Published August 01, 2014
Shame on Matt Drudge. The owner/operator of the world’s most influential news-aggregating website, The Drudge Report has torn a page from the William Randolph Hearst yellow journalism playbook to fan the flames of public hysteria about the surge of undocumented children immigrating to the United States.
On Tuesday of this week, with explosive world crises involving Gaza and Ukraine dominating the news elsewhere, the first 15 stories on The Drudge Report and his banner headline all concerned that adolescent immigrant surge across our southern border.
His millions of subscribers would be justified in thinking these undocumented immigrant children posed the greatest threat to our way of life since the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, the Great Depression or the Civil War.
Particularly egregious was the fifteenth story on Drudge’s melancholy list, one concerning the potential spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Although the story actually focused on the disease’s outbreak in West Africa, Drudge’s clever placement on his list of related stories was clearly meant to convey the message that a brown tidal wave of adolescent Walking Dead-like, filthy and infected immigrant ragamuffins was bringing the dread killer virus across the Rio Grande.
The Ebola story’s cynical placement anchoring the immigration story bundle brought to mind earlier attempts to stoke anti-immigrant hatred against the Irish, Chinese, Italian and European Jews in the 19th and 20th Centuries. In all cases, the angle of the anti-immigrant activists was the same: fear the newcomers for they are different from you and me, diseased, violent, and coming to steal our way of life.
The scare tactic is clearly working, how else to explain ordinary Americans rousing themselves to participate in anti-immigration demonstrations, including angry picketing outside immigrant holding facilities run by the Homeland Security Agency. To watch seemingly average, ordinary Americans screaming at bus loads of bewildered and frightened immigrant children is disheartening.
This critique of Drudge’s editorial manipulation, and similar breathless campaigns on cable news is not to suggest the child immigrant surge is not an important, even urgent issue. Shame on our broken Congress for failing to do anything to alleviate the situation before running off Thursday to their five-week summer recess. Absent any action, the children are overwhelming immigration courts, and swamping those facilities dedicated to their care and protection. As they are scattered in various communities, 5,000 in the New York metropolitan area, another 1,000 in Chicago and cities elsewhere, local and state politicians are demanding full disclosure from the federal government about where the dreaded children are being placed.
President Obama is right to call the surge a humanitarian crisis, one he must bear part of the blame in creating by not understanding how his message of compassion toward earlier waves of immigrant children was being misconstrued in the civil anarchy of Central America. He should have spotted this trend a year ago and moved to counter the misinformation being spread by immigrant smugglers and local media that undocumented, unaccompanied minors would be welcome, if only they could make it across.
Still, these children cannot now be deported cavalierly back to those home countries they have risked life and limb to flee. All must be granted full, fair hearings to determine whether they deserve “refugee-status” and are therefore able to stay in this country for fear they will be victimized if deported back. Those refugee laws should be liberally applied in deference to our tradition of compassion toward the young and needy. The dysfunctional governments of their home countries must also be held accountable for the moral and financial burden the children are placing on the United States.
I merely make the point that the arrival at our doorstep of 57,500 children from October 2013 through June 2014, while alarming, is not an existential crisis for the United States. We could feed every poor child in Central America with the excess food we toss into our dumpsters. Sponsors are being found to care and supervise youngsters who’ve recently arrived.
Whatever happens with the kids, or those thousands who will surely follow, the Republic will survive.