From left to right: Donald Barlett, Jerry Kammer, Mark Krikorian, Ted Hesson, Mickey Kaus.
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good afternoon. My name is Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. We’re going to talk about immigration and the coverage of immigration by the media. Unfortunately, the word “trillion” will not appear in the presentation, so it’s not going to be quite as sexy as the other things going on at this very same time, talking about immigration. Nonetheless, I think this will be an interesting – substantively interesting talk.
The genesis of the panel discussion was two papers that we published a little while back by Jerry Kammer, our senior research fellow here to my right, former reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote about the news coverage and the editorial page coverage of the New York Times with regard to immigration. And they’re online. They’re also out there. I think you’ve got copies of them.
But we’re going to talk more broadly about the issue of how the news media coverage of immigration does that, influences the public policy debate in good or bad ways and, you know, how might it be improved. And we’ve got a really good panel here to discuss this.
Jerry Kammer will start off. He is our senior research fellow, got the Pulitzer, shared it in 2006 for helping send Duke Cunningham to jail – richly deserved – was the Northern Mexico correspondent for the Arizona Republic, so really is immersed in this issue and has been for a very long time.
And then also speaking – I guess start from that end of the table – Don Barlett. He’s an investigative reporter with the – he works with a team, Barlett & Steele. It’s like a – when I saw that, it reminded me of, you know, one of the music teams, you know, where one writes the lyrics and one writes the music. But Don said that, you know, he and his reporting partner don’t divide it up that way. They sort of decide who wants to write the music and who wants to write the lyrics on each project of theirs. He’s won two Pulitzers, many other awards, worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Time, has a book out, I think last year, called “Death of the American Dream.”
Then to my left is Ted Hesson. He’s a writer. He’s the immigration editor at Fusion, which is a joint venture of Univision and ABC News. And he tells me that it’s going to be – sort of develop its own identity as a separate English language but Hispanic-oriented news source both online and broadcast. And that’s what it’s developing into.
And finally Mickey Kaus, one of the first political bloggers anywhere. Kausfiles.com was his site – still is. If you type in “Kausfiles.com” it will take you to his site, which is now at the Daily Caller. And ran for the Democrat Senate nomination against Barbara Boxer, which is something I’ve always kind of wanted to do something like that. I think Mickey –
MICKEY KLAUS: No, you don’t. (Laughter.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, I think Mickey was sure he wasn’t going to – there was no danger of his actually winning. I assume it was kind of like – I don’t know if anybody ever asked Mickey this, but Bill Buckley was asked, when he ran for mayor of New York in I think it was ’65 or ’66: You know, Mr. Buckley, what will be your first action if you actually win this election? And he would say: Demand a recount. (Laughter.)
So with that, let’s start with Jerry, and then everybody will have a say and then we’ll get some discussion if people have questions. Jerry?
JERRY KAMMER: Hi, everybody. Thanks for coming.
I’d like to start out by talking a bit about something you’ve probably already observed. All five of us up here on the panel are white males.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Speak for yourself. I’m a – (off mic).
MR. KAMMER: (Chuckles.) That is something that we didn’t want – it to be limited. We wanted more diversity. My attempts to invite a couple of Latino journalists whom I know and have known for many years were not successful. And Mark made attempts – I think was it two or three women journalists or bloggers, who are I think regarded as advocates of comprehensive immigration reform.
And so we were unable to do that, but I am delighted to have the panelists that we do have with us. And I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say, not just about what I wrote but I’m hoping we can have a broad discussion about the overall issue of the press and immigration.
Having said that, I’d like to begin by taking a few minutes to talk about how I got into this issue. I worked for the Arizona Republic for 16 years, started with the Republic in 1986 as their Northern Mexico and border correspondent living in Hermosillo, which is the capital of Sonora, the state that neighbors Arizona to the south.
I started in September of ’86. That was a month before Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, two months before President Reagan signed it in the Oval Office with the claim that employer sanctions would stop the attraction, the draw of illegal immigration. It was a rather firm statement that the president made during the signing ceremony.
Well, in 1988 I moved to Phoenix, where the Republic is based, and worked for most of the next decade on the investigative team of the paper. And this corresponded with the time of a big influx of illegal immigration into Arizona and broadly into the country as result of the peso collapse that happened at the end of the Carlos Salinas administration in Mexico.
There was a terrible devaluation of the peso, a huge traumatic job loss, a real shock to the economy. Meanwhile the Arizona economy was doing well, so there was a big influx into the state. And I saw it in my neighborhood.
As a matter of fact, I noticed it most closely at an elementary school not far from where I lived where I saw, despite observing and by being interested in Mexico and speaking the language, the teachers were struggling because few of them spoke Spanish, and of course the kids, very few of them spoke any English. And so a couple of mornings a week, before going in and doing my newspaper hours, I would go and work with a second grade teacher at Westwood Elementary, just trying to help the familiarization process.
And that experience, working at the school, gave me two firm ideas: first, that we as a society, as a nation, should do all that we can to help immigrants integrate into our society, I think especially with their children. I think their success will be our success; their failure would be our failure. So I firmly believe in working systematically for immigration integration.
But the second belief is that in order to be successful, immigration must be limited, because if it’s not limited it can overwhelm both the resources and the will of the host society. I saw that quite a bit in Phoenix. There was a sense of shock during this period, because in 1990 the estimated unauthorized population – illegal immigrant population in Arizona was 89,000. By 2008 it was 560,000 people in a state of less than 7 million. And so there was a real sense of disorientation about what was going on, and confusion.
In 2000, I came back to Washington as the Republic’s correspondent here in D.C., but I remain fascinated by immigration. And when I had a chance two years later to be the immigration and border correspondent for the Copley newspapers, I jumped at it and took every chance I had to go back to the Arizona border or the Texas border or California border. I am fascinated by the border.
And there was an extraordinary influx across the Arizona border at that time. It was really almost – it’s a cliché to say, but it was almost of biblical proportions. There were 3(,000) to 5,000 people coming across the border illegally every night. It was an astonishing influx into the state.
And that influx I think was the fulfillment of sort of a prophecy that was made in an editorial published in the New York Times 30 years ago now, 1983. The Times editorial page wrote this: “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. And I think that’s what happened in Arizona.
Now, that was 30 years ago. The New York Times, since that time, has departed from that moderate, compassionate, pragmatic view of immigrants – how I would characterize it anyway – and I think I was surprised over the years to see it become a radical voice that has sort of consistently attacked those who believe in limiting immigration as motivated by racism and bigotry. And I wanted to understand how that happened. That’s sort of launched this project. That was the seed of it.
And I’ve said enough and would like to pass the baton.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Don?
DONALD BARLETT: This is going to sound like a cheerleading thing here. I’ve know Jerry for a number of years. We don’t see each other much – I mean, once every five years. These two pieces he did, if you read nothing else, read them and you will understand what is wrong with American journalism today.
Yes, specifically he’s writing about the Times but you could substitute a lot of other names. And he did a phenomenal job. The Times is not, I’m sure, going to offer him a job in the near future, but he is right on the money. The paper is a freaking disgrace when it comes to issues like this.
And something else, if people want to think about it: Substitute the economy for immigration and you’ve got almost the same picture. The Times is a class-oriented organization. It couldn’t care less about these people out here. Now, with immigration it pretends it does, but it doesn’t. And who really gets screwed in this process are the decent human beings who, like, live along the border, who have a ranch, who farm.
I just stumbled into this issue back in – when Jerry was talking about – the peak of the illegals, because it was a subject the Times wanted to do for an investigative piece. And – I don’t know how to frame this. One of the things I always look for and Jim always looks for are people being treated equally. Are they all being – is there one level or are some people treated special? In the end, immigration is one of the classics.
Corporate America gets what it wants all the time. This problem could be solved tomorrow by simply requiring – which, some of you, you know better than I do – some of the legislation did require – you know, you had to be a citizen to get a job. That’s not a difficult thing. And you had all of this stuff by opponents saying, well, this imposes too big a burden on corporations. Excuse me?
When my wife graduated from college years ago she was going to be a teacher, and then other things intervened and she became enrolled in the newspaper business. But about three years ago she decided, well, I’ll take my hand at teaching. At least I can get health care – which really was the motive. She had to spend her own money to get a background check.
So corporate America says we can’t spend money; it’s OK for you teachers to spend money? Cut me a break. No one in this business asks the right questions. And if you don’t ask the right questions, you’re never going to know what is wrong. And she had to get an FBI check, a state check. She had to pay for it all, to make sure she wasn’t a child molester. But yet these people get a pass? I don’t think so.
That’s corporate America exercising its phony influence – its influence, which isn’t phony – on a phony issue. There is no reason in the world why a requirement that a person be a citizen for a job should be onerous, or at least on the track to citizenship, have a green card, something.
I mean, for years they had – and this goes way back before my time – the – what was it called, the Bracero Program. You can devise any program you want, but make sure it can be enforced. And it is not. It is absolutely not, as the other side says, impossible to do. It’s only impossible if you don’t want to do it. My god, they’re making sure that teachers aren’t child molesters, so I would think at the very least you could make sure that the person applying for the job is on the path to citizenship or is here legally. I’ll put it that way, I guess.
But that’s not going to happen. In some ways this is why this – I hate to say this, but these kinds of things are just – after 60 years I just throw up my hands because no one wants this to happen. Nobody in Congress wants it to happen. I don’t care what they say; they do not want it to happen and it’s not going to happen. You can have the best intentions in the world, you can do everything right, and it is not going to happen because they don’t want it.
And, you know, it becomes who’s “they”? Well, it’s the black helicopter people, you know. But if they don’t want it – if corporate America doesn’t want it, it isn’t going to happen. Don’t look any further than gun control. The simplest thing imaginable and they can’t get it passed. It’s not like they were – you know, somebody was trying to enact a registration legislation, god forbid. If they don’t want it, it doesn’t get done. It is never going to get done until people in this country wake up. I don’t know when that’s going to happen. It’s not going to be in my lifetime, I know that.
But if you want to understand the Times – which, this is a disgrace – you’ve got to read Jerry’s pieces, because I would be so embarrassed to work – well, I would never work for that newspaper. I’ve been doing investigative work for, I don’t know, too many years, 45 to 50 years, and that’s really all I ever wanted to do. I didn’t start – and Jim Steele and I have worked together for 40 years, and most of it at the Philadelphia Inquirer and then Time Magazine, and now we do a little bit of Vanity Fair.
Before Jim and I hooked up in Philadelphia, I did investigative work in Cleveland and Chicago. And before that I started in Redding, Pennsylvania, which was a – in some ways it was a terrible place to begin because Redding was probably the most corrupt city in the country at the time. Ultimately the mayor, the police chief and two-thirds of the city council went to prison. So it was a genuinely corrupt city. And I thought it was – I thought this was the way newspapers worked, because the publisher told the editor, I want this cleaned up. And so that was it. You just went out and you reported and you made an effort.
That was a very misleading experience for me because I believed that all newspapers worked that way. And it wasn’t until I got to the Cleveland Plain Dealer that I said, this is not the same. Most newspapers do not want to do investigative work. They really don’t, unless the subject is a safe one. And for years the safe subject was labor: Hey, go after any labor boss you want to go after. The Chicago Tribune patented that system, pretending to be an investigative newspaper. Did the Chicago Tribune ever, ever, ever go after a corporation? No. And that’s standard. That’s kind of standard. The sacred cows have always been the same. They’re the same now.
I'm getting too far afield. But to show you just a couple of anecdotes of why this is so important, I don’t know if any of you remember the name Ramzi Yousef, but Ramzi Yousef was one of the World Trade Center – the first World Trade Center – he helped engineer the bombing.
What was Ramzi Yousef? He was here as a – seeking asylum. Does that sound familiar to what happened in Boston? Asylum seekers? We don’t learn anything in this country. And part of it is also obscured by the fact we pretend we have – you can’t call it an intelligence system but as system that will ferret out the stuff. We do not – let me underscore that. I don’t care what you hear in this city.
I spent three years in counterintelligence at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. The people I knew back then would be embarrassed by what they see going on today, absolutely embarrassed. And so should everyone involved in it today. And first of all, they’ve created this woven mess of whatever it is – 17 or 18 intelligence – that will never, ever, ever work. Intelligence doesn’t work that way. And cooperation in this city? No.
Oh, two minutes? Jeez, criminy, you should have told me. OK, that’s it. (Laughter.)
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK, thanks, Don.
TED HESSON: So I only get 15 minutes, right? (Laughter.) OK.
First of all, I’m from Fusion. I’m the immigration editor there. And as Mark mentioned, we’re a joint venture of ABC News and Univision. And right now we’re only in the digital realm, but we’ll be launching a broadcast network by the end of the year that will be a 24-hour cable channel.
One of the issues, as Mark was mentioning to me earlier today, that we really focus on is immigration. So I’m glad to be able to be here and represent where we come from and how we cover the issue.
Just to get back to the New York Times, because I think that’s really kind of what we’re here to focus on today, I found it interesting to read Jerry’s pieces about how the Times coverage has changed. And I actually spent some time over the weekend just going back though old Times editorials on immigration from the early ’80s up until around, you know, 1987 or so, after the immigration reform act had passed. And I think what I found was actually something that looked very similar to the way they’re talking about immigration today.
You know, I do believe that there are probably some editorials that were outliers and different in tone that were picked up for Jerry’s piece, but in general I saw them talking about the same issues about enforcing the border, about human treatment for immigrants, and finding ways for people who are here without papers to get legal. I saw talk about, you know, making it harder for people who were here without papers to get jobs. So to me I didn’t see a huge tonal difference in the editorial page. Then again – I’ll be honest – I don’t read it every day, but just from what was cited in the article and what I’m familiar with.
What I will say is that I do believe the center has shifted on the issue, and that doesn’t just go for the New York Times but for media in general. And it’s something actually I wrote about this morning. If you think back to the 2000s, turn on the Lou Dobbs show, you know, any night of the week, and you’re pretty likely to see B-roll of people jumping over the border or hear Lou Dobbs talking about immigrants bringing disease to the U.S.
I don’t know if you all remember that in 2007, I believe, there was – it kind of went viral, as you might say, that Lou Dobbs had said immigrations were bringing leprosy, and then “60 Minutes” ended up fact-checking him and the claims ended up being pretty baseless. And actually the New York Times did a follow up as well, showing that – they interviewed Dobbs and spoke with him and he more or less outright said, no, they had misstated the number of people who were coming into the U.S. with leprosy and that it was actually nowhere near what they had said on the news program.
So I think when you think about – and of course Lou Dobbs is still around and perhaps some of you still watch him, but I think the size of his stage without a doubt has shrunken. And I think especially when you look generationally, young people, people age 40 and under, are not going to be watching a Lou Dobbs-type show in the future. They’re going to want immigration coverage that has a more thoughtful view and that includes immigrants as people who are part of this debate.
And I think that that’s something you didn’t get for many years, and I think partly what Jerry is seeing in the shift and tone is that there is more of an acknowledgement in the media that they’ve been talking about immigrants as lawbreakers and as people jumping fences, and that that isn’t the way the dialogue should have been and that’s not the way it’s going to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now.
One of the things I heard somebody say the other day in our talks about the network Fusion was that they need a new word for “minority,” that there’s kind a pejorative sense to the word “minority.” And I don’t know whether that’s true or not but somebody was just saying that. And then I heard somebody just jokingly say, well, how about “majority”?
And I think that’s something that you actually see reflected in this shift in tone is more of an acknowledgement that this isn’t about a sort of 1950s version of America that we’re trying to preserve, that it’s an ongoing dialogue where we’re talking about people who are here, some of them with papers, some without papers, and about how we find a solution that’s humane and that’s not just about trying to spend money on bigger fences and fund, you know, the companies that build those fences.
And I think it’s – personally I think it’s a good thing that we’re moving in that direction. And I guess in that sense I do agree that the tone has shifted. I don’t think it’s just the Times. I think it’s media in general. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Ted.
MICKEY KRAUS: I guess what Ted sees as a shift in tone I see as something more sinister, approaching a media cartel. I think we’re beyond – we’re beyond conventional notions of bias. I mean, we’re all used to charges of bias. I make them. People to my left make them. People to my right make them. It’s sort of a staple of journalism criticism.
But this isn’t a question of just the Times has sort of left reporters and other places have left-wing reporters or pro-amnesty reporters or pro-immigration reform reporters, and maybe people on the right would have people on the other side. People on the right don’t have people on the other side. We have a monopolistic lock of pro-amnesty sentiment on the media.
I mean, the New York Times, for all its flaws, is more open than Fox News. There isn’t a single anchor on Fox News who isn’t for amnesty. Rupert Murdoch is for amnesty. Shep Smith is for amnesty. Hannity is now for amnesty. O’Reilly is now for amnesty. It’s unanimous. So all the networks are for amnesty. All the –
MS. : Well, the sponsors are.
MR. KRAUS: Right, all the Republican presidential candidates – Jon Chait in New York Times – in New York Magazine pointed out that there is sort of a cartel, a pro-amnesty cartel of Republican candidates. Basically all the Republican candidates you can think of who were mentioned are for comprehensive immigration reform. The only possible exception would be Ted Cruz, and, you know, he’s still on the fence as far as running for president. The think tanks, there’s tremendous pressure from donors on right-wing think tanks to be pro-amnesty. I know that from talking to people who run think tanks.
So there’s this huge sort of juggernaut that doesn’t necessarily reflect popular sentiment; it reflects money in addition to popular sentiment. And with the L.A. Times there’s an extra element, and with other papers – it’s as business decision. They want to appeal to Latino readers. They’re terrified that they will lose Latino readers. They’re terrified that what happened to the Washington Post, where, if you remember, there was a boycott by the black community for a while of the Post magazine. The magazine was dumped on the Post doorstep week after week.
They’re terrified of offending this segment of customers they have, and that inhibits their coverage. I don’t quite know what to call it. “Epistemic closure” is the fancy word that the National Review used. It’s not quite that. It’s more like a quasi-monopoly of opinion.
We have this other phenomenon I call “pundit rot,” which is you take otherwise sensible columnists like Charles Krauthammer and Michael Barone, who normally make sort of cogent arguments, whether you agree with them or not. Suddenly they sort of lost their senses and they will adopt any argument in order to reach a pro-amnesty conclusion.
This was most obvious in a Krauthammer column that proposed actually a very sensible solution to the immigration problem, which is hold off on legalization until the enforcement’s in place, then legalize. And then halfway through the column he says, well, that will never fly; the Democrats will never agree with it. But when does Charles Krauthammer ever say, well, I’m abandoning this idea because the Democrats won’t agree with it, OK? And then he endorsed the Rubio bill, which, if you read Mark’s piece in the National Review, you’ll learn is a fraud.
The same with Michael Barone, who has always been a little squishy on immigration, but he wrote a piece saying he doesn’t think there’s going to be another wave of illegal immigration from Mexico like the last one. He may be right. He knows more about demographics than I do. But he never addresses the argument of why not wait and see if that happens? And are you ever going to get the border enforcement he wants, or the enforcement he wants, if you legalize first, as Rubio does?
So these are things – arguments that they normally wouldn’t make. It’s sort of like there’s an urge to get to yes on amnesty, to get right with somebody. And I don’t know who they’re getting right with, but it reminds me of a – well, it’s almost like a sex drive. You’ll say anything to the girl just to get a yes, you know? (Laughter.) What the hell.
MS. : Now, now.
MR. KRAUS: There’s also a slight conspiratorial aspect to this, which is more than biased. It’s almost as if there was a meeting where people in this pro-amnesty juggernaut sort of decide what they’re going to do. And maybe, you know, Grover has that meeting. He thinks he’s having that meeting. I don’t think that’s the meeting where this is – I’m not sure there is a meeting, but all of a sudden you see 20 articles attacking Ted Cruz.
Why? Why all of a sudden has the press decided to attack Ted Cruz? Well, he’s an interesting person, but he’s also the only conceivable Republican presidential candidate, credible Republican candidate who might do to amnesty what Ronald Reagan did to the last big Washington consensus, which is the guaranteed income.
The guaranteed income was very similar to the current pro-amnesty consensus, and the people of both the left and right – Richard Nixon as well as Democrat George McGovern – were for a guaranteed income. It was the bipartisan Washington consensus. It just happened to be like amnesty, a terrible idea. And there was one politician, this crazy guy out in California, Ronald Regan, who spoke up against it and said it was not a dole; it was a mega-dole. And it turned out he won the day. It didn’t get through Congress.
If you cast your eyes about looking for the potential Reagan in this current debate, your eyes light on Ted Cruz. And sure enough, he’s the person who is under attack. Is that because, you know, a memo went out from Cecilia Muñoz saying we all have to attack Ted Cruz? I doubt it, but there are meetings all around town where that sort of strategy is hashed out.
The final thing I want to echo, Mr. Barlett, where are the Democrats on this? This is a policy which benefits the rich. It hurts working Americans. You would think normally that at least one or two Democrats would speak up on behalf of the people whose wages are going to be decreased, but that doesn’t happen either.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Mickey.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Since I’m paying for the room I’m going to ask the first question. (Laughter.) And I think – I mean, I’m going to start directing it to Ted, but I’m not picking on Ted in particular on this.
When you talked about the issues, this actually – I mean, the legislation we’re talking about in a sense does three things. It legalizes the illegal immigrants who are here, which is really sort of what you were talking about, in a sense, focusing on. It makes promises about future enforcement that supposedly we’re not going to have, you know, another 11 million illegal aliens. Take those promises for what you will but that’s a big part of it. And then the third part is very large increases in future immigration.
And so my question – again, I’m starting with you, Ted, but anybody who wants to speak up, please do. It seems to me that the kind of thing you were focusing on about sort of a shift in tone and, you know, away from “Lou Dobbsism” and what have you, would be relevant specifically in talking about legalization, about amnesty, but wouldn’t necessarily relate to future immigration.
In other words, is it a kind of unacceptable view that you amnesty people were here but you don’t continue immigration at very high million-plus levels every year. Do you see what I mean? In other words, how would those necessarily be tied? And I mean obviously from a – I don’t even mean ideologically, but from a news coverage. In other words, can one – do you see that as a possible perspective that, you know, sort of the circles you travel in would be acceptable?
MR. HESSON: I think looking at immigration reform and these three different prongs that Mark’s talking about, one piece – we actually did a series on the 1986 immigration reform law, that launched on Sunday, and we’re releasing pieces right now. But one of the things we did was put together this, like, minute-and-30-second video that sort of explains what happened, and obviously in a straightforward way.
But one of the things that I think is an important factor to take into account as to how we got to 11 million undocumented people in this country is that there were no viable pathways for the vast majority of those people to come here. You know, for whatever we’ve spent on the border, they still came into the U.S., either on a visa, as about half of people who are undocumented do, or by crossing somehow. And when they got here, they got jobs and worked in places, and perhaps with fraudulent papers and perhaps because employers were looking the other way.
But in any case, we’re looking at 11 million people here. And one of the ways we’ve tried to answer that over and over again is by spending more on immigration enforcement. And we’re talking now in the 2012 fiscal year, $18 billion spent on immigration enforcement, and that’s more than the federal government spends on any other law enforcement combined. So you’re talking FBI. You’re talking DEA, things along those lines.
So could you spend more on it? Sure. I mean, you could spend more on anything, hypothetically. Is that the most effective way to deal with this issue? I personally think it hasn’t been very effective. You know, we’re talking about the 1996 immigration law, which focused heavily on enforcement, and now we’re at – you know, we’re going on 20 years later of that and still talking about the problem.
So I think – personally, I do think opening the doors up, as – I’ve heard Grover Norquist say, you know, build the fence as tall as you want. As long as the door is big enough, that’s all I care about.
I do think it makes more sense to have legal pathways for people to come to the U.S. I personally think that’s why labor unions are on board with this. They’d rather have a worker here who’s on the books than a worker who’s not on the books. It just makes sense from a wage standpoint of view for them.
From a pro-business standpoint of view, there may be businesses that prefer to have their workers here without papers, of course, but I think when we’re talking about wages, it’s just common sense at this point for the unions – they see the equation as these are future union members; these are people who could be in our ranks, and right now – or maybe they’re current union members even, but right now they’re not getting the benefits that legalized workers would get.
So as for how that third piece relates of, you know, opening the door wider, I think it’s essentially you can keep spending and spending and spending but, you know, a triple-layer fence, it’s like – there’s an Onion article about the MACH3 razor, when that first came out, and it was like, they’re going to three blades on your razor – and excuse my language, but he said, you know, it’s a fake – it’s the CEO of Gillette, and he says in the Onion, you know, “F” it; we’re going to five. And then the MACH3 actually came out with five blades on their razor.
So when you think about the fence, do we want to go triple layer? Do we want to go five layers? We could go 10 layers. Spend all you want, but at the end of the day I don’t see that solving this problem.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks. Yeah – oh, no, Mickey. Yeah, go ahead. You had something.
MR. KAUS: I just see this as a triumph of – when I was in the left in the ’60s, it was just at the point when good old fashioned Marxist class politics was being replaced by multiculturalism. And so you weren’t – you know, we old Marxists thought everybody’s a proletarian – white, black, brown. And then these people came out and said, no, no, the brown has the unique perspective.
And I see this shift that Mark talks about where if young people really not only want to give amnesty to people here but also, on high levels of virtue, unlimited future immigration, I think it’s driven by diversity politics. I mean, if you run for office in California, you will learn it is all about the ethnic appeal to Latinos. That’s the entire ballgame. And if you’re opposed to amnesty, Piolin will get on the radio and say, so and so doesn’t like the brown man. And that’s the level at which I think voters react to it.
And it seems to me it is the triumph of ethnic politics over class politics, because there are victims here who the press could report on them if they wanted to report on victims, who are the low-wage nonimmigrant workers who are living much inferior lives because of mass immigration. But they don’t, and it’s not because they’re not Marxist enough. If they were Marxist, they would report it. If they were leftists, they would report it. It’s because of the triumph of ethnic politics.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Gregorio (sp)? Yeah, in the back. Please. Speak up, and if you can say who you are too.
Q: My name is Gregorio (sp) – (off mic). I’ve been working for about 10 years in the area of San Diego/Tijuana. And I work, as Jerry, a lot of issues in regards to immigration. And I’ve seen that since 1984, when the issue of illegal immigration was raised by former Governor Pete Wilson, there were many efforts to build double and triple fences, and deployed a lot of personnel along the border, secure the border.
And I’ve seen that apparently what this measure did was to increase the illegal immigrants in the U.S. because, as you know, before there was a kind of circularity. People used to go back and forth. And there were about 4 billion people. But when this – when the border was secured, then we saw that many people, instead of leaving the U.S., was bringing people.
So I think the U.S. government have invested billions of dollars in measures that I believe are not working. Do you see also this – with this vision? I think this is a waste. Maybe the best way, as Doug was mentioning, is to set up regulations to bring people – orderly and according to the needs of the companies, et cetera.
MR. KAMMER: Regarding – you raise a very interesting point. I think it’s a good point. I think there are some people who have decided to stay rather than go back and forth, but I think there are multiple factors at work here. In part, there’s the shift away from seasonal agricultural work into full-time jobs. In parts there’s the post-IRCA movement of migration and the spread of migration networks across the United States.
Philip Martin, a professor at UC Davis, says that the principal effect of IRCA in ’86 was to spread migrant networks across the U.S. as people were – got legal status, got amnesty, could move around and send the word back home, hey, there are jobs here; come on up. And once, of course, you’re living in New York or New England, going back home is far more difficult. And then you have the fact of we have a lot of migration from Central America and the difficulty – just geographical difficulty for those folks is obvious.
But clearly what – the point you’re raising is a good one, and it’s part of a complicated overall picture, I think.
MR. KAMMER: Yeah. Do you have a follow up, Gregorio?
Q: Yeah. I wanted to follow-up with that. I wanted to know, do you have problems like myself at the border? And you know that the people that is moving illegally, the undocumented people, to the U.S., they have a lot of resources. And they have corrupted many U.S. agencies – immigration, border patrol. And you have seen that in too many cases, they allowed people to come to the states.
So at some point the investment in security on the border doesn’t work that much because you are still having these – possibility – you know, these organizations are using that possibility – (inaudible) – people on this side of the border, they can bring drugs, people and –
MR. KAMMER: I get – I get the point, Gregorio.
MR. KAMMER: Just very quickly, I think this goes to a point that Don raised about interests that are at work here. I think a lot of Congresspeople are happy to throw money at border security, and they have shown very little interest in cutting off the jobs magnet, very little interest in worksite enforcement, which of course is what IRCA explicitly promised, if you read President Reagan’s signing statement.
And financial interests are at work here, it seems to me, diverting the effort away from the worksite, which is why if you’re not skeptical about what’s going to happen in terms of worksite enforcement, I don’t think you’ve been paying attention to what has been going on for the past 30 years.
MR. BECK: (Inaudible.) Speaking from 25 years of being in the newsroom myself, I want to follow-up on something Mickey said and ask you, Jerry – this idea of ethnic concerns, what – and maybe Don’s got the key on this – but I don’t see much interest in Hispanic-Americans. I see interest – I see interest in people who are here illegally.
I see interest in people who want to come here. But I don’t – I don’t see any immigration reporting that is looking at the growing poverty of Hispanic-Americans, the incredible increase in unemployment, the fact that most Hispanic-Americans are stuck in – well, I shouldn’t say stuck. They’re in – they’re in occupations that have had this decline in real wages.
If the media was really driven by an ethnic bias, I would think that we would – that the reporting would be focused at least partly on how immigration affects Hispanic-Americans. I see almost none of that. So I mean, obviously if you just say, well, the media’s just doing it to – for the corporate sponsors, that would explain it.
But it seems like it’s more complicated than that because I think Mickey is right, there is a tremendous amount of sort of multicultural kind of concerns in the newsroom. But why the lack of interest in Hispanic-Americans?
MR. BARLETT: I think you answered it. It’s economic bias. It has nothing to do with –
MR. BECK: Is that all of it? I mean, it’s just –
MR. BARLETT: Absolutely. Before – I grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the western end of Pennsylvania.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Don, can you talk into the mic, so –
MR. BARLETT: Which was – I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was multicultural, because the phrase hadn’t been invented yet. We had a Croatian social hall, a Serbian social hall, an Italian social hall, a German social hall – you can go down the list of ever ethnic group imaginable, because the worked in the steel mills or the coal mines. So it was hugely a multicultural community.
And I keep wondering – going back to that time, because I just – if there was any class warfare going on, I never saw it. And maybe it was because everybody was just trying to do better for themselves, I don’t know. But this today is economics, pure and simple – nothing else.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Ted.
MR. HESSON: I think – and I’m not – I think the question kind of presupposes a few things. And one is, it’s important for us to look at the actual economic impact that immigration has, whether it’s on the books or off the books. And I think you can see the different think tanks are putting out different figures. We have Heritage coming out today with their number on what they think the impact of immigration reform could be. I’ve written about reports that have said it could – you know, Heritage is saying it could cost, what, trillions, is that right?
MR. BECK/b>: Six-point-three.
MR. HESSON: Trillion, yeah. But of course, there are reports that look kind of in a broader way as to what the other factors that immigration could have on the economy that say that it could generate 1.5 trillion (dollars) in GDP gains over a decade or so. I’ve broken them both down. I haven’t had a chance, actually, to look at Heritage yet. But I’ve broken down reports that, you know, look at the positive impacts. And some say immigration reform would bring big positives. Some say they’d be more mild.
I believe even – and I’m not sure you guys can clarify for your organization – but I’ve certainly heard that in general, people look at the economic impact of immigration as a net positive. So just want to clarify that. And I think when we’re talking about the – including Hispanic-Americans in the dialogue, I do think that’s important. And hopefully – we’re hoping that’s one thing that we’ll be able to do with our network fusion.
Looking at our –the package we did on the 1986 immigration reform, one story stood out to me. And it was the story of someone who came to the U.S. illegally and worked as a dishwasher for a number of years. And he eventually gained legalization through the ’86 immigration reform.
And one of our reporters was able to catch up with him today. And now he’s a business owner who actually – he owns – he co-owns one of the restaurants where he washed dishes years before and owns a separate restaurant on his own, employing a bunch of different workers in all capacities you would have in a restaurant.
Not to say – not to say this is the kind of experience that happens from every single person who comes to this country for whatever way, but I think it is illustrative to the economic impact that immigrants do have.
MR. KAMMER: I’d liked to say something just quickly in response to Roy. I think the mood in the Latino community, certainly in Arizona which I know very well, shifted. In 2004, there was a proposition called Prop 200 that was intended in the state to deny certain services to illegal immigrants.
And according to exit polls, 47 percent of the Latino vote, which in Arizona is almost all Mexican-American vote, was in favor of this Proposition 200, despite the fact that there was a well-financed campaign calling it anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, xenophobic and that sort of things. And despite the fact that the state political and economic establishment was against Proposition 200 it passed with almost half of the Latino vote.
Things shifted when the mood became more angry and people like Arpaio and Russell Pearce began to make Mexican-Americans in Arizona feel very uncomfortable. They thought that they were being attacked and their own legitimacy was being attacked. And I think that was a terrible mistake made by some top Republicans.
And it made many Mexican-Americans in Arizona feel this is not just a question of illegal immigrants putting too much pressure on our jobs, our communities, our schools. It’s now a question of us versus them. So I think the framing of that issue on the ground in Arizona for Mexican-American shifted dramatically as a result.
Q: So are you saying that media basically doesn’t cover the issues of poverty among Hispanic-Americans because the Hispanic-American leaders are not advancing those issues right now?
MR. KAMMER: I think they would rather not report on that narrative.
MR. KAMMER: That’s not part of their narrative.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, sir.
Q: Yeah, I –
MR. KRIKORIAN: If you can identify – wait for the mic and identify yourself please.
Q: Hi, my name is David Holzman (sp). I’m from Lexington, Massachusetts. A couple of points. One is –
MR. KRIKORIAN: A question, please.
Q: You sure, Mark?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. (Chuckles.)
Q: Boy –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, then give me one point and then let them respond. No speeches, please.
Q: OK. First of all, it’s more instructive to put the cost of amnesty into per capita. And the old Heritage Foundation, I think it was about 2.4 billion (dollars). I calculated that that was 8,200.80 (dollars) per American citizen, $8,280. So that dramatizes it a little better.
Let’s see, second, I thought that that 18 billion (dollars) for enforcement was debunked already. It’s that –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, I don’t want to discuss the substance of the issue –
MR. KRIKORIAN: I want to talk about the media coverage.
KRIKORIAN: Did you have a question?
Q: No. In that case I think that’s it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: OK. Well, thank you. Anyone else?
My question – was there someone else? Was there a hand up?
MR. KAMMER: I see Santiago arrived from – (inaudible).
MR. KRIKORIAN: We don’t want to put him on the spot –
MR. KAMMER:. OK.
MR. KRIKORIAN: – unless he’s got a question.
Well, I wanted to kind of respond to something Roy (sp) said, and in a sense sort of off of what Ted said.
Now, the story about the dishwasher who came to own the restaurant, that’s a great story. I mean, I would say that’s the kind of thing reporters should be writing about. It’s an interesting, you know, Horatio Alger kind of story. But, you know, there’s the other side of that, and even if there is – there is clearly, you know, a net – very small net economic benefit, labor market benefit from immigration, but that comes from a lot of people losing and a lot of other people winning, and there being a little bit of difference between them.
And what I don’t see stories about anywhere – and I’m not singling you guys out, but anywhere – is, you know, stories about those people who are losing as well as those who are winning, and not just Hispanic-Americans but anything else. And that, I think, really is sorely lacking.
I mean, there’s a particular kind of sob story for – to put it derogatorily, that the media will do on immigration, and it’s always the same sob story, as opposed to a mix of sob stories. Because there really are, you know, people in detention who end up, you know, dying of something. That’s a legitimate topic. But there’s also a legitimate topic of, you know, all the middle-aged African-American men who used to clean the offices in every Los Angeles office building who, you know, almost all at once, you know, lost their jobs.
Or even – there was just a story last – a cover story last year in Washington Post magazine about the McDonald’s south of the Capitol. And it was sort of a, you know, encouraging story of the manager and how he’s running it. And he’s a Salvadoran who’s here on TPS and, you know, was – anyway. But the fact is that what they didn’t talk about is that store went from being all African-American staff, then it was bought by a Cuban franchisee, and now there’s one black American left who is working there, within a period of months.
I’ve seen it myself at a restaurant across the street from our office. Not – well, I’ll say it. Anyway, it’s a Cosi sandwich place. They had a black manager. All the staff were black Americans. It worked. He was transferred to another place. Almost overnight the entire staff switched to Hispanic. Now, I don’t know; that’s a story, and that’s a story that never gets covered. And that’s kind of the thing that’s always concerned me. Anyway, I’m ranting now. (Laughter.)
Yes, Helen (sp).
Q: The other –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Wait for the mic and identify yourself. Where’s the mic? Oh.
Q: Thank you. When are we going to see more coverage of the actual cost of all this, especially illegal immigration? For instance – I mean to the taxpayer? All you have to do is look at Montgomery County school system and see how it’s changed over the last 20 years. And this subject is never covered, the true costs of illegal immigration.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, I mean, I’ll let anybody answer afterwards, but it raises an interesting point. There’s a lot of writing on coverage, you know – I mean on costs. Heritage has got this big report out. You know –
Q: No, but I mean in the newspaper.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, even in the newspapers. But the point, though, is the costs – even however they’re balanced, the cost at a local level, in other words, is very difficult to get.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Schools will not generally cooperate and tell you what the costs are.
Now, there are going to be counterbalancing benefits. Everything has costs and benefits, and you can argue about what they should be, but it’s very difficult to get schools, for instance – they just won’t tell you what they’re spending sometimes on the result of immigration.
Q: Or hospitals. I mean –
MR. KRIKORIAN: And, you know, again, it’s not that that has to be the story.
MR. KRIKORIAN: It’s that it’s a picture that’s missing some colors. That’s my concern.
Yes, Gregorio. Wait until you get the mic.
Q: When you talk about bias of the American media, do you refer just to New York Times or have you analyzed the coverage from Washington Post or TV networks?
MR. KAMMER: Well, I read a lot of newspapers. I was a reporter for over 30 years, Gregorio (sp). I’m a news junkie. And, you know, there was a quotation in our pieces here from Robert Samuelson, who talked about the journalistic groupthink that basically frames those who raise questions as bad people. And he said that this detracts from democratic dialogue and reflects poorly on the professional of journalism. I think there’s a great deal of truth about that. And I think it’s for the best of intentions. Every immigrant has a story. That’s why enforcement of immigration laws is so difficult. It’s a real live human being who’s affected there.
And I derive a lot of my guidance on this issue from someone like Barbara Jordan. Certainly no one ever called Barbara Jordan a racist. She was an icon in the civil rights movement. And she said that in order for immigration policy to make any sense, we have to establish limits, and in order for limits to be coherent, they have to be enforced. Enforcement is very difficult, but I think it’s necessary to have a coherent immigration policy and to have the success of the immigrants who we do accept.
Because I think there should be, like, a social contract where we as a society agree to do all that we can to integrate, to incorporate, to help people become part of the American dream: E pluribus unum. But I do think – and I certainly sensed it in my old home state of Arizona – a resistance when they’re feeling that they’re overwhelmed, that if I embrace people, just more people are going to keep coming. There is a great desire, I think, for a sense that this issue is being managed, and that there are limits, and that those limits will be observed, respected, and were not enforced.
Q: But what do you think about the mainstream media in general, the TV networks? First of all, I can see that in other press conferences of the immigration reform to have the room filled with reporters, and I do not see too many reporters here.
MR. KAMMER: Well, NBC did an excellent report with hidden camera footage from the border showing the reality of border insecurity in Southern Arizona and in South Texas just over the weekend. And I thought – that really surprised me.
I wanted to ask Ted – I mean, as a partner of Univision – Univision, the Spanish-language network, it has a real line. I mean, it is an open advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, for illegal immigrants. And it’s part of the ethnic press. And I think ethnic press in our country has always favored the people from the old country. Does that affect your framing, or your work there, Ted?
MR. HESSON: I mean, I think my view on journalism is that every story has an angle, to some degree. I certainly didn’t read Jerry’s stories thinking that they didn’t have an angle. They’re more like blog posts. But I think for sure – I mean, when I go into reporting stories, there are certain things that I think are important. Humane treatment of immigrants, you know, in our society is definitely important.
Regarding same-sex couples as equal, that’s something that I don’t think is – you know, it is being debated in society, but I don’t have a problem saying right now, you know, I don’t think that’s something that, you know, that I see both sides of that issue on equally.
I think it’s important for journalist to be upfront about who they are and what they’re writing, and I think – as I was telling Mark earlier today, I came from magazine journalism where, when you go into a story, it’s about getting the facts, and it’s also about telling the reader how you saw things and what you learned from getting those facts.
And that’s part of how I do my job. You know, I can’t speak for the other reporters that are part of the joint venture that I’m –
MR. KAMMER: Gregorio (sp), may I ask you –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, Mickey wanted to follow up on that.
MR. KAMMER: Mickey. OK, sorry.
MR. KRAUS: I think it’s even worse in Los Angeles and California than it is in the New York Times. I mean, I ran this sort of quixotic campaign for Senate, and I was – they had two planks. One was skepticism about labor unions. The other was opposition to amnesty. And this is how – the L.A. Times doesn’t like to write about fringe candidates because they’re not serious, because the L.A. Times doesn’t write about them. So there’s sort of a circularity there.
But they finally did a story the day before the election, and this is how they summarized my position on immigration: I’m upset at the party’s refusal to deal seriously with immigration reform. So it made it sound like I was an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform despite all my best efforts. And the woman who wrote it is Robin Abcarian, quite a good reporter, and a very nice person.
And I realized that was the problem. Opposition to amnesty is so toxic in Southern California, she thought she was doing me a favor by removing the stigma of racism and ethnocentricity that would just toxify me among my friends. So she couldn’t even bring herself to summarize in words what I was running on, in the paper. It’s sort of – in the New York Times they will attack opponents of immigration reform and at least say what they are, and the L.A. Times is so toxic that they sort of can’t even bring themselves to put the words on the page.
MR. KRIKORIAN: There’s a question? Yeah, go ahead. Yeah, you.
Q: Hi, this is Nolan Rappaport. I haven’t seen much coverage on Congressman McCaul’s border security bill. I was wondering if that’s just my imagination or there’s something to that.
MR. KRIKORIAN: No, I don’t think it’s your imagination. (Chuckles.) Should there be? Well, why should there be. Tell me.
Q: Well, it’s a bipartisan effort to come up with a solution to border security. It has the ranking member, Mr. Thompson, and the ranking member of the Border Security Subcommittee, Ms. Jackson Lee, as cosponsors. And of course it was introduced by the chairman of our Homeland Security Committee in the House. I would expect it to get more coverage.
MR. : I don’t know what to tell you.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, I don’t know what to tell you either. I mean, I think that’s not so much an ideological thing as a – my guess is it’s sort of the storyline is, you know, there’s Chairman Goodlatte and then there’s the gang of whatever there is in the House, and that’s sort of the – I mean, those are the players on the field. I mean, in other words I don’t – my sense is it’s not necessarily an ideological thing, but I don’t know.
Was there a question – well, there was a question in the back there. Could you had – yeah, OK.
Q: Thank you. Jennifer (sp) from the NBC News Channel. Quick question as a follow up to Jerry when he mentioned Spanish media, or ethnic media, as you mentioned. Do you believe that when they do provide coverage on immigration reform, that Spanish media per se has their own agenda, and how we could better, I guess, fix that, for lack of a better term?
MR. KAMMER: I think it’s an agenda, but I understand it. I don’t understand it when I see the agenda in the American press. I think it’s very personal for the Hispanic media. And many reporters live in the community and know people whose lives are directly caught up in this.
And so I don’t expect there to be objectivity. I do think it would be good if there were occasional reporting on the concerns that are raised by people like us. I know when I watch Jorge Ramos, I mean, and I read his books, he says that people like us are not motivated by legitimate concerns. He says it’s – (speaks in Spanish).
I think that that’s unfortunate journalistically, socially, civically, and it distorts a very complicated story. But at the reporter level, it’s been painful to me. I’ve lost a couple of my Latino reporter friends because they think I’ve gone to the dark side. (Laughter.) It’s painful. And I’m glad that I still have Latino reporter friends like Gregorio (sp). And I see Santiago (sp) showed up, and some others whom I won’t name. I won’t put them in any difficulty – (laughter) – who say that they still – they say, Jerry, it’s OK; we still like you. (Laughter.)
But it’s a difficult thing because many folks take it very personally and wonder about the guilt-by-association angle. Because there are racists who argue for immigration enforcement, they suspect that anyone who raises these questions might be racist.
I spent four years covering the savings and loan scandal, which had its epicenter with the Phoenix financial named Charles Keating. And it was really a matter about regulation. And some who didn’t like regulation complained that those who wanted to reign in the savings and loan were really anti-entrepreneur. They were anti-business. And there was a suggestion that maybe we were, you know, communist.
It’s nonsense, and there needs to be a discussion on the facts, on the merits, but so often these controversial issues, they go right to the emotional issue of suspect motivation. Racism in our country has been discredited long since. It’s no longer acceptable to run for office as an acknowledged, professed racist. It used to be OK. You could do it. Thank god it’s no longer acceptable. And so it’s a very ugly stain, and when someone throws it at you, it’s painful.
But one reason I came to work at CIS was that I thought it was nonsense. I thought it was anti-democratic. I thought that journalism should not cooperate with spreading the smear, and sometimes – actually frequently journalism does cooperate with that smear. And I think that there are legitimate concerns to be raised, and I think CIS raises many of those concerns.
I don’t agree with everything that Mark says. Mark doesn’t require that I agree with everything that he says. But I think that we need to have an open, honest, civil and well-informed debate.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Ditto, Jerry. (Laughter.)
Well, just one point. I actually wrote for ethnic media. I’m Armenian. I wrote a column, a weekly column for an English-language Armenia paper. And I think it’s a category error to put non-ethnic mainstream media in the same category as ethnically specific media. I mean, they’re different animals. They’re different things. And they’re going to operate by different rules.
So, you know, in a sense sort of what Ted does – because I think – I mean, Univision clearly is ethnic media, and what you see in, you know, weeklies and in radio and all that, it doesn’t bother me all that much because it’s kind of like, well, it’s a different kind of thing from the Washington Post or NBC News. That’s kind of my take.
MR. HESSON: I disagree. You know, and I won’t take too long in saying it but, I mean, it just takes – and with all due respect to Fox News, but it just takes flipping on Fox News for an afternoon, or Googling, you know, the top 10 over-the-top Fox News conservative moments or something, to know where that network aligns.
And the same thing goes even for the big papers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which I, in both cases, consider, you know, pretty good places to look for the center opinion on things, from the left and from the right. But you still know which paper is coming from which angle. And there’s a reason that Marco Rubio goes to the editorial board at the Wall Street Journal to get advice on his immigration reform bill and not to the editorial board at the New York Times.
I think you see it in mainstream journalism. Perhaps it’s more subtle. Or perhaps it’s just because you’re looking at them as if they’re this sort of mirror reflection of – you know, as if this is sort of the way things really are, instead of looking at them as what they are, and that’s outlets with some degree of a voice in all cases.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, we have a question there. Oh, two questions. Yeah, you first. Either way. Yeah, OK. Go ahead, sir. Identify yourself too, please.
Q: Prakash Khatri. I was the former CIS ombudsman at DHS.
MR. KRIKORIAN: That’s USCIS, so – (laughter).
Q: Well, yes.
MR. KRIKORIAN: We got “CIS” first. (Chuckles.)
Q: But it was the Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman.
A question for all of you on the panel. It seems that in looking at what the media has been covering, one of the things that becomes very readily apparent for someone who’s looking at it from a different perspective is that the media is almost – or the media, whoever it is, has almost created an environment where we’ve created a second-class person, in a strange kind of way, which is rivaling almost, you know, going back to the Confederate, or the slavery days where we had a second tier of human being.
What is your thought on how illegal immigration has really created that, or the term “illegal immigrant” has really created that kind of an environment where we actually have come to accept two classes of human beings who were created equal?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Mickey, can you take the illegal –
MR. KRAUS: That’s a very good question. And I think Mark may agree with me or not. I’m against sort of some of these schemes on the right, trying to succor the right into supporting amnesty that would create a second class of citizens who can’t – of people who live here who can’t become a citizen. I think if you’re here legally, you should be able to be a citizen. But the question is, who is here legally?
I think if we have – if we had open borders, of if we have a massive amnesty, that will create an ugly socially inegalitarian society because people at the bottom will not be able to make enough money to participate as full citizens in society. We will have people who are entrepreneurs who start their own restaurants who do very well, but the people who wash dishes will never make enough money to – just below the minimum necessary to participate in society.
And we’ve made a deal with the working poor. We say, if you work every day for 40 hours, you’ll be able to make enough to live with dignity and can be an equal citizen. And I think, you know, if we had open borders, we would be like Rio de Janeiro; we would not have that society.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, let’s take the last question.
Q: Loxo (ph) Brigo (ph), CUSH, Churches United to Save and Heal.
I wondered if you gentlemen – first I need to applaud the fact that you gentlemen are doing this press conference to state your right to object. I think it’s always a good thing to have a different perspective. I support a negative heuristic, which includes this search for what is true by looking for what is not true but what is true. So the ability to object I think gives a better perspective of everything because it is the clash – as – (inaudible) – said, it is the clash of unlike ideas that produces what is true.
My question is, have you gentlemen considered black immigration? And there is a tendency in media to discuss immigration only from the perspective of border security as well as the perspective of undocumented or illegal immigrants. And a lot of people in mainstream culture equate as synonyms “immigration” with “illegal.”
Black immigration is a whole different story, and I’m asking if you gentlemen will discuss that for a minute because there are no – black countries don’t share a border with the U.S., so there are no black illegal immigrants. There are black immigrations who are in a status who have overstayed their time.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Right.
Q: But all black people who come to this country as immigrants, because we don’t share a border, we don’t walk into America, we don’t swim across the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean. So black immigration is something that I’d like to hear you address.
And the issues of black immigrants are left out in the debate if we only limit the debate to border security and illegal immigration. Blacks contribute to the U.S. economy before they come here, because we have to pay for visas, as well as $240 billion is what the immigration earning power is. Ninety billion –
MR. KRIKORIAN: I got the question, so let’s let people respond. Anybody have any – I have some thoughts but I’ll let other people have thoughts first.
MR. HESSON: I mean, a quick note. I think that’s an interesting thing to bring up.
I’m thinking, anecdotally, one story that I wrote when I was working on Long Island was about a family that had come from the Caribbean. I recall that they were Jamaican. And they came legally on a visa and basically – and at the time I think they also – one of them at least had a Social Security number so they could work and use that number, but over – you know, after a certain amount of time it expired and they stayed and kept working for something like 13 or 15 years.
But it was a really interesting story because to walk into their house kind of felt like you were in anyone else’s house, but to hear kind of how they lived their life was much different. They still paid their taxes. They used actually that same – the government would take the tax money – I mean, they were able to use that number and, you know, pay the IRS each year, even though it was technically expired, or their work status was technically expired.
But hearing some of the challenges they faced it would be things like taking their – they had a daughter who was born in the U.S., but even – or, no, she was without status too, but having her go out at night and worrying that maybe – they knew she wouldn’t get in trouble but maybe one of her friends would get drunk or the cops would pull her over and ask for her ID and then they’d come back to the house. And there was just this constant fear almost not for themselves but thinking about their daughter and when she would go out at night, that there wasn’t necessarily – you know, they’d be checking their cellphones to make sure that everything was OK.
And I guess that just – you know, I remember doing that story and meeting these people, and it kind of hit home for me. Obviously it’s not a general look at an immigrant population, but it’s one story.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I think there’s one point – the issue you raise is legitimate but it’s not black immigration versus non-black. It’s Hispanic immigration versus everything else. And the reason you see the issue debated as a Hispanic issue is that 75 to 80 percent of illegal immigrants are from Latin America – Mexico and Central America primarily. And even when you look at all foreign-born people in the United States, slightly more than half identify as Hispanic.
So, I mean, in a sense this is sort of where I’d let reporters off the hook because it’s almost like – I mean, I remember when I lived abroad people would say, well, why don’t more people in America speak Georgian or Azerbaijani or Armenian? I was in Armenia for two years. Well, you know, how many languages are people going to learn? You know what I mean?
And in a sense, if you’re a reporter you’ve got a certain amount of space to fill, and writing about – if you’re writing about illegal immigration, most of the stories have to be about Latin American illegal immigrants because they make up three-quarters or more of the illegal population.
I understand what you’re saying but there’s – you know, with the other – whether it’s black immigration or European or Middle Eastern or Asian, it’s – you know, it’s a smaller part of the story. It’s inevitably going to end up getting less of the attention.
MR. KAMMER: And getting back to the theme of the press and immigration, I think one story that’s very badly underreported by the American press is the effects of immigration on black Americans – Native Americans. A couple of weeks ago there was a press conference held here by a group of black leaders who were objecting to the “Gang of Eight” bill, pointing out the effects that they say – the very serious negative effects on African-American employment, the displacement effect.
This is a story that I think all our press has almost systematically ignored because it’s very uncomfortable as part of their narrative. Liberals are supposed to be concerned about our own minority citizens, people who are vulnerable, people who need protection. There is a great deal of energy expended in that direction regarding immigrants, who frequently fit those categories. I mean, who is more vulnerable than someone in the country here illegally? But the story of the displacement of African-American workers I think is terribly covered in the American press.
MR. KRIKORIAN: I’m going to wrap it up to respect people’s time. Any last thoughts, anybody? No. The panelists will be here to accost afterwards, I think. (Laughter.) So feel free. The video of our event – this event will be up on our site I think by the end of this week, if not early next week. So you can watch it at CIS.org. And thank you for coming.