Is the Media Stumbling on Immigration Coverage?   

Immigration reform has been a hot topic during this election cycle. With both presidential nominees presenting very different plans for the betterment of our current deportation system, it is clear that the issue is far from being resolved. Traditionally, when people think about illegal immigration and illegal aliens, they think people from Mexico and other South American countries. But what about those from other parts of the world?

The Black Lives Matter Movement added a demand to their now 10-point platform that calls to “end the war on black people.” This point focuses on immigration reform in reference to those from African and Caribbean countries. The platform calls for an “end to all deportations.” To understand this platform, it is important to understand why the Black Lives Matter Movement decided to adopt it in the first place.

According to New York University Law School’s Immigrants Rights Clinic, black immigrants make up 7 percent of the total immigrant population (roughly 3.4 million people) and 10.6 percent of all immigrants in removal proceedings between 2003 and 2015.

Last year U.S. Immigration and Customs reported that of the 235,413 people deported from the United States, roughly 1,907 came from African and Caribbean nations, making it the second highest rate of deportation from cross ocean countries. This figure includes both criminal and noncriminal immigrants.

In an interview with Fusion, Carl Lipscombe, co-author of the platform, explains that, “deportations and immigrants in detention is really under the banner of mass criminalization.” Because of this, black immigrants are three times more likely to be detained and deported based on an alleged criminal offense.

The Black Lives Matter platform also calls to “repeal the 1966 Crime and Immigration Bill,” which would give immigrants the right to an attorney since immigration courts fall under civil rather than criminal. These laws apply to both illegal immigrants and those in the United States with a green card.

This action would affect all immigrants and could help to boost the following of immigration reform activists. It could also create a bridge between the Latino and black communities in the context of immigration and increase the coverage of the issue.  Daniel Martinez, a George Washington University sociology Professor and a principal director for the Migrant Border Crossing Study,  explains that while the two groups face different issues, “there is substantial overlap, especially when it comes to issues of excessive use of force and the criminalization of black and Brown bodies.”

In the future, we might see more about the raids on the homes of black immigrants, the targeting of blacks and the relation that has to the rate of immigration. We could see a shift in media focus from exclusive coverage of the Latino conversation to those of other nations.

So why has the media not covered stories dealing with black immigrants or immigration from other parts of the world in general? Could it be because there are more undocumented immigrants from the Western Hemisphere? Or that the black immigrants are mixed in with African Americans?

Maybe it is because immigrants from European countries seem more “dangerous” than those of Middle Eastern, African, and South American countries.

According to Professor Martinez, “the media focuses entirely too much on the issue of border enforcement and security as well as the removal of ‘criminal aliens.’” This is especially true since our border has the most military reinforcement in history, and migration from Mexico is at its lowest since 1970. In addition to that, most criminal aliens “have been removed for largely minor offenses, not serious or violent offenses.” In fact, Martinez said, “for several reasons, immigrant communities tend to be some of the safest communities in the United States.”

With the election consuming the media’s focus, many important developments in immigration and deportation reform are going unnoticed. The New York Times has produced many insightful pieces about immigration and the lives of immigrants while other major media outlets have only reported on immigration related to the election cycle.

Mainstream media has a way of controlling the narrative of the nation. While the way people consume media may have shifted, the source from which they gather information has not shifted as much as we might believe. The focus now needs to be educating the people about the reality of immigration.

The routine mistreatment of immigrants, as well as those faced with deportation because of the lack of a ruling on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by the Supreme Court, or the large number of people who face deportation over petty crimes and misdemeanors are all subjects going unnoticed by large portions of the media, and this needs to change.

With immigration being such a big ticket item this election it is important that the public is at least presented with information relevant to making an informed decision regarding our nation’s future leaders. Is it not the media’s job to inform the public?

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