Reporters Lecture Migrants for 'Not Getting the Message'

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki provided a useful guide to reporters who have taken to lecturing fleeing migrants who they say are...


White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki provided a useful guide to reporters who have taken to lecturing fleeing migrants who they say aren’t “getting the message” that President Joe Biden is sending on whether they should try to cross our southern border.

The main theme of the breathless border coverage has been to demand that President Biden and his administration call the surge in unaccompanied minors a “crisis,” and failing that, perhaps a “disaster.”

But another subplot — closely related to the first — is a constant drumbeat from reporters that migrants aren’t “getting the message” that the administration says it has been sending — that this is not the time to come, that most people will be turned away.

That issue came up at Monday’s daily briefing, in an exchange that was particularly revealing.

NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell began by hitting a variety of right-wing talking points, including pressuring the president to visit the border and bluntly declaring “clearly, the border is not closed.”

“So that seems like a message that is not in tune with what people are actually seeing, based on we’re now up to 15, 16,000 kids in U.S. custody and so forth,” O’Donnell said.

This is a significant tell which confirms that all of the energy around dubbing this surge a “crisis” is not driven by a desire to improve the conditions these minors are experiencing at these facilities, but a clear desire for the administration to stop accepting these migrants. This is a through line in all of the coverage, made explicit here.

After Psaki repeated that the “vast majority of people who come to the border are turned away,” and that this is the message being conveyed by the administration, O’Donnell followed up by asking “Well, is the President frustrated his message isn’t getting through?”

“I don’t think the President sees it that way,” Psaki replied, and added that “The President, the Secretary of Homeland Security have all conveyed that there are a number of factors at play here, including the fact that a number of the people who are making this treacherous journey are fleeing circumstances that are difficult on the economic front, to hurricanes, gang violence. There are smugglers who are making their own pushes about how this is the time to come.”

“So we understand we’re working against a lot of push factors that are pushing people to come to the region — come to the — come to the border. But what we are conveying from our end is that the border is not open. The majority of people are turned away,” Psaki said. “And we are — as — we’re talking about children here, and with children, our focus is on expediting the processing at the border and ensuring they can get to shelters as quickly as possible.”

This notion that migrants aren’t “getting the message” has been parroted for weeks by anchors and commentators alike, but it’s particularly destructive and offensive when it comes from ostensibly “objective” reporters who are responsible to be the voice of the people in that briefing room. And it’s a narrative that is driven by pure privilege, the idea that people are sending their kids on a dangerous journey simply because they’re not being told the right way that they shouldn’t.

This is not to pick on Kelly O’Donnell, but every reporter, anchor, commentator who spews this needs to really listen to Psaki’s answer, and ask themselves what it would take to get them to send their own kids away in this fashion, and what could possibly be done to dissuade them if things were really bad enough, if their kids faced harsh enough consequences, to get them to that point in the first place.

There actually is an answer to that question, and it’s one that should shame every reporter buying in on this narrative because it exposes what they are really advocating for: turn the kids away.

Most reporters would not say this out loud, or maybe even connect the things that are coming out of their mouths with the actual implications of them, but this is what they are pushing for. It’s what the “crisis” narrative is about, which O’Donnell illustrated as well by not asking what the administration needs to properly care for these children, but “what conditions or situation — what metrics would have to be in place for the administration to call it” a crisis?

Let’s get something straight: I believe there is a very important reason for the Biden administration to resist calling this surge a “crisis” that has to do with the anti-immigrant energy behind the narrative and the actual definition of the word “crisis.”

But there’s another reason, and that is the way in which it tells people which side you are on. Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn further clarified those sides when he very nakedly came out against treating immigrants humanely “regardless of their legal status.”

There are fair criticisms to be made of how the Biden administration has handled this issue, and fair rebuttals to those criticisms — I wish they’d be more forceful in calling out the xenophobic underpinnings of this issue and quicker about getting the press their photo op — but what there isn’t is any chance in Hell I’d want to be traveling in a remotely similar direction to that guy.

I would much rather be on the side of the guy who has, from the very beginning, made it clear that his primary concern is the well-being of children who would otherwise face a dangerous journey and a return to desperate and dangerous circumstances, as he did in an interview with Univision almost a month ago.

President Biden will no doubt face a barrage of questions on this issue Thursday night, during his much-anticipated first formal press conference. There will be a great deal of pressure on him to throw some kind of tough talk around in order to mollify the “crisis” crowd. I hope he sticks with the emphasis he’s had all along, the one that so offends John Cornyn and, apparently, all of the reporters who have no clue what it’s like to make such an agonizing decision about their own imperiled children. I believe he will.

I think Psaki summed it up best during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked if more humane policies “might serve as beckoning for some of these migrants.”

“Look, Jake. I think we think there’s a lot of factors. And sure, this president I think is perceived as more humane. We’ll take that,” Psaki replied.

I’ll take that, too.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Reporters Lecture Migrants for 'Not Getting the Message'
Reporters Lecture Migrants for 'Not Getting the Message'
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