By Joe Guzzardi
A bill that would cut legal immigration by about half, and make other reductions, sent the mainstream media into a tailspin. During its downward spiral, reporters showed little understanding of current immigration policy, but demonstrated an unprofessional level of bias.
Let’s set the stage. Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or RAISE. In addition to reducing legal immigration from about 1 million annually to 500,000, it emphasizes skilled-based, rather than family-based, immigration. In other words, the obvious – instead of random low-skilled immigrants arriving who might have family ties in the United States, the newcomers would have to speak English and have abilities that might contribute to the economy. Nuclear family members could continue to come, but not adult siblings, etc.
Reporters pilloried the commonsense approach that Senators Cotton and Perdue want to advance, and called it anti-American. At a press briefing, CNN reporter Jim Acosta launched into a tirade about how RAISE violates Statue of Liberty values, rudely showed a shocking lack of knowledge about the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” and demonstrated his cluelessness about current immigration workings. Contrary to what Acosta thinks, the poem, added as a plaque several years after the statue went up in 1886, does not set immigration law. As University of Southern California journalism and communications Professor Roberto Suro wrote, “Bad poetry makes for bad policy.”
White House press briefings aren’t forums for pontificating, peacocking reporters like Acosta to advance their personal immigration agendas. They should be focused on the RAISE Act’s substance; its merits and drawbacks. Instead, most of the post-press briefing print coverage speculated on the hurdles the bill faces in Congress.
The discussion that professional journalists should be engaged in would begin with facts, not opinion. When the Statue of Liberty was erected 130 years ago, the U.S. population was 60 million. Today, it’s 326 million, and the Census Bureau projects that, without immigration reductions, the total population will be about 445 million by 2065.
Since 1990, an average one million legal permanent residents have come to the U.S. every year and have created unsustainable immigration-driven population growth. Unlike decades ago, the U.S. economy is developed, and overcrowding is obvious on highways, and in schools and hospitals. Moreover, a history review shows that earlier immigrants’ assimilation came only after an immigration pause. Most reporters don’t want to write objectively about immigration because, as we saw with Costa, they have scant understanding and, from their perspective, more is always better than less.
But reporters may have a tough time selling their none-too-subtle RAISE Act objections to their audience. Not only did President Trump get elected on his promise to put Americans first, polling shows that the RAISE Act has significant support, and sends a message that congressional incumbents should also heed. In swing states Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Indiana, among others, RAISE Act support registered at least a 2-1 favorable margin with likely voters.
If reporters can’t motivate themselves to strive for higher immigration-related journalism standards, the Pew Research Center’s 2017 findings should provide the necessary incentive. Only 34 percent of Democrats and 11 percent of Republicans trust what they read or hear on national media outlets. More professional reporting might help save their jobs.