New York Times reporter calls amnesty for illegal immigrants a ‘civil right’

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The campaign to win amnesty for illegal immigrants is “a very substantial civil rights movement,” according to New York Times reporter Julia Preston, who, along with other progressive journalists, spoke about the issue to a Washington, D.C. audience on Friday.

Preston is the New York Times’ primary immigration reporter — and the paper is cheering the push by progressives and employers to grant amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants during an extended recession. The Gray Lady also backs the simultaneous campaign to double legal immigration, which would bring in 22 million additional immigrant workers and consumers by 2023.

But, warned Preston, a “popular resistance out in the country” has sprung up to oppose amnesty.

A major part of her job is exposing and tracking the resistance, she said.

“I have to write about… Where is the resistance? How strong is it? Is a popular resistance in this cycle or is it more of a political/ideological resistance?” she said.

The resistance has critically weakened chances for an amnesty this year, several other journalists complained during the event.

The push-back “frankly, has killed it for this year, [but] I hate to be pessimistic,” said Ryan Lizza, a reporter for The New Yorker who wrote a revealing behind-the-scenes account of the Senate’s immigration debate in June.

“I”m pretty pessimistic, unfortunately, about immigration reform,” added Beth Reinhard, a Florida reporter who now works for National Journal.

Americans’ resistance to progressives’ immigration policy preferences is rallied by immigration reform groups, such as Numbers USA, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. These reform groups say they do not want to halt immigration, but want to reduce the inflow to help average Americans, rather than company owners and shareholders, or government officials and government-funded groups.

The push for amnesty is supported by various progressive groups — such as La Raza, unions and environmental groups — that favor government-imposed cultural variety, which is also called diversity. Increased diversity gives university-educated professionals more opportunities to arbitrage the resulting cultural and economic conflict for power, profit and status. For example, immigration creates more disagreement and conflict, giving journalists more raw material for their media products, and more opportunities for politicians to offer fixes to conflicts they helped create.

Immigration works for progressives, because most immigrants tend to back Democrat who are willing to shift laws, culture and funding to aid the immigrants.

Despite the reporters’ declarations of pessimism, the immigration push is not dead in 2013. GOP leaders say they’d like to push a major immigration rewrite through Congress this year, despite public opposition.

Throughout Friday’s presentation, Preston and Reinhard repeatedly expressed their sympathy for illegal immigrants without expressing empathy for Americans.

Americans are worried about the impact of immigration on their jobs and their schools, and “it is easy [for politicians] to exploit the turmoil that happening,” said Reinhard.

“It gets really ugly out there,” she added.

Americans’ use of “illegal” to describe illegal immigrants is dehumanizing, said Ted Hesson, an immigration editor at Fusion, an English-language network being launched by ABC and Univision.

Preston repeatedly described her sympathetic views towards would-be illegal immigrants.

On one trip, Preston said she saw an “incredibly sad and distressing scene on the other side of the border,” where a group of illegal immigrants had turned back at the border because of guards, rough terrain and cold weather.

She did not, however, discuss the effects 11 million immigrants would have on her fellow citizens’ schools, neighborhoods and workplaces, positive or negative.

Preston also described a November 2012 convention where younger, U.S.-educated illegal immigrants pledged to lobby for an unlikely amnesty for 11 million other illegals, instead of seeking a pragmatic deal with GOP legislators that would provide residency to only few million young illegals.

Her published article portrayed the group as a spontaneous assembly of young migrants. She did not mention that the group, titled “United We Dream,” is actually backed by the Service Employees International Union. The union opposes a mini-amnesty for the younger illegals, and harnesses them — plus the high-tech sector — to push for a “comprehensive” amnesty that would boost Democrats’ election-day turnout by at least three million voters after 2023.

Preston described the moment where the group of younger illegals — she called them “kids,” although some are older that 30 — voted to end their campaign for a mini-amnesty for themselves, and instead to spearhead the progressives’ push for a big amnesty that would include their parents and millions of other illegal immigrants.

“Seven hundred kids got out of their chairs and kind of came forward and… embraced [several of the] parents,” she said. The younger illegal immigrants “are really very special, and I’m just sitting there going, ‘How come I can’t get this kind of game from my daughter?’” she said, with a catch in her voice.

While displaying her sympathies toward illegal immigrants and her suspicions about Americans, Preston said she, her editors and the top editorial writers at the New York Times acknowledge that the immigration debate will fundamentally shape the United States.

“There is a strong understanding on the editorial desk and at the masthead of the New York Times, that this issue is about the heart and soul of the United States, and who we are going to be as a nation going forward,” she said.

The Daily Caller asked Preston if she had written articles showing empathy to the many Americans who worry about their futures and their children’s futures.

“My job is not primarily to be an emotional person, but I am supposed to be writing stories that people [who read the NYT] will want to read… I do get excited about that,” she responded.

She cited two examples of her empathy towards Americans. One of her articles described an American tech-worker who charged his employer with improper treatment. She said she was “excited and distressed” by this solitary American’s troubles.

The second article described the impact of the recession of Americans and immigrant workers in Morristown, Tenn. But that article expressed more sympathy for illegal immigrants than for Americans.

“One immigrant whose Morristown welcome ended abruptly was Balbino López Hernández… [also] Enrique C., 48, and his wife, Rita, 38, both illegal immigrants from Mexico, learned how vulnerable their livelihood here was when both of them lost their jobs in recent months,” she wrote.

The Americans got less sympathetic coverage. For “Joe Goodson, however, the recession is old news… [and] Donnie Parker, 45, was laid off in September from his $14-an-hour job as a skilled machine mechanic at a Koch poultry plant,” Preston wrote.

The reporters at the event complained that Americans are ignorant about immigration issues.

“We have to continue to challenge politicians when they roll out the talking points about the border being so out of control. Well, wait, that’s not the statistics I have,” Reinhard said.

“Very few people in the United States, and I think very few politicians on the Hill, understand what are we talking about when we talk about ’going to the end of line,’” Preston said. “We talking about [an immigration] line that is currently 17 years long” for would-be immigrants, she added.

People have “strongly held, passionate views… that are often totally wrong,” said Ray Suarez, an anchor at PBS NewsHour, and believe “that many immigrants never learn English, that they’re almost all Mexican… There a lot of commonly held ideas about immigration that just ain’t so.”

But the reporters didn’t talk about ignorance that helps the progressives’ push for amnesty.

TheDC asked the reporters to explain why only 10 percent of respondents in a May 2013 survey by Rasmussen Reports know that current law allows roughly 1 million legal immigrants per year. Fifty per percent of the respondents declined to guess, and 31 percent thought the number was well below 1 million. The survey also showed that only 26 percent of respondents favored an immigration increase, despite their gross underestimation of the current inflow. The pending Senate bill would double the inflow, and invite one new immigrant for every two Americans who turn 18.

“There’s a lot of ignorance about a lot of things in this world… people don’t read and don’t educate themselves [and] I’m not sure that’s our fault,” Reinhard said defensively.

Knowledge of the immigrant numbers “is a pretty basic thing, and if we’re going to have a national argument about this, we ought to know about the size of the problem,” Suarez admitted. “Whether it is our collective fault or our institutions’ fault, I don’t know,” he added.

The public’s ignorance about the number of guest-workers mutes opposition to immigration, Suarez admitted.

Most of the journalists’ readers and viewers are university-educated Americans, and are also the protective parents of university-trained American youths, whose future job prospects and incomes would be directly shaped by any new immigration law. The pending Senate bill would provide green-cards to an unlimited number of foreign technology experts, and also would double the nationwide pool of resident, lower-wage, university-trained guest-workers to almost 2 million.

“If more Americans knew [about university trained guest-workers] they wouldn’t be as sanguine about it as they are,” Suarez said. “I wish more Americans knew about it, so we could have a better debate on it,” he added.

When people are informed about immigration numbers, support for the Senate bill drops sharply. In August, for example, NumbersUSA produced a poll showing that only two percent of respondents strongly back laws that allow businesses to bring in immigrant workers instead of hiring younger Americans, African-Americans or Latino Americans.

Even as the journalists complained about or dismissed public ignorance, they also complained about their inability to persuade Americans.

“It is somewhat beyond our control whether people are going to be persuaded or not, but we have to do our best,” Reinhard said.

The rise of “partisan media” makes their educational task more difficult, partly because “unfortunately, we all get lumped in that,” she said.

“It is more important than ever to, you know, have as much reporting as possible behind your story,” she said. “You know people kind of assume it is just your opinion, [and say], ‘This is what you think,’” said Reinhard. Reporters’ “opinions have become pretty cheap these days.”

But Lizza noted that opinions are becoming hardened on the progressive side of the partisan divide.

There’s a “partisan media on both the left and the right,” he said.

“It is very, very difficult to change people’s minds, especially people who are highly engaged in politics, [who] associate strongly with one party or another, and then take their cues as to what to believe on an issue from the party leadership,” he said.

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