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More on NPR in Charlotte, and a Reminder of Barbara Jordan

By Jerry Kammer, January 14, 2016

Yesterday we began our look at Sunday's NPR story about the ongoing immigration and economic booms in and around Charlotte, N.C. Reporter Rachel Martin noted that the booms are taking place as a study "ranked Charlotte dead last when it comes to economic mobility compared to other U.S. cities."

I'm wondering what's beneath the surface of the story, as Martin talked with the owner of a landscaping company who is obviously enjoying both booms. How much do his workers earn? How much do they rely on public services? Is this another case of immigration having the effect of privatizing profit and socializing loss? Read more...

NPR's Rachel Martin Begins to Look at the Connection Between Immigration and Income Inequality

By Jerry Kammer, January 13, 2016

On Sunday, Rachel Martin, host of NPR's "Weekend Edition", introduced one of the most important immigration stories facing the United States: the connection between immigration and income inequality. Martin said that because of the significance of the story in the presidential race, she intends to follow the story in the coming weeks. I'm writing this post in the hope that she will have the time to dig deeper into some of the issues that local people introduced in their conversations with her for Sunday's story. I'll have another post tomorrow in the same spirit.

Martin was reporting from Charlotte, N.C., the largest city in Mecklenburg County, where the Hispanic population grew from 6.5 percent in 2000 to 12.7 percent in 2014. Here is how she introduced the story: Read more...

The New York Times' Radical Transformation on Immigration

By Jerry Kammer, January 4, 2016

I don't know whose arrogance is worse for the country: Donald Trump's, which takes legitimate fears about uncontrolled immigration to illegitimate extremes, or the New York Times editorial board's, whose editorials conflate legitimate fear with hysterical nativism.

In an editorial last month, the Times warned that Trump is not merely "a solitary phenomenon, a singular celebrity narcissist who has somehow, all alone, brought his party and its politics to the brink of fascism." It warned that Trump was part of a broader phenomenon conjured by Republicans who are "attuned to the power of fear" as they seek to build a wall against illegal immigration. It said Republican governors had joined "an axis of ignorance, declaring their borders closed to refugees fleeing the Islamic State in Syria." Read more...

Where Have the Democrats Gone, Mr. Robinson? American Workers Turn Their Lonely Eyes to You

By Jerry Kammer, December 30, 2015

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson seems to delight in the Republican Party's torment. In his latest column, Robinson was aghast that while GOP positions had once "dovetailed nicely with the views of business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce," now it has gone the other way with the populist revolt against proposals to give legal status to illegal immigrants and to increase immigration. Read more...

Human Nature vs. the Blank Slate
Food for thought from Steven Pinker and Edmund Burke

By Jerry Kammer, December 22, 2015
Food for thought from Steven Pinker and Edmund Burke

Those of us who want to regulate immigration think of ourselves as pragmatists who recognize that too much even of a good thing can be a bad thing. But we often face the accusation that we are racists, bigots, and xenophobes with bad manners and intolerable politics. It is a situation akin to the poisoned atmosphere that MIT psychologist and author Steven Pinker describes as the result of attacks on cognitive scientists who suggested that genes influence human personality and behavior. Read more...

Former Labor Secretary Ray Marshall on H-1B, Stapling a Green Card to Diplomas, and IRCA

By Jerry Kammer, December 10, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to speak at length with Carter administration Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall. Now an emeritus professor at the University of Texas, Marshall, 87, remains interested in immigration policy and active at the Economic Policy Institute, the liberal think tank that he helped found in 1986. Read more...

Population Growth: The Elephant in the Room at the Paris Climate-Change Conference

By Jerry Kammer, December 1, 2015

The big item on the international diplomatic stage for the next two weeks will be the talks in Paris aimed at reaching agreement on actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The big item that is being ignored in the run-up to the talks is the other major factor in the climate-change equation: the population growth that is accelerating the emissions. The billowing growth of the number of human beings is the elephant in the climate-change room. Read more...

Syrian Refugees and the Wisdom of Michael Oakeshott

By Jerry Kammer, November 23, 2015

Those of us who push back against the effort to label all concerns about immigration as a mask for bigotry and irrationality can be grateful for the widespread criticism of those trying to apply a similar smear to those who oppose President Obama's plan to welcome tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Even Kevin Drum, a writer at Mother Jones magazine, which has a claim to being the mother of all liberal magazines, has pushed back. While disputing worries about possible terrorist infiltration of the refugee stream, Drum advised that the concern seems so common-sensical to many Americans that, "Mocking it is the worst thing we could do. It validates all the worst stereotypes about liberals that we put political correctness ahead of national security." Read more...

"Undocumented" Author Warns of Demography; Theodore White Saw Him Coming in 1981

By Jerry Kammer, October 29, 2015

Back in 1983, long before New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. established his ideology of all-in-for-inclusiveness, the Times published an editorial that stated this case for limiting immigration:

For reasons of vitality, humanity, and history, America wants and needs immigrants. What it does not need is such an uncontrollable flood of illegal migrants that it tries public patience and foments a backlash against all newcomers. That's the genuine danger.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta's recent memoir, which we have been examining this week, ends on a note of swagger and incitement so gratuitous that it seems intended to provoke such a backlash. As Marcela Valdes said in a book review for the Washington Post, the passage shows his "penchant for ad hominem score settling and his tone of belligerent entitlement." Read more...

"We Are in the Ascendant. America Is Ours"

By Jerry Kammer, October 28, 2015

In her C-SPAN interview with Dan-el Padilla, author of Undocumented, reporter Liz Robbins of the New York Times reads a provocative passage from the memoir's final page: Read more...

"Undocumented" Book Stirs Intense Ambivalence, but Not for NYT's Liz Robbins

By Jerry Kammer, October 27, 2015

One of the most impressive aspects of Dan-el Padilla Peralta's memoir Undocumented is that it provides a poignant look at the world of the "dreamers". These are illegal immigrants whose problematic status is usually the result of their parents' decision to ignore U.S. immigration law. The dreamers yearn to be fully enfranchised in American society, which, as the Wall Street Journal noted in a profile of Padilla, sends "a cacophony of messages" to those who break immigration law by allowing them to stay and providing a range of benefits while leaving them subject to deportation. Read more...

C-SPAN Interview with "Undocumented" Author Shows Why the NYT Doesn't Get It on Illegal Immigration

By Jerry Kammer, October 26, 2015

Thanks to C-SPAN, I now have a new Exhibit A for the case that the New York Times is incapable of understanding why many Americans are upset about illegal immigration. C-SPAN performed this public service by inviting Times immigration reporter Liz Robbins to interview Dan-el Padilla Peralta, author of the memoir Undocumented: A Dominican Boy's Odyssey From a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League. Read more...

Univision Newscast Condemns Wrong TV Ad

By Jerry Kammer, October 20, 2015

Last Thursday, Enrique Acevedo, the anchor of Univision's late-night "Edicion Nocturna" newscast, briefly appeared on the network's evening news to promote his upcoming program. He said viewers would see a story about an ad that ran during the Democratic presidential debate earlier in the week. He claimed the ad, from a group that seeks to reduce immigration, especially to California, "blames immigrants for all the problems that the state is suffering".

There were two problems with the story that was broadcast that night. First, the ad reported on was not the ad that had been broadcast during the debate. Instead, what Univision viewers saw were clips from an ad that had been broadcast back in June and claimed that virtually all of California's population growth was the result of immigration. Read more...

Univision Reports and Comments on Scuffle at Trump Rally in Richmond

By Jerry Kammer, October 19, 2015

On Thursday evening's Univision newscast, anchorman Jorge Ramos described the scuffle that broke out between Donald Trump supporters and advocates for illegal immigrants at a Trump rally on Wednesday as "an example of the tension created by the campaign and the polarization in the country."

The scuffle began when a small group of protesters, unfurling a banner that read "No Human Life is Illegal", sought to disrupt Trump's speech. There was pushing, shoving, and shouting for a few minutes until police intervened. The incident received little national attention. But for Univision, where immigration reporting is the top priority, it was a major story. Read more...

The Ramos Rules, Pt. 2

By Jerry Kammer, October 8, 2015

Read part 1.

In an interview with NPR's Terry Gross on Monday, Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos provided this explanation for his willingness to speak with people such as Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Fox newsman Sean Hannity, whose views on immigration he strongly opposes: Read more...

The Ramos Rules

By Jerry Kammer, October 7, 2015

In an interview with Terry Gross for her "Fresh Air" program on NPR Monday, Univision anchorman Jorge Ramos provided a glimpse into his reasoning on immigration. As seen in the excerpts below, Ramos makes no distinction between "undocumented immigrants" and legal immigrants. He believes that since Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are Latinos whose parents immigrated to the United States they should support illegal immigration. Read more...

Angela Merkel, the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice

By Jerry Kammer, October 6, 2015

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has won international praise for her decision to welcome hundreds of thousands of refugees. But public opinion at home is becoming restless for reassurance that the government will restrain the influx.

As the British newspaper, The Telegraph, put it: "Speculation is mounting that Angela Merkel will win this year's Nobel Peace Prize for her handling of the European refugee crisis and the war in Ukraine, just as public opinion in Germany is hardening on the migrant issue." Read more...

RFK, Theodore White, and the Great Debate over Immigration

By Jerry Kammer, September 30, 2015

In 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy was a senator from New York campaigning for the presidency, he frequently made a call to idealism that survives as a quotation vividly tied to his memory: "Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?"

Over the past several months, as I researched the transformative 1965 Hart-Celler Immigration Act to write the paper we will release Thursday at the National Press Club, I thought often of Kennedy's famous quote. Read more...

Colbert's Attack on Trump Misses the Immigration Angle

By Jerry Kammer, September 10, 2015

On Tuesday, Stephen Colbert launched his "Late Show" on CBS with a patriotic montage of clips of him and others singing "The Star Spangled Banner" in locations across the country. Then he launched into a mockery of Donald Trump's announcement that he will never again eat Oreos because much of the work at the Chicago plant that makes them is being moved to Mexico. Read more...

Colbert's Double-Take on Demonization — First He Revels in It, Then He Reviles It

By Jerry Kammer, September 9, 2015

It didn't take long to find out if Stephen Colbert would bring his famously partisan liberalism to his "Late Show", which debuted last night on CBS.

At the 24-minute mark of Tuesday's show, the screen showed a bloviating Trump perched above a photograph of robed and hooded Klansmen backlit by a bonfire. Ah, the subtlety of Stephen Colbert's immigration politics. Read more...

Chris Christie Explains His FedEx System for Keeping Track of Immigrants

By Jerry Kammer, September 8, 2015

When New Jersey governor and presidential aspirant Chris Christie recently called for a system to track immigrants the way FedEx tracks packages, there were howls of indignation from predictable sources. One was Raul Reyes, a third-generation Mexican American who sits on the USA Today board of contributors.

Christie made the mistake of failing to provide details right away. That left a vacuum that Reyes filled with a nightmare scenario from his imagination. Read more...

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...