartstrings. I find it offensively superficial. There may be many things about relocating to Chile that might reasonably frighten a child, but earthquakes seem the least of them.

What's more, the woman declares that she will probably pick up stakes to move to a sanctuary city, which will help her even more in her efforts to hide from immigration authorities. Those premier sanctuary cities San Francisco and Oakland come immediately to mind, even though both sit on the San Andreas fault line.

According to U.S. Geological Survey reports, scientists predict that "there is a 72 percent probability (or likelihood) of at least one earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or greater striking somewhere in the San Francisco Bay region before 2043." That's a pretty large, fearsome quake. So mom better take that into her relocation calculations if she isn't going to correct her daughter's earthquake fears.

Some may think I've wandered pretty far afield from the article at this point, but I don't think so because my point is a simple one: It's time for journalists to stop stretching the facts to the breaking point to evoke cheap emotive thrills where immigration is concerned. It's far too complex to take such a simpleton's approach, and the public deserves to know all facets of the issue.

There are indeed human tragedies to be found within the migrant population; they don't need to be manufactured.

And there are also many tragedies to be found in a society that values cheap foreign labor and favors illegal immigrants over American workers who, along with their families, suffer and struggle, unemployed and often substance addicted, in Appalachia, in the Rust Belt, and in many other places where hope has been lost and they have been overlooked and abandoned by a society that is so depressingly selective with its compassion. I'm sure many of them, too, dream of a new home or a new car, or even a job — any job.

Dan Cadman is Fellow at Center for Immigration Studies and is a retired INS / ICE official with thirty years of government experience. Mr. Cadman served as a senior supervisor and manager at headquarters, as well as at field offices both domestically and abroad.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Center for Immigration Studies.


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