The Corner

Politics & Policy

Lawmakers and Journalists Often Have No Idea What They’re Talking About

I don’t know anything about the military acquisition process, so beyond a general preference for our having the most lethal weapons available and for responsibility in spending, I don’t venture opinions on the subject.  If I were to write, say, that the Marine Corps should have held onto the 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System, readers would be advised to ignore my opinion because I wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

Unfortunately, when it comes to immigration, people in positions of responsibility feel free to venture opinions on topics about which they have not the tiniest scintilla of knowledge. And I don’t mean that journalists and politicians should know the intricacies of a Labor Condition Application or whether the I-90 form can be filed online. I mean the most elementary of facts.

This struck me in the commentary about the termination (delayed til 2019) of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for about 200,000 Salvadoran illegal aliens. TPS is for illegal aliens (and a much smaller number of people on valid, but expiring, visas) who are here when their country suffers natural disaster or civil strife. The thinking was to temporarily hold off sending them home (and give them work permits) until things stabilize. It is thus not a refugee-like resettlement program that brings people to the U.S. from places that have experienced such problems. This is not a trivial distinction: they have not fled the earthquake, hurricane, etc. – they were simply lucky enough to be here when it happened and their prize was a work permit.

With regard to El Salvador, this fact is not buried on page 217 of a Federal Register notice – it’s right there on the USCIS page. TPS is only for Salvadorans who can show “Continuous Residence in U.S. Since: Feb.13, 2001″, the date of the second of two closely spaced earthquakes to hit that country. Research from the Center for Migration Studies suggests that the average (I think they meant median) Salvadoran with TPS moved here illegally four years before the earthquakes.

If you, dear reader, didn’t know this, that’s okay, because it’s not your job. But it is the job of our opinion-shapers and policymakers, and they’ve been embarrassing themselves with their ignorance. A few examples:

From the Sacramento Bee editorial board: “They fled natural disaster in El Salvador and have been given shelter here under temporary protected status.”

Newsweek: “The Trump Administration’s decision Monday to deport nearly 200,000 El Salvadoran refugees who fled gang violence and natural disasters…” (This is incorrect on several levels.)

Vox: “The Salvadorans in question came to the US after a 2001 earthquake…” (The irony here is that Vox has a sharp and knowledgeable immigration reporter; this was written by their congressional reporter.)

Spectrum News: “The Trump Administration is ending the Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of El Salvadorians who fled the earthquake ravaged nation in 2001.”

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who was central to the effort to get a Gang of Eight-style bill through the House in 2014: “These innocent people fled their home country after a disastrous earthquake….”

And presidential wannabe Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.): “These are people who rebuilt their lives in the U.S. after fleeing an earthquake…”

Can’t anybody here play this game?

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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