WASHINGTON—The extreme flip-flops in narrative about what’s happening at the southern border, should, in theory, discredit the storytellers, says Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops.”
But they’re not.
In lockstep, Democrats and many media outlets pushed a narrative at the end of last year that there is no crisis at the southern border, and that the “crisis” was a tale manufactured by President Donald Trump to play to his base and get money for his wall—a “vanity project,” according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
In June, the narrative swung to say that not only is there a crisis on the border, but it’s so bad that there are even state-sanctioned concentration camps.
“It’s clearly opportunistic. The Democrats are swiveling to whatever position seems to put them in opposition to Trump,” said Mac Donald.
“In theory, the blatant reversals should discredit the proponents of this narrative that now has gone to the opposite extreme. I frankly don’t think it will. I think the people who are in sympathy with the knee-jerk criticism of Trump are willing to go along with whatever twists and turns the anti-Trump narrative takes. So, one could posit in theory that it would undermine their position. I think in the battle of competing ideologies, the inconsistency probably doesn’t matter.”
Since January, Border Patrol has been apprehending more and more illegal immigrants at the southern border every month. Agents warned that the system was being overwhelmed—facilities were overcapacity, medical issues were getting more complicated, and agents were unable to secure the border.
Trump called it a crisis, in a national address from the Oval Office on Jan. 8, but the establishment media had already primed its audiences.
CNN host Don Lemon had even discussed delaying the president’s address. “The president will say what he has to say, people will believe it whether the facts are true or not … and then, by the time the rebuttals come on, we’ve already promoted propaganda, possibly. Unless he gets up there and tells the truth,” he said.
After Trump’s address, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace said, “The big scam of the whole address was that there’s a crisis; there’s not a crisis.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta uploaded a video to Twitter two days later while in McAllen, Texas—the busiest sector for illegal crossings on the border. In the video, Acosta stood beside a border fence and said: “As we’re walking along here, we’re not seeing any kind of imminent danger, there are no migrants trying to rush toward this fence. … No sign of the national emergency that the president has been talking about.”
I found some steel slats down on the border. But I don’t see anything resembling a national emergency situation.. at least not in the McAllen TX area of the border where Trump will be today. pic.twitter.com/KRoLdszLUu
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) January 10, 2019
Acosta failed to mention that the vast majority of illegal crossings in the McAllen area don’t occur where he was standing. Almost all illegal aliens cross the Rio Grande in an area belonging to the Fish and Wildlife Service that is closed to the public. In January, almost 18,000 illegal aliens were apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector.
Trump thanked Acosta the following day for helping to further the case that border walls help deter illegal crossings.
When Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, addressed the White House press corps in January, saying Border Patrol agents “will tell you that walls work,” CNN hosts and guests called it a “stunt.”
Same Evidence, Different Conclusions
The president declared a national emergency on Feb. 15.
Many media and Democrats responded again by saying the president was manufacturing a crisis.
“The president’s unlawful declaration over a crisis that does not exist does great violence to our Constitution…” Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement on Feb. 15.
After visiting the border near El Paso, Texas, in early February, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, “The first, most dramatic thing we found was there is no crisis at the border.”
Mac Donald suggests people’s political commitments can be pre-rational, which allows for selective viewing of evidence.
“This is a very complicated question—where people’s political beliefs and inclinations come from—because one can observe that liberals and conservatives are viewing similar evidence, and they come to very different explanations for that evidence, and different conclusions about it,” she said.
“I’m not willing to say that one side is more substantially deficient in reasoning capacity than the other. So it would appear that there are certain innate dispositions that people have towards the importance of order, of authority, of obedience to the law and that those psychological dispositions contribute to a political worldview and they’re not arrived at through the application of syllogisms or a set of inductive or deductive reasoning.”
Numbers Without Context
By April, Border Patrol apprehended almost 100,000 illegal border crossers and the Department of Homeland Security estimated that fiscal year 2019 would see close to 1 million illegal immigrants.
Media outlets constantly reported that the numbers were far lower than record levels, propping up the “fake crisis” narrative. But the context was omitted from the reporting.
Although 1.6 million illegal aliens were apprehended in 2000, the vast majority were single, male Mexicans who could be returned to their country almost immediately.
“We would arrest them, send them back across the border, and then they would just come back. I mean, I arrested the same group three times in one shift,” Judd said on March 20. “But now, that’s not what we’re dealing with.”
Now, upward of 70 percent of illegal border crossers are family units and unaccompanied minors from Central America—both groups that require a huge amount of extra resources while in custody, after which they’re released into the United States, where most will stay indefinitely, despite close to 90 percent having invalid asylum claims.
Then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan warned in March that the situation was a ticking time bomb.
“With 55,000 families, including 40,000 children, expected to enter the process this month, we are doing everything we can to simply avoid a tragedy in a CBP facility,” McAleenan said during a congressional hearing on March 27.
“But with these numbers, with the types of illnesses we’re seeing at the border, I fear that it’s just a matter of time.”
The number of Border Patrol apprehensions has since increased to an average of 4,500 per day along the southern border and Homeland Security has built several temporary tent facilities to deal with the burgeoning numbers. In May 2018, the average number of apprehensions was fewer than 700 per day.
Border Patrol has said 40 to 60 percent of their agents are unable to focus on border security due to being tied up with processing and humanitarian work.
“That means our border is less secure than it was just a couple years ago. And if people don’t think [cartels] are taking advantage of that, they’re just wrong,” said former ICE chief Tom Homan on June 27.
“When you see a group of 100, 200, 300 family members coming all at once through one sector, that’s not by accident. They’re tying up Border Patrol assets so they can move bad people and contraband through unguarded parts of the border.”
Changing the Tune
On May 1, the administration asked Congress for $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding to help mitigate the extreme overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities that weren’t designed for housing families and large groups of people. In some sectors, Border Patrol was forced to release families within hours.
It took two months before Congress granted the funding and, within that time, the narrative swung again.
By mid-May, Pelosi changed her stance.
“We have never not said that there was a crisis—there is a humanitarian crisis at the border, and some of it provoked by the actions taken by the administration,” she said on May 16.
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) went so far as to imply the administration is intentionally murdering children.
“At this point, with five kids that have died, 5,000 separated from their families, I feel like, and evidence is really clear that this is intentional,” Underwood told acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during a congressional hearing on May 22. “It’s intentional. It’s a policy choice, being made on purpose by this administration, and it’s cruel and inhumane.”
McAleenan called the accusation “appalling,” while the ranking member, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), asked for Underwood’s comments to be struck from the record.
The narrative of “separating children” and “ripping babies from their mother’s arms” still runs rampant.
In May 2018, the administration said it intended to start prosecuting all illegal border crossers, under the law.
The result meant that those who crossed illegally with children were separated while prosecution took place. After major backlash, Trump issued an executive order on June 20 that stopped the prosecution of adults with children who crossed illegally.
Since then, only three instances exist in which Border Patrol will separate children—the child and adult are not related, the adult is a criminal or threat to the child, or if there is a medical problem.
Underwood, along with other Democrats and the establishment media, have continued to focus on family separations—which Trump stopped a year ago—while largely ignoring the fact that children are being rented to adults in order to get an easy ride across the border.
In 2014, fewer than 1 percent of all men apprehended by Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley Sector had a child with them. That number now sits at 50 percent, according to Rodolfo Karisch, chief Border Patrol agent for that sector.
“Make no mistake about it, the word is getting out: if you are part of a family, if you bring a child, you will be released,” Karisch said at a Senate hearing on April 9.
In the Yuma, Arizona, sector, an average of three fake families are discovered every day.
An initiative started in May by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), using rapid DNA testing, has revealed a 30 percent rate of fraud in the two test areas of El Paso and Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
Between mid-April and May 10, ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agents interviewed 562 family units, with a full 48 percent of them being determined as fake.
The most extreme narrative started on June 17 when freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said during an Instagram live post that “the United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.”
Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on her comments over the following days, drawing ire from both sides of the aisle, but not outright condemnation from Democratic leadership.
“The GOP has supported building mass concentration camps on the southern border. Kids & families are dying.
Now they want money for more,” she wrote in a tweet on June 22.
Mac Donald said the accusation is “extraordinarily demoralizing” to border agents.
“These are agents that are trying to uphold the remaining shreds of immigration law that we have—duly enacted laws. And for them to be preposterously compared to concentration camp guards, is just a huge slap in the face,” she said. “And their public reputation matters to people. So it makes it harder to enforce the law. It certainly makes it harder to recruit. And it poisons the discourse as we try to establish order on the border.”
Two reports by the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General that addressed issues of overcrowding at border facilities were seized upon by Democrats and major media outlets to blame Trump for creating such an egregious crisis, while also starting a push to decriminalize illegal border entry.
The latest report, issued on July 2, stated that inspectors observed “serious overcrowding and prolonged detention of unaccompanied alien children, families, and single adults that require immediate attention.”
It also showed that from 2018 to this year, the number of family unit apprehensions in the sector had increased by 269 percent, unaccompanied children by 62 percent, and single adults by 32 percent.
After several lawyers visited detention centers holding children in Texas, they reported to media that the conditions were squalid, with children not having showered for weeks and had inadequate access to food.
Parents in Central America often send their children alone with a smuggler to cross into the United States, where they are then held separately from adults and transferred from Border Patrol to Health and Human Services (HHS). Border Patrol attempts to transfer children within 72 hours, but HHS currently has its own capacity issues.
On July 7, McAleenan appeared on ABC saying the lawyers’ claims were “unsubstantiated” and that the Clint, Texas, facility is a “clean and well-managed facility” with adequate food and water.
“I know what our standards are and I know they’re being followed because we have tremendous levels of oversight. Five levels of oversight,” McAleenan said. “Of course we’re worried about it. Everyone in the entire chain of command was worried about the situation for children.”
He said extra tent facilities have been built for housing children, but the goal is still to move them to HHS as soon as possible.
Child Abuse Narrative
Aaron Hull, chief Border Patrol agent for El Paso, Texas, was grilled on CNN about medical “outbreaks” and hygiene in the facilities.
“We encounter people from all over the world. When we encounter them and when they get their medical screening, we often find that they have scabies, lice, chickenpox, the flu. We immediately treat those people, they’re quarantined and separated,” Hull said on July 8. “The term ‘outbreak’ implies that it’s something somehow occurring or being caused in our facility.”
The reporter then asked about accusations that children weren’t being bathed, sometimes for weeks.
“Every two days, these children are getting offered shower facilities. Now, we cannot make them shower. We can take them to the shower and we can put them there, but we can’t physically make them shower,” Hull said. “It’s the same thing with brushing their teeth—we encounter children who’ve never brushed their teeth. We’ve had a lot of agents had to teach them basic hygiene. This is no secret that all of these aspects—food, water, hygiene, showers, laundry—we’re monitoring all of this. These things are documented.”
But politicians and the media are milking the child abuse narrative.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) on her July 1 show, to talk about how border security officials should be prosecuted for child abuse.
“This is inhuman. Frankly, I think it’s criminal. There ought to be criminal prosecutions of some of the agency heads for child abuse. This is clearly child abuse. It violates probably half a dozen laws,” Nadler said.
The New York Times ran a front-page lead article on July 7, emphasizing razor wire and that detention centers holding children are “the stuff of nightmares.”
Pelosi issued a letter to Democratic colleagues on July 8 saying, “We must lead a Battle Cry across America to protect the children.”
Advocating for Americans First
Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son was killed by an illegal alien in 2014, said politicians should be looking after American children first.
“Why isn’t [Pelosi] cleaning up her own state and fighting for the homeless people and children living in California?” Mendoza said. “There are hundreds of thousands of homeless American children. And none of those children matter to them. They’re never brought up, they’re never talked about.”
She said the rhetoric by the media and Democrats tries to stir sympathy for illegal aliens, “who aren’t immigrants whatsoever.”
“They haven’t filled out one piece of paperwork. Honestly, we owe them nothing. Yet, our politicians are making out that we owe them everything. Nobody in America has given Congress permission to spend the kind of money they’re spending on these illegal aliens’ behalf,” she said.
Mendoza criticized Congress for holding “hearing after hearing” about how to help illegal immigrants, but there is yet to be a hearing for “Angel families,” who have lost loved ones to illegal alien crime.
“To know that my son’s life was senselessly taken and he was a law enforcement officer trying to uphold the laws in our cities and our state and our country, it’s just so discouraging to me,” she said.
“Nothing we do will bring our loved ones back. Nothing we say will. But if they would just listen to us and understand that these people are not all good people who are coming into our country.”
Ocasio-Cortez said on the New Yorker Radio Hour on July 10 that “cruelty is the point” of Trump’s immigration and detention policies.
“Treatment of migrants at our border has been this low-grade static, background noise, torture that has been happening in our country, and it has been getting worse and worse and worse,” she said.
Mac Donald said the left can’t have it both ways.
“It cannot, in the morning, proclaim that the United States and the West are the fonts of all oppression in the world and are the sources of racism and sexism, and homophobia and Islamophobia. And then, in the afternoon, also take the position that every Third-World person of color should be coming into the United States,” she said.
“They’re mutually contradictory. If this is such an oppressive place, those Third-World people of color would presumably be far better off staying [put].
“But there’s some part of the left that understands that arriving in the United States is a ticket to opportunity and gives you freedom from oppression and government violence, not the opposite. So the left is completely internally contradictory on that front, as well.”
Decriminalizing Illegal Entry
Pushing for a huge amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, as well as the dissolution of ICE, have been themes for well over a year.
The latest effort is to decriminalize border crossings.
“A violation of status is not a reason for deportation. That’s just not so,” Pelosi said recently.
At the first debate for Democrat 2020 candidates on June 26, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said he would get rid of Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which deems entering the United States without an inspection a crime.
“My plan also includes getting rid of Section 1325 … to go back to the way we used to treat this, when somebody comes across the border, not to criminalize desperation. To treat that as a civil violation,” Castro said.
The next night, during the second part of the Democratic presidential debate, eight of 10 candidates raised a hand when asked if they would also do the same.
“Continuing to send the message that there are no rules and there are no limits … that is the biggest magnet one can possibly set out. It tells people you come and you’re here. There’s no consequences to your behavior,” Mac Donald said.
“That open borders philosophy leads to this flood of people that is simply beyond the capacity of a government—no matter with how much goodwill—to respond. And, at some point, there is a limit to how many resources should be diverted from other uses in the United States to serve as the first jumping-off point to this flood of migration.”
Mac Donald said the talk of decriminalizing illegal border entry is part of an agenda to “break down any impediment for mass, low-skilled immigration from south of the border. And to say that any attempts to enforce immigration laws is somehow fascist.”
She believes the left has a desire for massive demographic change in the United States, brought forth by an identity politics position that postulates that a certain demographic profile oppresses everybody else.
“I think they really think that a predominant sort of European-based civilization in America is unacceptable, that it’s the source of all oppression in the world—which is, of course, an absurdity. And they want to change that culture, and that civilization, and that demographic reality,” she said.
Low-skilled immigrants also tend to vote Democrat, she said.
“They tend to back big government, big welfare programs, and higher taxes … a plus for the Democratic Party,” she said.
“I just think it’s a political war. If the Democrats take the White House in 2020 and they’re true to their word, they’re going to open the immigration system even further.”