Read Jerry Seper's articles
National Press Club, Washington DC
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Jerry Seper, The Washington Times
Heather MacDonald, Manhattan Institute
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good afternoon. I appreciate everybody coming. My name is Mark Krikorian. I am executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, and we have been doing this award, the Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration for – this is the seventh year, I believe. It’s hard to believe we have been doing it that long. And coverage of immigration has really changed quite a bit, quite frankly. I can’t say our award is what changed it, but it certainly changed during the years we have been doing this award. Immigration news really used to be something of a media backwater. You know, the Orange County Register, for instance, had a person whose whole job, a whole beat, was to cover shopping malls, but they had no immigration reporter. Roy Beck, who is here somewhere, was probably the first person in the country who became an environmental reporter, because they weren’t sure that it was really enough to cover for a whole person spending his time covering environmental issues. Now it’s a big deal.
Well, immigration used to be, in a sense, a similar backwater. I mean, to the extent it was covered at all, often it was just an appendage to racial and ethnic issues. There was a big event obviously: the Mariel boatlift or a major congressional legislation or a passage of proposition 187 in California – then editors would scrabble to find somebody to cover the story because they had to cover it. But there just weren’t many reporters devoted full time to it the way there are to so many other issues that are at least – that are – that immigration is at least as important as those others if not more.
And this often led – I don’t think this is any surprise – and maybe I’m just being a whiny policy wonk, but this led to really soft and superficial, shallow coverage of immigration issues. It focused on weepy anecdotes and self-serving clichés, and just lacked the context that would come from a consistent, sustained acquaintance with the many intricacies of the issue: the economic aspects of it, security, assimilation, government services, bureaucratic administration, which has become something that now people are paying attention.
I would have to say – I am not sure how I would measure it, but the low point probably was in 2001 before the attacks when – because nobody’s, I don’t – nothing personal to anybody who’s in this room, but nobody’s reporting stood out on immigration so we didn’t even give the award in 2001 to anybody. Well, that changed on September 11th and immigration became suddenly a hot issue and a constant topic in the news, clearly sparked by security concerns initially, but it has gone beyond that. I mean, as the total immigrant population has grown to 34 million people, as the illegal subset of that has grown to 11 or 12 million people, because of government neglect, the sheer magnitude of the phenomenon is forcing more extensive and, almost by default, more in-depth and sophisticated coverage of the issue.
Nevertheless, some reporters and some newspapers do it better than others. Since 9/11, The Washington Times really seems to have made a real commitment to sustained coverage of the issue. And although there are other people there who have written on the issue – Steve Dinan, for instance, Audrey Hudson, and others have done some good work on the immigration issue, but the reporter responsible for covering immigration, the immigration beat, really stands out even at the newspaper that has made such a sustained commitment to it, and that is why we’re giving Jerry Seper this year’s Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration.
Jerry is a dogged reporter who is assigned by The Times to devote his full time to these issues and has filed hundreds and hundreds of stories across the full spectrum of the immigration issue, from national security issues, to bleeding state budgets, to Capitol Hill shenanigans. Over the past couple of years he spent sustained periods of time – weeks, months at a time on the southern border and the northern border pursuing, in the field, the stories of real Americans on the receiving end of our broken immigration system.
And his reporting shines light on the whole gamut of immigration’s current effects. For instance, in the same week in November that Arizona residents protested illegal immigration and the elites kind of were winking at illegal immigration, by passing Proposition 200, Jerry wrote about that and also wrote about Washington-area residents learning of the super-violent gang MS-13 and the effects that was having, and we’re still seeing coverage of that. This is a big picture that you just don’t see from a lot of writers on the issue.
I don’t want to be too much of a – I don’t want to psychoanalyze here, but I think – and I hope I’m not offending Jerry; I don’t think I’m saying anything offensive, but I think part of the reason Jerry’s reporting on this has been better and more sophisticated is that he doesn’t come from an elite journalism track. Immigration, as you know, is one of those issues where the elite in general, and the public, really have an enormous gap between their views. In fact, if anything, immigration seems to be the issue where the gap between elite and public views is the biggest.
And Jerry’s background – he went to Los Angeles Junior College, joined the Navy and served in Vietnam, was a police officer in Los Angeles, then worked at The Arizona Republic, and has been at The Washington Times now for 20 years – is that right? – since 1985. As he put it, it helps him – (chuckles) – working with bad guys as a police officer taught him how to interview political leaders here in Washington. (Laughter). And I would have to say – again, no disrespect to those reporters who have gone through a standard journalism-school background, and there is a lot of good reporting that comes from people who have followed that track, but frankly, not being in the same – sort of having the same elite career track I think leads to an openness to a variety of perspectives on this issue that you just don’t see at papers like The Washington Times’ namesake in New York, whose coverage of immigration is – I’m trying to think of a polite adjective – shallow.
The inspiration of the award is Eugene Katz, who is a native New Yorker, and after going to Dartmouth and Oxford, started his career as a reporter at The Daily Oklahoman. He worked in the family business then on the business side of media in ad sales and built up the family business – Katz Communications it was then called – to a half-billion-dollar firm that dealt in broadcast advertising and owned radio stations. He was a member of our Board for many years – the Center for Immigration Studies board – until shortly after his 90th birthday in 1997. And he passed away in 2000, and we named this award for him, in honor of Eugene’s assistance and counsel to the Center for Immigration Studies for so many years.
And the point – the reason we set the award up was not really so much for propagandistic purposes, to promote any particular point of view, but really just to promote informed and fair reporting on this contentious complicated issue that is so central to America’s future.
And so if Jerry could come up, I would like to present him with the award. It is a tchotchke. It’s not a paperweight; it’s clock, which says on it what you would expect: “The Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration, Jerry Seper, The Washington Times.” And, Jerry, there you are. I’m happy you are here.
JERRY SEPER: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Well, if you were expecting caviar, I think Mark has convinced you that you have got hamburger here – (laughter).
Thank you very much for this award. I usually am very reluctant to attend or reluctant about these award ceremonies, and I have actually attended very few of them. I have always preferred to do my talking from the printed page. None of you have ever seen me on TV. I don’t do it. I don’t believe that you or the readers or the viewers have any right to know what my opinion is, which is what they always ask you: what is your opinion of this? You don’t need to know my opinion. If my opinion gets into my news story then I have not done a good job.
So this award is very special to me and I appreciate it. But I know these people from the Center for Immigration Studies. They are hardworking, dedicated, and committed, and when they called I was honored. I should probably share this award with you, Mark, because I have blatantly ripped off many of your stories – (laughter) – but I’m not going to.
I have covered the story of immigration for The Washington Times for a very long time. And I also need to thank my editors for the Times’ support and encouragement they have given me along the way. My first exposure to immigration coverage was in 1992 when a photographer and I were assigned to drive from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, California, to do a series of articles on the impact of immigration on education, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. We spent seven weeks on the road then we came back and did a three-part series.
In 2002, a photographer and I made the same trip from Brownsville to San Diego, spent another seven, seven-and-a-half weeks, on the road and did another series of articles. In 2003, a photographer and I drove the U.S.-Canada border from Port Angeles to Holden, Maine – 5,517 miles – took us nine weeks, and we did a series of articles on immigration, illegal immigration, drug smuggling across the Canadian border.
Last year I did, with a photographer, six weeks, seven weeks in the nation’s heartland doing a series of articles on interior enforcement or the lack thereof. This year so far I have spent a month with the Minutemen on the Arizona border. It shows the commitment I believe on the part of the newspaper for us to get into and look at the subject of immigration, illegal immigration, which apparently is a topic that a lot of the other media has since discovered.
I came to The Washington Times in 1985. At the time, I was working at The Arizona Republic, which is a daily newspaper in Phoenix. The editors at the Times at that time figured out that Arizona and Mexico are right next to each other – (laughter) – and that a lot of people in Arizona speak Spanish like me, which in fact was a boon because it led to a lot of great assignments. I did the Dupont Plaza fire hotel in Puerto Rico, Colombian drug running in the Bahamas, the voodoo killings in Matamoros, Mexico, a hunger strike by a mayor in Chihuahua, marijuana cartels in Sonora, drug smuggling in Panama, cocaine cartels in the FARC in Colombia. But I guess it’s time to come clean after 20 years. I don’t speak a lick of Spanish. (Laughter.) I have adhered religiously to the policy of don’t ask, don’t tell because these assignments were just too good to pass up. (Scattered laughter.)
The trip to Chihuahua was very interesting because Wesley Pruden was then the managing editor, and he told me that this fellow who was a member of the PAN, which at that time was an extremely minority party in Mexico, was on a 56-day hunger strike and I should go down and interview him. So I flew to Chihuahua and I – he is supposed to be in a gazebo. Do you know how many gazebos there are in Chihuahua? I was at every one.
I finally find him in this gazebo, and I see this woman who appears to be in charge and I go up and I say, I’m Jerry Seper from The Washington Times; I would like to interview the mayor. And she said, that would be great; go ahead and go in. And I said, well, could you come with me because I don’t speak Spanish? And she says, oh, no, no, no. The doctor says he is very old, he is very sick; he’s been without food for 56 days, only one person at a time. So I go in there and this gazebo was blocked off a little bit to protect him from the weather, and there is this very old man laying in this cot with a mosquito netting around him and he is not moving. And so I sit down in this chair and I watch him for about five minutes. And I say, oh, thank God, he’s died. (Laughter.) But he hadn’t. He rolled over and he sat up and he looked at me and pulled the netting back. So I automatically assume that he is deaf too I guess, so I say, do you speak English? And he says, better than you, son: Princeton, ’35. (Laughter.)
I know also that Lou Dobbs was a prior winner, and I want to tell you just exactly how valuable this Katz Award is. I saw Lou Dobbs when he came down to the Minutemen Project on his private jet and spent three hours there. (Laughter.) And I went up to him and pushed my way through the crowd of autograph seekers, and he gave me a “Lou Dobbs Tonight” ball cap. (Laughter.) I took that “Lou Dobbs Tonight” ball cap to the Palominas Training Post Diner and traded it for lunch. (Laughter.) Cheeseburger, large order of fries, and a large Coke. Thank you. (Laughter.)
As all of you know, immigration reform has become a major issue in the country today and will become much more important as the 2008 elections approach. It is a hard story to write and I would encourage you to insist that the reporters you know resist the urge to be soft.
Thank you to the Center for Immigration Studies for this honor. Thank you to The Washington Times for allowing me to do this story over a very long period of time, for which I have charged a lot of cheeseburgers. And thanks to you for coming out here today to share this moment with me. Thank you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Jerry. That was a – when you trade this award in, please hold out for more than a cheeseburger. (Laughter.) This ought to be at least good for dinner somewhere. (Laughter.) Maybe not the Palm but, you know, someplace. Those were actually – those were some better stories. I hadn’t heard any of those stories. When Jerry gets to write his memoirs we’ll get more of them I hope.
Our keynote speaker this afternoon – well, first of all, our keynote speaker is not the gentleman at the end; that is Peter Nunez. You won’t be hearing from him but he is the Chairman of the Board of the Center for Immigration Studies and helps, behind the scenes, guide what you guys see on TV and in print every day or almost every day. But our keynote speaker will be Heather Mac Donald. Heather is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. A lot of you will be familiar with her work if you follow policy issues. She is the contributing editor at City Journal, one of the best journals in the country; a quarterly that really cultivates original ideas and new thinking on a lot of issues, much of it from Heather herself.
There is a great quote here on the jacket of one of her books I hadn’t seen before. She has a number of books: The Burden of Bad Ideas, Are Cops Racist? and several other books. And there is a blurb here from David Brooks, now columnist at The New York Times editorial page: “If there were any justice in the world, Mac Donald would be knee-deep in Pulitzer Prizes and National Magazine Awards for her pioneering work.”
I don’t think she is knee-deep in them but the day is young, so at some point she is going to win a Pulitzer Prize or a National Magazine Award, but she had to make do earlier this year with a Bradley Prize, which I think you could trade in for a whole lot more than a cheeseburger and a Coke from the Bradley Foundation, along with George Will and Robert George and Ward Connerly, right? Was he the fourth recipient? So she actually is – her outstanding work really is beginning to receive some recognition. She has started to write on immigration now, which is I think a positive sign for the Republic and a sign that we are actually – are making progress and are going to win in fixing our immigration policy.
So Heather is going to come up and offer some thoughts of hers on the issue. You should have gotten some three-by-five cards if you wanted to do questions. Pass them down to the end of the table so John Keeley can collect them. After she gives her remarks, I want to at least get a little discussion, but to keep it a little more civilized we want to do it on the three-by-five-card method.
So, Heather, if you could come on up.
HEATHER MAC DONALD: Boy, this is such an honor. I don’t know why I’m the keynote, but I’m really grateful to be here today at the most intellectually serious immigration research organization in the country, and in the presence of the most groundbreaking immigration reporter. Obviously The Washington Times has sent Mr. Seper on extensive travels across the country and throughout the world, but it’s paid off because his stories, I think, are probably the most well traveled on the Internet. I can be sure: if I’ve had the misfortune of missing one in that day’s Washington Times, I’m going to receive several copies of it from people across the country who are waiting for his next dispatch.
And I was glad too that CIS has put together a compendium of some of his greatest hits. Some of my favorites were in there, such as his reporting on the catch-and-release problem by which we pick up an illegal alien and promptly let him go. But Mark left out some, which was a big regret of mine. For instance, I loved his piece on a fugitive illegal alien with an extensive criminal record who was working as a security guard for the Philadelphia government. But I guess that speaks to the integrity that we all have come to know and love in Philadelphia. So The Washington Times is certainly lucky to have as aggressive and tireless a reporter as Mr. Seper, but I think, more so, the country is.
Unfortunately, however, Mark does have to work to find recipients for the Katz Award. Mr. Seper is obviously the exception, not the norm, which is why we’re here today. And equally unfortunately, The Washington Times is not the only “Times” with extensive influence out there. Now, I do hate to criticize our friends in the mainstream media because I know they mean well and they sometimes do terrific investigations, but their record on immigration I would say has been pretty abysmal. In the last year, however, there’s been some progress and I’ll talk about that in the end.
Now, the media, of course, has done a very good job of covering the benefits from immigration, and there are many. There is no question that communities across the country have been revived by entrepreneurial energy brought by immigrants. But they have a congenital blind spot to the assault on the rule of law that is posed by illegal immigration, as well as the enormous costs that illegal immigration poses to our society. Just take that little matter of border trespassing. For years, as you know as well as I, it’s been taboo to even use the term “illegal alien.” What are your favorite euphemisms? There’s the “border-crosser” or the “undocumented worker,” or, my favorite, simply “immigrant.” You’ll notice this is what they really use in an effort to erase any distinction between those who obey the law in coming into the country and those who violate it.
Now, sometimes this erasure is almost comically sneaky, and I want to pick on a phrase from a recent article in The Washington Post on the Real ID Act. This act, as you well know, is an effort to make sure that drivers licenses have some integrity behind them and are not easily abused by terrorists, as we learned from CIS was a rampant problem in the 9/11 hijackings. Now, this article said, quote “Most of the burden of the act falls on those who lack the proper identification that allows most Americans to move about freely.” Now, indulge me in a little bit of close reading here. Lacking the proper identification is, of course, yet another euphemism for being an illegal alien. But it’s a particularly clever one since it suggests some trivial, almost random oversight like leaving your wallet at home that is now being used to deprive this identity-lacking person of a constitutional right that quote, “most Americans” enjoy. Well, of course, the person lacking an identity is not an American, but we’ve done a little bait-and-switch there. And this circumlocution points to the heart of the mainstream media’s strategy regarding illegal aliens, and that is to present any burdens that fall upon illegals as arbitrary, undeserved twists of fate or of the product of a heartless society rather than the inevitable and foreseeable consequences of the illegal alien’s own freely chosen decision to break the law.
So let’s look at another phrase from our friends in the mainstream media, this from The New York Times’ recent Pulitzer Prize bid, its endless series on class divisions in America. I don’t know if anybody down here has had the misfortune to follow it, but the moral is predictable. You know, we remain a class-ridden society where the poor can’t move up. All right, we knew that in advance. But let’s look at their story on an illegal Mexican with the title “The Specter of an Enduring Underclass.” And we know why The Times thinks that’s a problem, our fault. Now, this Mexican, Juan Peralta (sp), according to The Times, was not moving up the economic ladder as quickly as he should have, as quickly as other immigrants before him. And The Times noted that Peralta had, quote, “middle-class ornaments, like a cell phone and a DVD player, but no drivers license or Social Security card.” Well, of course he doesn’t; he’s illegal!
But somehow that fact is presented as just a random deprivation: well, he didn’t get around to getting one, or, isn’t it odd that he doesn’t? I’m not going to speak about – but I’d love to – my favorite conceit from the mainstream media is that illegal aliens are living in the shadows; they’re living a shadow existence. Really? I can go to Roosevelt Avenue in Queens right now and talk to about 20 [illegals] standing around there. They occasionally get thrown in the jail by the police for drunken assaults, but they’re right back on street. They’ll say, “I’m not scared of anything, you know? Nobody enforces the law against me.” But we’ll leave that one aside.
But let me now turn to a slightly upbeat twist, which is a little note of reality that’s actually crept into immigration reporting over the last year and that’s due to the illegal alien crime wave. It’s hard to ignore, of course, when people are getting their hands and fingers chopped off by machetes or pregnant teenagers are getting hacked to death because they’ve been cooperation with the police in gang investigations. It’s hard to ignore as well, when gang violence has gone up 50 percent from 1999 to 2002, the one category of violent crime that has been increasing in this country. Why? That increase is driven overwhelmingly by the spread of immigration across the country into previously rural and peaceful areas like the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, which has seen the occupation now by MS-13.
Now, for years, cops on the beat have looked on helplessly as illegal aliens terrorized the communities that they’re responsible for and that’s because of one of the most perverse innovations of the illegal alien lobby, something known as sanctuary laws. Sanctuary laws dictate that local officers are not allowed to either enforce immigration laws against illegals or even to report somebody’s status to the federal authorities. The result is to deprive cops of what is often their only available tool to get violent felons off the street. Let me give you an example of how that works. Let’s say you’ve got an officer in Hollywood, California, and he sees a guy from MS-13 that he knows has been previously deported for assault and robbery. But, as they all do, he’s back on the street hanging out. Now, his mere presence back on Hollywood and Vine is a federal felony punishable by 20 years in jail. He could be arrested on the spot, but that cop can’t lay a finger on him and if he does, it’s the cop that’s going to be disciplined. Now, the reason it’s so important for police officers to have this tool is because it’s often impossible to make a criminal case against gang-bangers because witnesses are terrified to cooperate with the police.
Some effects of LA’s sanctuary law – well, let’s see, there’s the cousins Anecto (sp) and Jaime Reyes (sp), illegal Mexicans who recently committed a murder and a carjacking in LA after returning to the city following deportation. The police had come across them numerous times following their re-entry but couldn’t do anything about it because of their sanctuary law. Carlos Brassero (sp), another illegal, several months ago mugged three people, burglarized two apartments, and tried to rape a five-year old girl in Hollywood, and he’d been stopped for traffic violations. Again, the police had to let him go on his way.
Now, so powerful is the illegal alien lobby that the country’s chief exponent of broken windows policing, which holds you use any violation you can because there’s a great chain of being in criminality – somebody breaks one law, they’re likely to break many others, so you arrest them for what you’ve got – our chief proponent of broken windows theory, William Bratton, who started out as New York’s groundbreaking crime fighter and is now the LA police chief, he was willing to put up with Special Order 40. Even he wasn’t willing to take on the illegal alien lobby until quite recently, where he made some trivial and really laughable changes in the law that end up giving illegal aliens more constitutional due process rights than your average garden-variety criminal. Nevertheless, the outrages that have been allowed by sanctuary laws have finally gotten so bad that the LA Times and The New York Times have done some pretty good reporting on their effects. So, I just want to give them credit for that.
And if I could briefly point to what I think is the biggest uncovered story right now, the significant blind spot that still remains in the mainstream press – although Jerry’s hot on the trail, I’m sure – is the development of an underclass culture among Hispanic immigrants. And here’s the catch – and this is why it’s going to be very, very difficult to write about – we all like to talk about illegal aliens, but it’s not confined to illegal aliens. In fact, underclass behavior worsens among second- and third-generation Hispanics, birthright citizens. Hispanic teens now have the highest out-of-wedlock birth rate in the country, the highest dropout rates. This is something that is pervasive and obvious. I went to a high school in LA and was talking to students there. Typical comment from Jackie, an illegal Guatemalan: Most of the people I used to hang out with in the 9th grade have dropped out, others got kicked out or got into drugs, and five of my homie girls got pregnant. Jackie herself had dropped out in the 9th grade and never caught up. Now she was getting a GED. I’ve heard of the total disappearance of any stigma attached to out-of-wedlock childbearing and boys now are only considered “playas” if they father children that they have no intention of supporting.
Now, as I say, this is an obvious fact. It’s there for anybody who cares to look. And in fact, The New York Times had it right in front of their noses in a piece they wrote on the new pope. They were interviewing American Catholics and the person they led with in their story was an eighteen-year old Mexican-American girl in LA, who happened to have already two out-of-wedlock children. But, of course, The Times couldn’t see this. You’d think in a story on Catholics, for heaven’s sakes, this would be somewhat interesting at the very least, but it was beneath their notice.
So it’s going to take years for the elite media to talk about this. In the meantime, we’ll continue to hear about Hispanic family values, even though I can see every day on the New York subways that that is one of the biggest myths out there. The moral of the story, I think – of this growing underclass culture – is that it is folly to continue with our virtual open borders policy until we’ve figured out a way to break the lure of underclass culture that is the real thing that people are assimilating into these days. Some are upwardly mobile; many are not.
In conclusion, nevertheless, in the meantime I’m going to look forward to further discoveries of Mr. Seper on the profound changes that large-scale Hispanic immigration is working on our country and the usually inadequate efforts of the public officials to respond. Thank you very much.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Heather. That was excellent. And I wanted to take a few questions for Jerry or Heather from the audience. But since I’m paying for all of this, I’ll ask the first question of Jerry in particular. What is it – why did The Washington Times decide to devote these resources? Your editors, I guess, would be the people to answer. But what was it – do you have any ideas on why it is that they’ve devoted the effort to this and a lot of the other papers haven’t? Just use that mic there, that one. Any ideas?
MR. SEPER: No.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Okay, so you didn’t twist arms or any of that to get it done? Or how did that work?
MR. SEPER: You have to realize that the job of the editor is to separate the wheat from the chaff and to make sure the chaff is printed. (Laughter.) You can’t assume that the editors came to some grand conclusion on immigration. In 1992, I got sent on that assignment. I liked it. I had a good time. I wanted to cultivate the beat, so I told him this is what I was going to do. Hence, we cover immigration.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Okay, good. So in a sense it’s a –
MR. SEPER: Well, if you can produce copy and keep them from chirping, they won’t bother you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Okay, that’s good.
MR. SEPER: I do believe, however, to be fair, that they do have a genuine interest in the topic and they have given me the time and the expense money – I mean it costs a lot to travel, as you know – they’ve given me the time and the expense money to do it, so I think they have a legitimate effort in it.
With regard to illegal aliens, we actually have a notice posted on our bulletin board from Wes Pruden – who apparently has a lot of time on his hands to post notices – but it says that, henceforth we will not refer to people who enter the country illegally as to anything other than illegal aliens. (Applause.) That’s what they are.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Good.
MR. SEPER: And you talk about the editors making a decision, that was a decision made because somebody changed the illegal aliens in one of my stories to illegal immigrants and I came in and had a heart attack in front of the copy desk, yelled at people, and the notice went up the next day. So that’s how it happens sometimes.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Interesting.
MR. SEPER: Being hamburger, I’m allowed to do it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Heather, this one’s for you. It’s sort of a big question, but if there’s sort of a specific – a narrow way to answer it. Do you have any policy recommendations at any level of government specifically to address this immigrant gang issue, MS-13 or what-have-you? Anything that’s occurred to you in your interviews with police officers and others?
MS. MAC DONALD: Well, yes, obviously, the most direct help would be to get rid of sanctuary laws and for the Clear Act – Charlie Norwood has passed a law that would once again clarify that local officials do have the authority to enforce federal laws – because it’s the same with terrorism. The people who are going to be getting terrorists off the street are local officers. They see the community and they’ve got the sheer numbers to do so. Federal agents, there is not a chance that the 2,000 federal interior agents that we’ve got are sufficient to pick up all the illegal criminals that are out there. It’s got to be the cops.
Now, that’s only the first step. The second step would be if the Bush administration actually deigned to spend the money that Congress appropriated for detention space so that when somebody is picked up by the local cops, they’re not immediately let go to disappear right back into the community, and then, of course, they have to be deported. Now, they also keep coming back. That gets back to the real big question, which is something that when I first started writing about immigration, I learned most profoundly from CIS, which is the only way we’re going to stop this invasion is through interior enforcement, something that Mr. Seper mentioned as well. Border fortification is never going to work. You have to unhook that jobs magnet and unless we have the will to do it, nothing’s ever going to change.
I would say, as much as it’s easy to beat up on sort of the liberal elites for their blind spot, I’m now getting very impatient with the opponents of illegal aliens for their lacunae in their discourse. It’s easy to rail against giving drivers licenses to people and normalizing their status, but you have to say what your solution is. You know, you can’t just be negative all the time. At least – as much as we may oppose the amnesty bills – at least those people are trying to come up with a solution. Our solution has got to be enforcement and at some point, you have to use the d-word – deportation. Nobody wants to use it.
I was called by somebody in DHS, who wanted me to go before CNN to suggest that an illegal Chinese man who had been found three days stuck in an elevator and came to the attention of the authorities. New York City councilmen went nuts. This is a violation of our sanctuary law in New York. This official from DHS did not have the courage to say on camera that the guy should be deported. This is his job. He wanted me to be a stand-in for it. So, it’s up to people that believe in borders to start now giving political cover to say, if there are some deportations where somebody is going to scream bloody murder – somebody will scream bloody murder – there will be political support there as well.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, funny you should mention that, Heather, because we just had a panel and I released a paper trying to offer a strategy – a positive strategy – on how to address this.
MR. SEPER: I’d like to –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Oh, please, yeah, Jerry.
MR. SEPER: I’ll add one thing. You can give the local police all the authority that you want to track down, to arrest, to detain, to apprehend, to catch these illegal aliens that they see out in the street. But there’s no place to put them. I mean, okay, you give them the authority, so what? There is no place to put them. There are 19,000 federal beds to put these detainees in and that is not enough, and it is never going to be enough. You know, let me give you an example of – there was an illegal alien who was apprehended by the Border Patrol in Bellingham, Washington, and he was given a hearing date. He was apprehended in January and he was told to come back in November for his hearing date to see if in fact he should be deported. That was Lee Boyd Malvo and he – we know how he spent his summer. So I mean, it don’t work and you know, you have to take a shot at this administration, the last administration, the next administration because there’s no place to put them.
MR. KRIKORIAN: There’s another one for Jerry and then a last one for Heather . . . a propos of your illegal alien memo at The Times. Somebody suggests, should The Times start a contest for the most ingenious euphemism for an illegal alien. And one suggested this is sort of the analogy to a bank robber as an unauthorized withdrawal specialist, so something along those lines would be –
MR. SEPER: You suggest we have a contest so that – (chuckles) – listen, I know the management. I’m amazed that we’re able to produce a paper every day. (Laughter.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, sort of the question that I wanted to direct you to – do you have a Deep Throat within DHS? You couldn’t tell his identity for 30 years and maybe you’d pick a different pornographic movie to name him after – (chuckles) – but is there anybody like that? I mean, do you have people coming to you, sort of eager to offer you information?
MR. SEPER: Well, I have an advantage over most of the folks out there because I’ve been out in the field. I mean, I’ve been to every border patrol station. I’ve ridden with dozens of Border Patrol field agents. Yeah, I’ve got a lot of guys talking to me – a lot of guys who are talking to me all the time. And every one of them is married to a mortgage and they’re not going to come forward with their name. But yeah, but you can’t trust these people in charge here. Are you seeing a pattern here? The people in charge of DHS are the same people that used to be in charge at the Justice Department and they didn’t do a very good job over there. So you have to go out in the field and find somebody who is a field agent or an FBI special agent out in the field, somebody who is a detention officer, somebody who is driving the paddy wagon, somebody who is making the arrest out in the field, some inspector at the port of entry, some air marshal who flies the airplane. You know, we have air marshals that take these deportees home. You know that they carry a cashbox of $20,000 on that plane because sometimes they have to pay the air traffic controller or the gas guy so they can get out.
MR. KRIKORIAN: What do you mean?
MR. SEPER: They won’t let the plane leave.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Unbelievable. Go ahead, please.
MS. MAC DONALD: If I could, on the euphemism contest, I would also suggest sort of direct action where I think people should go to Crawford ranch and say, Dear Mr. Bush, we really like your home. It’s better than where we live and we think we’re going to stay here a little bit, and see how quickly he calls the police and gets us out there. You know, it’s just not enough.
MR. KRIKORIAN: She said it, not us. (Laughter.) It is not an official CIS position, please. Last question for Heather – a lot of your writing, if I’m not mistaken here in City Journal, Rudy Giuliani sort of, it got his attention and was one of the things that helped shape his thinking on restoring order after New York’s long, dark period in the ‘70s and after that. Any ideas on where Giuliani is coming from on immigration? Why he’s so terrible, why he doesn’t get it, and is he reading your stuff now and paying any attention to it?
MS. MAC DONALD: One would hope. You know, right on – a few days before 9/11, he was defending a New York sanctuary law. He lost in court. There’d been a challenge – he was challenging the 1996 Federal Welfare Reform Law that had also contained a provision saying that cities could not prohibit their employees from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration matters and Giuliani challenged that as a violation of rights. It went up to the second circuit, lost, and Giuliani was still promising, a few days before 9/11, to disobey the court’s ruling. My guess is that for many people, immigration is somehow an emotional issue and I doubt that even today he would change his views and see that there’s a crying need to enforce the laws.
Out current governor, Mayor Bloomberg . . . also there was a challenge to the sanctuary laws subsequent to that – three illegal Mexicans and one legal Mexican raped a woman brutally – well, all rapes are brutal obviously, but a gang rape – a few years ago outside of a stadium in Queens, and again an effort was made to repeal the law. The end result was the law is now stronger than ever. It’s totally amazing. We don’t seem to be making progress in this area. I don’t know what it’s going to take.
MR. KRIKORIAN: At least in New York City.
MS. MAC DONALD: In New York.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Heather. I appreciate your insights. Jerry, thank you for all of your work. Congratulations on the award and I hope we’re going to keep reading your work. Thank all of you; thank you for all coming. I’m happy to be accosted afterwards, if anybody wants to talk, but I can’t speak for our guests. They may want to run out and actually earn a living. So, I appreciate your all coming and hope you can come back – yes, George?
MR. GRAYSON: There’s a call from the Secret Service for Heather. (Laughter.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: Okay, well, I’ll escort her out the back door so that she can escape. Anyway, thanks a lot and have a good weekend.