Bret Stephens was hired on as the in-house conservative columnist for The New York Times in the interests of bringing “balance” to The Times’ admittedly liberal editorial page. But balance has its limits at the Times, especially when it comes to immigration.
Neither the paper’s editorial page nor its news coverage of immigration issues can tolerate any deviation from either liberal or Wall Street prescribed orthodoxy that immigration is an unmitigated good and that more is better and even the suggestion that there be less of it is heresy.
Stephens’ latest column, “Only Mass Deportation Can Save America,” is an 825-word assault on the majority of the American people, and poor and working-class Americans in particular. It is also grossly dishonest.
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Never mind the carefully selected facts (or more aptly, factoids) that Stephens uses to make his argument that immigrants are more noble, worthy and deserving than “complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant” Americans whose families have been in this country for more than a few generations. It is those undeserving folks whom Stephens satirically suggests ought to be deported.
We’re all guilty from time to time of seizing on facts that support our already entrenched beliefs and ignoring those that don’t. But Stephens isn’t just guilty of extreme selectivity in making his case that immigrants are better than the rest of us. He is flat-out misrepresenting who might be subject to deportation if the president carries through on his promise to enforce our laws.
Stephens’ “facts,” meant to demonstrate how intellectually, morally, and motivationally superior immigrants are to Americans who live outside of a few select zip codes in Manhattan and Silicon Valley (the latter of which probably would not exist if not for immigrants, he implies), all pertain to legal immigrants. Legal immigrants are not subject to deportation, and even “the dastardly Donald” could not round them up and cruelly kick them out even if he were inclined to do so.
The people who are subject to deportation are illegal aliens. Stephens deliberately uses characteristics of high-achieving legal immigrants — while ignoring the large segment of the legal immigrant population that is poorly educated, poorly skilled, and dependent on public assistance — to rail against enforcement of laws against illegal aliens.
There are no data that suggest that illegal aliens are the driving forces behind tech start-ups, or closing in on a cure for cancer. There is ample evidence that they are displacing and driving down wages for a lot of Americans Stephens dismisses as “complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant.” This description, with the addition of the word “pompous,” would accurately apply to the folks who get to spout their opinions several times a week on the New York Times editorial pages.
“So how does America become great again by berating and evicting its most energetic, enterprising, law-abiding, job-creating, idea-generating, self-multiplying, and God-fearing people?” Stephens asks rhetorically. Well, rhetorically and empirically, we’re not. We should be evicting people (even the God-fearing ones) who flout immigration laws intended to protect the broad swath of the American populace Stephens manages to berate in his column. We should also reform our legal immigration policies to maximize the likelihood that the people we do admit actually are the “most energetic, enterprising, law-abiding, yada, yada, yada…” folks on the market.
And, for good measure, we should probably stop stereotyping broad categories of people, either positively or negatively, even in clearly labeled opinion pieces published on the pages of The New York Times. It is hard to imagine that The Times would publish any piece that described native-born Americans in such broad-brush laudatory terms and immigrants as the “stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning” (and they’d be right not to).
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Actual balance on the Times’s editorial page would be nice. But what would be even nicer is a little honesty and integrity – qualities that were glaringly absent in Stephens’ diatribe against immigration enforcement.
Ira Mehlman is the media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).