This past week, while I was preoccupied with legislative proceedings at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection announced the department’s latest data from February.
The New York Times published their coverage within hours. Apparently the Trump administration liked their headline, because they quoted it in the subject line of the email newsletter that arrived in my inbox a few hours after that.
Time for another media side-by-side…
Border at ‘breaking point,’ New York Times reports
The White House • March 5, 2019
Two and a half weeks after President Donald J. Trump declared a National Emergency to address the crisis on our border, mainstream media outlets have dug into the numbers—and the personal stories—surrounding America’s broken immigration system.
What they’ve found comes as a shock to many Americans who never knew the trauma felt by those living in the shadows—including both U.S. citizens and migrants alike:
“More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, more than double the levels from the same period last year and approaching the largest numbers seen in any February in the last 12 years,” The New York Times reported today.
And… that’s it. After the condescending implication that the New York Times is a “media outlet” (as opposed to the nation’s foremost source of original investigative journalism), and that its reporters have only just now decided to look at actual numbers and stories (as opposed to—see above), the email skips right ahead to listing other statistics and linking to a few older articles. Taken together, the message is that border crossings are on the rise and that crossings bring violence. The email concludes its section on the border with these lines:
These reports are welcome. The ongoing humanitarian and security disaster at our border shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and the heart-wrenching stories it causes shouldn’t be told only by conservative media. A modern, safe, and secure immigration system would be a bipartisan triumph that renews Americans’ faith in Washington.
The only thing standing in our way is the political will.
Which is all well and good, as vague platitudes go. But the White House email cherry-picked one line from the New York Times piece, large-sounding numbers that support its narrative of a crisis that’s emerged from a vacuum and is all about violence versus security. It ignores all context, both the situation’s broader historical context and the quote’s literal context in the Times story—which is actually very critical of the Trump administration’s role in exacerbating the borderland’s humanitarian crisis.
In fact, the email doesn’t even provide a link to the full article so readers can easily find it.
That’s okay. I found it. Here’s a longer excerpt, plus the link so anyone who wants to can read the rest.
Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More than 76,000 Migrants Cross in a Month
By Caitlin Dickerson
New York Times
March 5, 2019
More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.
“The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters in announcing the new data on Tuesday.
The nation’s top border enforcement officer painted a picture of processing centers filled to capacity, border agents struggling to meet medical needs and thousands of exhausted members of migrant families crammed into a detention system that was not built to house them — all while newcomers continue to arrive, sometimes by the busload, at the rate of 2,200 a day.
“This is clearly both a border security and a humanitarian crisis,” Mr. McAleenan said.
President Trump has used the escalating numbers to justify his plan to build an expanded wall along the 1,900-mile border with Mexico. But a wall would do little to slow migration, most immigration analysts say. While the exact numbers are not known, many of those apprehended along the southern border, including the thousands who present themselves at legal ports of entry, surrender voluntarily to Border Patrol agents and eventually submit legal asylum claims.
The main problem is not one of uncontrolled masses scaling the fences, but a humanitarian challenge created as thousands of migrant families surge into remote areas where the administration has so far failed to devote sufficient resources to care for them, as is required under the law.
The latest numbers stung an administration that has over the past two years introduced a rash of aggressive policies intended to deter migrants from journeying to the United States, including separating families, limiting entries at official ports and requiring some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico through the duration of their immigration cases.