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Ramos and Trump: Distorting the Big Story

By Jerry Kammer, September 2, 2015

There are two competing views of last week's confrontation in Dubuque between Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos and Donald Trump, two charismatic figures at the opposite poles of the immigration debate.

According to the vote-for-Jorge crowd, Ramos was a courageous journalist standing up to a bully who had insulted all Latinos with a rant about criminality among Mexican immigrants. The Donald-for-president team, meanwhile, sees Trump as a gutsy politician not afraid to say the unvarnished truth about illegal immigration and the federal government's failure to control it. Read more...

Two Threads of the Immigration Debate Come Together on C-SPAN

By Jerry Kammer, August 24, 2015

Two threads of the national immigration debate came together Saturday morning on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program. Read more...

Is It Really "an Invasion"?

By Jerry Kammer, August 21, 2015

Part four of four.
Read Part 1: The Immigration Language Wars.
Read Part 2: A Linguistic Bridge over Troubled Waters.
Read Part 3: The Backstory of the Vocabulary War.


In this final installment, we'll look at the use of "invasion" to describe the illegal influx across the southern border. Read more...

The Backstory of the Vocabulary War

By Jerry Kammer, August 20, 2015

Part three of four.
Read Part 1: The Immigration Language Wars.
Read Part 2: A Linguistic Bridge over Troubled Waters.


Like many of the aspects of our immigration debate, the vocabulary war has an interesting backstory. It's the story of a long linguistic chain that started with the borderlands slang term mojados and continued with ilegales, illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants, and unauthorized workers. The most recent addition is the contradictory and extremely politically correct "undocumented citizens". That awkward phrase has been invoked by the likes of Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), who wants to "normalize the status of the 11 million undocumented citizens." Read more...

A Linguistic Bridge over Troubled Waters

By Jerry Kammer, August 19, 2015

Part two of four.
Read Part 1: The Immigration Language Wars.


In 2013, when the Associated Press prohibited the use of "illegal immigrant" to describe someone who was in the United States illegally and the New York Times gave its blessing to the use of less controversial terms, critics complained that they caved in to pressure and surrendered to political correctness. I was waiting for someone to wisecrack that the two powerhouses of American journalism had made the difficult decision to rise above their principles. Read more...

The Immigration Language Wars

By Jerry Kammer, August 18, 2015

The first of four parts.

Public policy debates often feature clever terminology intended to frame the issue and thereby influence the way we think about it. We have negative framing with "death tax" instead of "estate tax" and "government takeover" instead of "national health insurance". And we have positive framing with "gaming" instead of "gambling" and "right to choose" instead of "abortion rights". If you change the name, you can change the frame, and that can change how the public responds.

The immigration debate has produced some important linguistic battles. The mother of all of them has been waged over the term "illegal immigrant". Read more...

Jeffrey Toobin's Declaration of Allegiance

By Jerry Kammer, August 12, 2015

When I was a young reporter, I learned that journalists have a responsibility to two groups of people. The first group is the subjects of our stories. The second group is the readers.

That came to mind as I was thinking about Jeffrey Toobin's essay in the New Yorker, which he wrote in response to readers who disliked his decision in an earlier story to describe his central characters as "illegal immigrants". Read more...

Jeffrey Toobin Swears Off "Illegal Immigrant"

By Jerry Kammer, August 10, 2015

Jeffrey Toobin last month wrote an article in the New Yorker that called attention to the plight of illegal immigrants who anxiously await action from Washington that would pass judicial review and grant them legal status. "The point of my article was to show the human cost of the lengthy political standoff over immigration policy," he writes in a new essay, which was prompted by objections from readers that he shouldn't have used the term "illegal immigrant". Read more...

What Jeffrey Toobin Ignored in the New Yorker

By Jerry Kammer, August 5, 2015

(Third and final part; see Part One and Part Two.)

In his July 27 article in the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin seems to think that what is holding the Flores family in immigration-policy limbo is the hard-hearted stubbornness of congressional Republicans. In the manner described so well by Jonathan Haidt in his landmark book The Righteous Mind, Toobin appears to be blind to much larger realities in our immigration debate, which unfolds against the turbulent background of five decades of mass illegal immigration. Read more...

The Righteous Mind of the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin

By Jerry Kammer, August 4, 2015

(Part two of three; see Part One here.)

Jeffrey Toobin's July 27 article in the New Yorker qualifies him for lifetime membership in what moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt might call the tribal moral society of advocates for illegal immigrants.

Haidt studies how human beings form their moral judgments. He writes that sometimes these judgments lead us to unite around a sacred idea. For liberal advocates of illegal immigration, the sacred idea is that illegal immigrants must be protected and offered the full rights of citizenship. Read more...

The New Yorker Looks at Immigration Through the Lens of Liberal Concerns for Illegal Immigrants

By Jerry Kammer, August 3, 2015

One of the most interesting aspects of the national immigration debate is the remarkable asymmetry in the work of many journalists and academics.

The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin provides an excellent example in a piece entitled "American Limbo" in the magazine's July 27 edition. Toobin writes with compassion and eloquence as he makes a humanitarian case for federal action to provide legal status to illegal immigrants. But he does next to nothing to acknowledge that there are substantive reasons for opposing such reform in the absence of a commitment that this time the federal government will uphold the enforcement that is the other half of the potential grand bargain. Read more...

NYT Readers Respond to "Anti-Immigrant Binge" Editorial

By Jerry Kammer, July 27, 2015

On Friday, the New York Times published an editorial that sounded an alarm. It was headlined "The Anti-Immigrant Binge in Congress".

It didn't take long for the editorial board, the collective author of the piece and the institutional voice of the Times, to contradict its own headline and prove the fraudulence of the alarm. Here is the editorial's first sentence: "Congress is in danger of taking that most cursed of American political disagreements, the debate over illegal immigration, and dragging it farther toward insanity." (Emphasis added.) Read more...

Disney and Illusion: The Great H-1B Visa Heist

By Jerry Kammer, June 18, 2015

The annals of corporate disregard for the well-being of workers should hold a place for a new, disenchanting story from the Magic Kingdom. A famed American institution, Disney Parks and Resorts has managed not only to lay off American tech workers so it can hire cheaper foreign workers, it has required the departing Americans to train their foreign replacements. Read more...

Michael Lind's Story of Arthur Sulzberger and Immigration Policy at the New York Times

By Jerry Kammer, May 27, 2015

In 1995, when Michael Lind was a senior editor at the New Republic, he was contacted by an editor at the New York Times who was aware of his contrarian-liberal views of immigration. The editor asked Lind to write about them in an op-ed column for the Times.

Published under the headline "Liberals Duck Immigration Debate", Lind's essay made the case that "ignoring the rising costs of mass immigration, legal as well as illegal, is anything but courageous — or liberal." It went on to argue that, among Democrats, discussion of immigration is "still governed by taboos" and "rests on two articles of faith." Read more...

Facing Tougher Mexican Border Controls, Hondurans Seek New Routes to the U.S.

By Jerry Kammer, May 26, 2015

Despite a sharp rise in Mexico's deportations of Hondurans who seek to cross Mexico on their way to the United States, the illegal flow northward is continuing along new routes, according to an article in the Honduran newspaper La Prensa.

The article quotes a Honduran government official who said Mexico has deported 4,900 Hondurans this year, most of them between the ages of 11 and 29. Read more...

The Two Opposing Visions of Life, Including Immigration

By Jerry Kammer, May 8, 2015

We are supposed to have freedom to choose the place where we're going to live. ... In a different world, a world deserving to be what the world wanted to be when it was a different world, a world deserving to be what the world wanted to be when it was not yet born. Any newborn person should be welcomed. Welcomed! Say, "Come in! Come in boy or girl! The entire earth will be your kingdom and your legs will be your passport, forever valid."

The above words of Eduardo Galeano, a giant of Latin American literature and politics who died last month, are a vivid expression of the sensibility of those who favor unrestricted immigration. They hold what conservative American writer Thomas Sowell has called the "unconstrained vision". As Sowell wrote, "In the unconstrained vision, there are no intractable reasons for social evils and therefore no reason why they cannot be solved, with sufficient moral commitment." Read more...

Eduardo Galeano's Passionate Defense of Unrestricted Immigration

By Jerry Kammer, May 7, 2015

Eduardo Galeano, the Latin American novelist and radical journalist who died last month, was a towering cultural figure. According to The Economist, Galeano did more than any writer other than Gabriel Garcia Marquez "to shape the mental image that both locals and outsiders have of Latin America."

As we noted in yesterday's post, one of Galeano's admirers is Maria Hinojosa, the National Public Radio figure who, in her tribute last week to Galeano's life, could not bring herself to acknowledge that he had disavowed his most famous book, a polemical tract titled The Open Veins of Latin America. Read more...

Ever Wonder about the Slant of NPR's Maria Hinojosa?
Here's a look at a major influence

By Jerry Kammer, May 6, 2015
Here's a look at a major influence

Maria Hinojosa is one of the most opinionated journalists on National Public Radio. The NPR biography of the "Latino USA" host reports that she "has helped define the conversation about our times and our society with one of the most authentic voices in broadcast."

An immigrant from Mexico, Hinojosa speaks with compassion for the undocumented and clearly believes they should be fully accepted into American society. That advocacy has been a source of controversy. As Hinojosa herself acknowledged in 2006, many listeners who had tuned in to a discussion of immigration protested that she was too biased to have been the moderator. Read more...

"On the Media" Goes to Heaven, Slanting the Story of Europe's Immigration Anxiety

By Jerry Kammer, May 1, 2015

Cable television has understandably been fixated on the riots and unrest in Baltimore and much of the commenting has followed sadly predictable ideological lines. On Fox, Bill O'Reilly points to dysfunction in black communities. On MSNBC, Chris Hayes talks with former Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume about police brutality, the globalized economy, and social injustice while saying not a word about the tragic reality that 70 percent of black children nationwide are born out of wedlock.

The problem of ideological fixation made a prominent appearance on last week's "On the Media" program, which is carried on many public radio stations. A 10-minute segment on the horrific crisis of migrants being smuggled from Libya to Italy — many of them drowning as their overloaded boats capsize — became a lament about the rising discontent — in the press and the public — over the immigrant influx into Europe. Read more...

Documenting the NPR Slant on Immigration
The collection grows

By Jerry Kammer, April 30, 2015
The collection grows

As a former reporter who generally admires the work of National Public Radio, I have long been struck by what seems to be a reflexive bias of many of its journalists.

Reporter Martin Kaste provided a vivid example two years ago when he opined that the Center for Immigration Studies is "decidedly right wing". It was a careless, off-hand comment. Kaste cited no evidence. He had done none of the rudimentary reporting that would have shown him the staunchly liberal credentials of several of the most important figures at CIS. He had no understanding of the fact that liberals and conservatives can be found on both sides of our national immigration debate. Read more...

The Curious Outrage and "Exoticizing Disdain" of NYT Columnist Timothy Egan

By Jerry Kammer, April 10, 2015

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan last month labeled three prominent Republicans as "traitors to their class", writing that although they have humble beginnings, they have failed to identify with the struggle of workers at the lower end of our economy. Read more...

The Earned Income Tax Credit: Encouraging Work and Rewarding Illegal Immigration

By Jerry Kammer, April 9, 2015

In his Wednesday appearance on C-SPAN's Washington Journal, Marc Rosenblum of the Migration Policy Institute encountered callers who didn't share his enthusiasm for the idea of providing the Earned Income Tax Credit to millions of persons who are now in the country illegally. President Obama's executive action, which is now under challenge in federal court, would allow them access to Social Security Cards, authorized employment, and for many, a chance to tap the EITC. That's why critics hoot that it would be the "amnesty bonus." Read more...

C-SPAN Callers Challenge Advocate on Immigration's Effects on Blacks

By Jerry Kammer, April 8, 2015

Among the legions of Washington advocates for "comprehensive immigration reform", I've long regarded Marc Rosenblum as one of the best informed and most intellectually honest. Marc, the deputy director of the Migration Policy Institute's U.S. Immigration Policy Program, is also a first-class gentleman.

But Marc is an advocate with a definite point of view, which he developed as a political science professor, adviser to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, member of President-elect Obama's transition team, and immigration policy expert at the Congressional Research Service. Read more...

How "Once and for All" Got a Bad Name in the Immigration Debate

By Jerry Kammer, February 24, 2015

I welcome the opportunity to work with anyone who wants to build on the improvements we've put in place, and fix our broken immigration system once and for all.

— President Barack Obama in The Hill, February 24.

President Obama's desire to reform immigration policy "once and for all" has a familiar ring to it. It has reverberated throughout the national debate since Congress invoked it when it passed the ill-named Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Read more...

NPR Story: Iranian Mother Sees Her Daughter's Future in "The Paradise of the World"

By Jerry Kammer, February 20, 2015

Steve Inskeep, the host of NPR's "Morning Edition" program, has been reporting from Iran for his program and for others on NPR. Yesterday's "Here and Now" program included a brief clip of Inskeep's conversation with an Iranian mother about her hopes for her daughter: Read more...

How the New York Times Got It Wrong on STEM and the Ambitions of American Students

By Jerry Kammer, February 5, 2015

On December 7, 2013, a New York Times editorial reported on a grave threat to the nation: American students too lazy and dull to cut it in a competitive world. It reported: Read more...

Jorge Ramos and Immigration Linguistics

By Jerry Kammer, February 3, 2015

The New York Times recently published a profile of Univision anchor Jorge Ramos that highlights the Republican quandary about illegal immigration. The author quotes Ramos telling Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus that the party is so fixated on deportation that "the message is anti-immigrant."

Deportations, of course, mainly target illegal immigrants (plus legal immigrants who commit serious crimes). This is a distinction that Ramos chooses not to make. This descriptive failure has strategic consequences that Ramos appreciates. It invokes on behalf of illegal immigrants the emotional, mythical, and personal connotations of our immigrant backgrounds. Read more...

Great Story, Big Questions on Diane Rehm Show

By Jerry Kammer, January 19, 2015

Four high school students from a troubled neighborhood in West Phoenix who won a 2004 robotics competition are the subject of an inspirational new movie titled "Spare Parts", and a recent book by the same title. They triumphed because of their intelligence, skill, and resourcefulness. What adds dramatic poignancy and political heft to their story is that three of the four were in the U.S. illegally, having been brought here years earlier from Mexico by their parents. Read more...

C-SPAN Caller: "This Is Completely Destroying the Black Community"

By Jerry Kammer, January 8, 2015

The story of mass immigration's effects on the job prospects of young black men is one of the most underreported major stories in contemporary American life. Part of the reason is that the reporters who cover immigration often see the issue through a civil rights frame that presents immigrants, particularly those who are in the country illegally, as so vulnerable to abuse and victimization that they should be shielded from criticism. When such a sensibility is at work, the displacement of young black men from the workplace is apparently too disconcerting to be acknowledged or written about.

An African-American caller to C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" last Saturday expressed his frustration with the displacement of young blacks by illegal immigrant workers. Read more...

What's in a Name? The Meaning of "La Raza"

By Jerry Kammer, January 7, 2015

One of the fascinating things about the study of immigration policy is that it often brings up seemingly straightforward facts from which differing groups draw dramatically different interpretations, thereby making it difficult to establish a basis for civil dialogue.

For example, consider the interpretation of the term "la raza" that Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, provided recently to Brian Lamb of C-SPAN. Then consider less benign interpretations that have shadowed the organization.

Here is the Lamb-Murguia exchange: Read more...