More Careless Immigration Journalism

By Dan Cadman on December 14, 2018

Earlier this week USA Today published "How new Trump rules could leave tens of thousands of immigrants ineligible for green cards".

The article is, of course, about the impending rule governing the "public charge" provision in immigration law, which would render certain aliens inadmissible/removable for obtaining welfare or social safety net benefits under certain conditions. Needless to say, the proposed rule is being vilified as draconian by many immigrant advocacy groups, though in truth it's fairly modest.

The public charge provision of law on which the rule change is based has existed for a very long time, but in truth it has rarely been enforced, even though taxpayer-funded benefit programs have always confronted the problem of more applicants than capacity. My colleagues, Dr. Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler, have recently written about the extensive use of welfare by immigrants — including in those households where the sponsoring immigrant submitted paperwork swearing that he (or she) would have the means and resources to bring in a family member under our extended chain-migration system, without resorting to such programs. The problem is that they haven't been held to their oath, and the recipient often does end up using social benefits intended for others.

But I digress. The point of this blog is to (once again) observe how careless the mainstream media can be when it comes to writing about the tricky subject of immigration. Let me reproduce the first three paragraphs of the USA Today article, with emphasis added:

When Hurrican Michael tore through north Florida in October, it completely destroyed a car wash business owned by a Palestinian immigrant. The Category 4 storm also caused significant damage to his house and an office building that he owns in Panama City.

The man, a legal U.S. resident who first entered the U.S. in 1997 on a Fulbright Scholarship, did not request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as so many of his neighbors did. He also thinks he's going to decline a low-interest loan from the Small Business Administration to rebuild his car wash, a standard process for victims of natural disasters.

The reason: He is trying to finalize his asylum application and become a legal permanent resident, and he's worried that accepting any kind of government assistance will jeopardize his petitions in light of new rules being proposed by the Trump administration.

If you're like me, you'll go, "Wait, what?" as you read and re-read those words trying to make sense of them. I ultimately gave up trying to parse them in any way that made sense and accepted that they are gobbledygook.

If you are, in fact, a "legal U.S. resident" as the article states, then you don't need asylum, because you are a permanent resident, which is to say a green card holder — something that most asylum recipients aspire to after the requisite period of time as an asylee. Then there's also the fact that under U.S. rules, if you don't apply for asylum within the first year of your entry, you are barred from seeking it later, under the eminently sensible notion that persons truly in fear of their lives because of persecution aren't going to sit around and apply as a matter of personal convenience. Here it is, 21 years after the date the article says this unnamed Palestinian arrived, and he hasn't sorted that out yet?

It doesn't take an immigration expert to recognize the inherent conflicts in everything those paragraphs put forward. They just aren't sensible and reflect the strangest kind of circular logic: "I'm a resident who's trying to perfect my asylum application so I can ultimately become a resident."

Now, I recognize there's an outside chance the reporter is the victim of a meddling editor who took it upon himself to fiddle with the language and syntax in a way that makes the result absurd. And if the language was crafted by the reporter, then the editor was derelict in not catching the inherent inconsistency and insisting that the assertions be fact-checked.

Unfortunately though, sometimes where immigration is concerned, the media are often loath to let facts get in the way of a good story.