How Immigration Cases Are Prioritized: First Kids, Then Criminals, Then Everyone Else

Central American immigrants sit atop the so-called La Bestia (The Beast) cargo train, in an attempt to reach the Mexico-U.S. border, in Arriaga, Chiapas state, Mexico, on July 16, 2014. 
Elizabeth Ruiz/Getty Images
Central American immigrants sit atop the so-called La Bestia (The Beast) cargo train, in an attempt to reach the Mexico-U.S. border, in Arriaga, Chiapas state, Mexico, on July 16, 2014. 
Elizabeth Ruiz/Getty Images

Immigration Cases Awaiting Resolution at All-Time High

Jose Antonio Vargas might have received a "Notice to Appear" before an immigration judge after his detention in McAllen, Texas, on Tuesday, but it might be years before he goes to court — if ever, an immigration lawyer told Journal-isms on Wednesday.


"The first priority is the kids," said Dan Kowalski of Austin, editor of Bender's Immigration Bulletin and online editor of the LexisNexis Legal Newsroom, as he listed the categories of cases that take precedence. "Then those detained with criminal records," then the noncriminals. It could be years from now" that Vargas' case reaches a judge.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, known as TRAC, collects such immigration court data. It reported last week, "As of the end of June 2014, the number of cases awaiting resolution before the Immigration Courts has climbed to an all time high of 375,503 — an increase of more than 50,000 since the start of FY 2013 . . . California has the largest backlog (77,400 cases), followed by Texas (62,143) and then New York (55,010). . . ."


Vargas, 33, the undocumented journalist-turned activist, spent the first day since his detention responding to charges that he had engaged in a publicity stunt.

Erik Wemple reported for the Washington Post that on the CNN program "New Day," Vargas said, "Is it a stunt to get on a plane . . . to try to get out of south Texas?"

"Pressed by 'New Day' host Chris Cuomo on how he, an immigration activist, could possibly be ignorant of the interior check, Vargas responded, 'I did not anticipate it. . . . I'd never been to the Texas border,' said Vargas, noting that he hadn't realized that the area was essentially a 'militarized zone.' Lawyers for Vargas advised him to attempt to fly out of McAllen, he told Cuomo. . . ."

Vargas posted a statement on the website of Define American, the group he founded. "As an unaccompanied child migrant myself, I came to McAllen, Texas, to shed a light on children who parts of America and many in the news media are actively turning their backs on. But what I saw was the generosity of the American people, documented and undocumented, in the Rio Grande Valley.


"I've been released by Border Patrol. I want to thank everyone who stands by me and the undocumented immigrants of south Texas and across the country. Our daily lives are filled with fear in simple acts such as getting on an airplane to go home to our family. With Congress failing to act on immigration reform, and President Obama weighing his options on executive action, the critical question remains: how do we define American?"

Writing for Mother Jones, Jenna McLaughlin listed eight reasons why Vargas would not be deported:

"He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a celebrity.? . . .

"He's been detained, and released, before . . .

"He's dared the ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to deport him, and it did nothing . . .


"He's not a priority . . .

The courts are already backlogged . . . 

"Prosecutorial discretion might have favored him anyway . . .

"He has a slew of lawyers, immigration groups, and public figures supporting him . . .


"He'd be a giant headache when the government already has plenty. (See also No. 1.) . . ."

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center reported on the impact the border controversy is having on public opinion.


"As the president and Congress struggle over how to deal with the influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America across the U.S.-Mexican border, a new survey finds that the public favors a shift in U.S. policy to expedite the legal processing of the children.

"President Obama gets very low ratings for his handling of the issue. Just 28% of the public approves of the way he is handling the surge of children from Central America, while twice as many (56%) disapprove. That is one of the lowest ratings for his handling of any issue since he became president. But Obama's overall job rating is virtually unchanged from April: 44% approve of his job performance while 49% disapprove. . . "


Asked whether the U.S. should continue its current policy on the influx of children, 35 percent of whites — but 53 percent of blacks and 49 percent of Hispanics — said yes. Fifty-six percent of whites, 42 percent of blacks and 47 percent of Hispanics said no.

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Tears for the Border Children

Daniel Gonzalez and Bob Ortega, Arizona Republic: Pipeline of children: A border crisis


Michelle Malkin blog: Jose Antonio Vargas: The face of the entitled illegal alien

Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times: Undocumented minors without lawyers don't stand much of a chance


Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post: Here's One Way Jose Antonio Vargas Is Already Winning His Fight

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: America the heartless

Joshua Partlow, Washington Post: Honduran child migrants leave home because of poverty and violence


Tracie Powell, The Making of "Pipeline of Children: A border crisis"

Julia Preston and Laura Tillman, New York Times: Jose Antonio Vargas, Immigrant Activist, Is Released by Border Patrol in Texas in Visa Case


Jorge Ramos, Fusion: Jose Antonio Vargas Has History of Questioning Why U.S. Won't Deport Him (video)

Brahm Resnik, KPNX-TV, Phoenix: Arizona politician mistakes YMCA campers for migrant children


Jim Romenesko media blog: Murrieta's PR Man Threatens Cartoonist With Lawsuit for Using #MurrietaHateCityUSA Hashtag

Christopher Sherman, Associated Press: Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, detained by US Border Patrol


John Stanton, BuzzFeed: 50 Children Were Born To Undocumented Minors In U.S. Custody In 2013

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University: New Data on Unaccompanied Children in Immigration Court


Detroit Free Press Seeks to Save High School J-Program

The Detroit Free Press is trying to save its 29-year high school journalism program, Paul Anger, Free Press editor and publisher, told Journal-isms on Wednesday.


He was responding to a report in the Columbia Journalism Review that the project is "abruptly ending" within weeks.

"Need to clarify a few things," Anger said by email. "First, we are not ending our summer apprentice program, which draws from high schools and gives students a chance to get bylines in the Free Press as they are mentored. We intend to continue with that into the future.


"Also, we have not made an announcement on the program that runs during the school year, because we're hoping we might find a way to keep it. And if we cannot do it this fall, we are not saying it's gone forever. No one knows more than the Free Press what the program has meant."

Aaron Foley reported Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review that multiple Free Press employees "learned that the program would be discontinued on Monday but declined to speak for attribution before the paper issues a formal statement." These employees said "The Gannett-owned newspaper no longer has a financial interest in funding the program." 


Foley's story continued, "'With (Detroit Public Schools) in such turmoil, this is the only newspaper outlet some of these schools had,' says Emiliana Sandoval, copy chief at Motor Trend, who ran the program while a [copy editor] at the Freep from 1999-2006 and then full time 2006-07. 'They (the students) can't express themselves. Part of the program is learning about writing, communication, interviewing — all things that can be used in any job, not just journalism.'

"Alumni expressed concern that budding Detroit journalists, particularly black ones — Detroit's population is 83 percent black — would be shut off from a rewarding career if the program shuts down. 'We've already seen newspapers are losing minority staffers at a fast rate. This isn't helping — there's no feeder system,' Sandoval says. The most recent American Society of News Editors census shows that about 12 percent of journalists in newsrooms are minorities, a figure that has remained stagnant for years. . . . "


Reporter Quits After Comments on Young Black Men, Dads

"Following his unexpected on-air comments about 'young black men growing up without fathers,' veteran reporter Sean Bergin says his now-former employer News 12 made him an 'offer I had to refuse, ' " Jason Howerton reported Tuesday for TheBlaze.


"The news company slapped him with the equivalent of a 'demotion,' significantly slashing his pay and allowing him to work just one day a week in Long Island.

" 'They offered me one day of work a week doing only light features, and no hard news,' Bergin told TheBlaze. 'It was only about $300-a-week — who can survive on that?' As a contracted employee, Bergin reportedly made $1,300-a-week working on stories in areas of New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester County.


"In a new interview, Bergin admitted that he 'broke the rules' by editorializing during his reaction to a story surrounding the tragic murder of Jersey City police officer Melvin Santiago, who was shot in the head as he sat in his patrol car with a fellow officer at around 4 a.m. on Sunday. However, he also explained why his emotions got the better of him after he spoke to the killer's wife and other members of her community.

"As first reported by TheBlaze, Bergin found himself in hot water after he stunned his superiors with unexpected commentary about the 'anti-cop mentality that has so contaminated America's inner cities.' He went on to say that the 'sick, perverse line of thinking' is seen everywhere from 'Jersey City, to Newark and Paterson to Trenton.'


" 'It has made the police officer's job impossible and it has got to stop,' he added. 'The underlying cause of all of this, of course: young black men growing up without fathers. Unfortunately, no one in the news media has the courage to touch that subject.'

The Associated Press added, "The National Association of Black Journalists' president, Bob Butler, challenged Bergin's connection between young black men growing up without fathers and anti-police sentiments and said that Bergin went beyond the standards of a news reporter by inserting his views on the story.


" 'Are there problems in the inner city with kids without fathers? Yes. But does that make kids violent? No,' Butler said. 'There are a lot of kids without fathers who go to college, graduate and become upstanding citizens. He's talking about a social phenomenon where there's lack of opportunity in communities.' . . . "

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Talking down to women and about blacks.

Danielle Cadet, HuffPost BlackVoices: 5 Lies We Should Stop Telling About Black Fatherhood (June 13)


James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A Wisconsin epidemic: imprisoning black men (June 12)

John W. Fountain, Chicago Sun-Times: We work on being better fathers (June 6)

Ty Phillips, YouTube: Unedited Sean Bergin News 12 nj (video)

James Ragland, Dallas Morning News: There’s more than one truth about black fathers (July 8)


James Ragland, Dallas Morning News: America and the hurtful myth of the 'absent black father' (June 25)

Joy Reid, the Grio: How I overcame growing up in a fatherless home (June 14)

David Rosenberg, Slate: Powerful Images That Shatter the Stereotype of the Absent Black Father (June 19)


Social Media Pan S.C. Story Heavy on Police Account

" 'I reported the facts I was given by the police.'

"That's what broadcast reporter Deon Guillory told me last night over email," Corey Hutchins reported Wednesday from Charleston, S.C., for Columbia Journalism Review. "I had asked Guillory if he'd been following the pointed criticism of a two-week-old story of his that had suddenly gone viral — becoming the most popular item on the website of WJBF, the ABC affiliate that serves the region along the Georgia-South Carolina border near Augusta.


"His report was about a working mother from South Carolina named Debra Harrell, who had been thrown in jail after being charged with 'unlawful conduct toward a child.'

"Although his broadcast had aired July 1, Guillory told me he'd only recently begun getting dozens of emails, Facebook messages, and tweets about the segment. They probably weren't the kind he was hoping for. His story had blown up in part because it made commentators around the internet angry — angry at what happened, but also at the angle Guillory and his colleagues had taken in reporting it. . . .


"As you can see, the coverage is a prime example of the kind of quick-hit TV reporting that leans heavily on one version of events — often the official version provided by authorities — but does little in the way of offering additional perspective. There's a mug shot. There's a police report. There are 'facts given by the police.' . . ."

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Don't rush to criminalize bad parenting

"Race Beat" Seemingly on Rise at Mainstream Outlets

"Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran may owe the Congressional Black Caucus for helping him beat back a tea party challenger in his state's primary last month, but journalists have the Associated Press' Jesse Holland to thank for breaking the news last month in the first place," Tracie Powell wrote Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review.


"The tale of mostly Democratic black voters helping a Republican incumbent keep his job is just the kind of story Holland was hired to uncover" as race and ethnicity reporter for the AP. "If the AP didn't have someone specifically watching for these type of stories, then the Cochran affair might not have gotten covered, Holland said. . . ."

Powell also quoted Steve Holmes, CNN's executive director for standards and practices who wrote and edited articles in the New York Times' 15-part series "How Race Is Lived in America," among others who have had the "race beat" over the years.


"Traditional race beats (or whatever name one chooses to call them) that focused on black people and black stories, may be getting overshadowed by other groups fighting for civil rights and coverage. News organizations tend not to cover more than a few oppressed groups at a time, Holmes said. First it was black communities, and then there was a move to women's issues and later Latino issues. Now it's gay rights, he said.

"Which may be another reason why when the black Mississippi voters story cropped up last month, it was nearly missed. That, and perhaps the decline of statehouse reporters, stretched too thin to look for or write about ethnic groups and the issues that they face in their respective states, said Holland from his perch in Washington, DC. . . ."


ABC Casts Most Diverse Season in Recent TV History

"She has won a Tony Award, been nominated for an Oscar and joined Time magazine's list of the most influential people in the world," Eric Deggans reported Wednesday for NPR's "Code Switch."


"But until she was cast as sexy, hard-nosed attorney and law professor Annalise Keating on ABC's new drama How to Get Away with Murder, Viola Davis had never seen a dark-skinned black woman her age playing the kind of role she will inhabit this fall.

" 'There is no way in the history of film or TV that you've seen a character like this played by a black woman who looks like me,' said Davis, 48, facing a handful of journalists after a press conference on the show at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Los Angeles on Tuesday. 'This is progressive. This is a first.'


"For ABC, Tuesday was also a first: The network faced a ballroom filled with critics for the first time since unveiling a schedule of new shows for 2014-15 that was the most ethnically and culturally diverse in recent TV history. . . ."

Deggans also wrote, "ABC entertainment chief Paul Lee doesn't offer many specifics on why this is the year the network decided to go big on diversity — for example, suggesting that producers of their social media-influenced update of Pygmalion, a comedy called Selfie, cast Korean-American actor John Cho as its Henry Higgins-style co-star.


"Lee credits a diverse team of executives and show creators for building worlds that 'reflect America,' noting 'that's about authenticity rather than diversity. We picked up the best shows to come out of development. It just so happens … we think [every] one of these programs are great shows.'

"Which is a bit of a shame. Because, even as ABC advances its most ethnically and culturally diverse slate of new shows in a long while, its top entertainment executive still doesn't seem comfortable admitting that the network has made diversity a priority and seems to be taking specific steps to ensure its shows are more balanced. . . ."


EFE: 'The View' Testing Out Latina Co-Host For Possible Permanent Spot On ABC Show

R. Thomas Umstead, Multichannel News: TV Viewing Evolution Reaches TCA Tour

"Stunning" Lack of Diversity on Cable Talk Shows

"A survey of major cable news discussion programs shows a stunning lack of diversity among the guests," Peter Hart wrote Wednesday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.


"FAIR surveyed five weeks of broadcasts of the interview/discussion segments on several leading one-hour cable shows: CNN's Anderson Cooper 360° and OutFront With Erin Burnett, All In With Chris Hayes and the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor and Hannity.

Hart also wrote, "The most and least diverse shows in terms of ethnicity were both on MSNBC: People of color were 27 percent of guests on All In and only 6 percent on Maddow. Just three of Maddow’s guests were people of color; none of these were women.


Hayes' previous show, the weekend Up With Chris Hayes, had been credited for presenting more diverse discussions than other programs, particularly the Sunday morning chat shows (Media Matters, 3/14/13). Hayes explained (, 3/28/13) that it was simply a matter of monitoring the show's guest list: 'A general rule is if there are four people sitting at table, only two of them can be white men.'

"The Fox News shows were also mostly white, with people of color constituting 10 percent of the guests on O'Reilly and 15 percent on Hannity. On CNN, AC360's guest list was 14 percent people of color, and OutFront (19 percent) was slightly better.


Hart also wrote, "Latinos — who make up 16 percent of the US population — were particularly underrepresented on cable, with only 31 appearances (3 percent of sources) in the study. Eight of these appearances, more than a quarter of the total, were by CNN contributor Sunny Hostin on AC360; only four other Latino women appeared across all six shows. The diversity of Latino voices was even further diminished on Fox, where five of the seven Latino guest appearances were made by Fox personality Geraldo Rivera. . . ."

Short Takes

"National Public Radio is backing away from a revised job description for its ombudsman that suggested the person in the position should avoid 'passing judgment' on any errors in NPR News coverage, calling that listing 'a mistake,' " Joe Strupp reported Wednesday for Media Matters for America. Strupp also wrote, "Following the criticism, NPR CEO Jarl Mohn issued a statement to Media Matters calling the language a 'mistake'. . . ."


"From legal briefs to pithy one-liners, the public is having its say on the proposed rules that guide how digital bits flow across the Internet, Steve Lohr reported Tuesday for the New York Times. "As of Tuesday, there were about 780,000 comments, far more than for any previous rule-making proceeding before the Federal Communications Commission. The agency is fine-tuning its rules to secure an open Internet, after a federal-court decision in January said it had to rethink its approach. . . . The deadline for the first round of comments was Tuesday, but has been extended to Friday. A second period for so-called reply comments will run until Sept. 10. . . ."

"Pierre Thomas, senior justice correspondent for ABC News, was elected Tuesday as chair of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press by the organization’s Steering Committee," the organization announced.


"Another wave of senseless killings is coming — they always are — and you can't stop thinking about it: Who is going to get their head blown off next in America?," Executive Editor Tony Ortega wrote in a news release from Raw Story. "We wondered the same thing. At Raw Story, we've been increasing the amount of attention we pay to shootings, and our readers have noticed. So we've pulled together several perspectives in this report about how trigger-happy this country has become. The centerpiece of our report was written by Jennifer Mascia. You might have heard the name. For more than a year, she compiled Gun Report for the New York Times, a highly popular daily rundown of reported shootings around the country, until the column was unceremoniously dumped a few weeks ago. . . ."

Margaret Low Smith, senior vice president for news at NPR, who previously led all programming for the network, is joining the Atlantic magazine as president of AtlanticLIVE, the organization's events division, NPR announced. Chris Turpin, acting head of programming and formerly executive producer of "All Things Considered," will become acting head of news. The appointment of a journalist of color to the job would be a powerful statement that the NPR corporate culture is changing, though it is not known whether any are under consideration.


"A Southern heritage group defeated Texas on Monday, celebrating a court decision expected to force Texas to issue license plates adorned with the Confederate battle flag," Marissa Barnett wrote Tuesday for the Dallas Morning News. "A federal appeals panel ruled 2-1 that the Department of Motor Vehicles had violated the Sons of Confederate Veterans' free speech rights and engaged in 'viewpoint discrimination' when it rejected its specialty plate in 2011. . . ." Writing in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, Michael McGough offered a suggestion. "I don't think a blanket ban on specialty license plates would violate the 1st Amendment, and it would have advantages beyond preventing what some people see as state endorsement of an offensive message. . . ."

Steve Schwaid, who formerly ran newsrooms and is now vice president of digital strategies for a media research and consulting firm, asked about 20 producers, managers and reporters who were almost all under 35 whether they watch local news, Mark Joyella wrote Tuesday for TVSpy. "Answer: no, not really. 'These are people who work in news and they don't feel compelled to watch local news. Why? I'm not entirely sure. Clearly they felt they got the news they needed from other online sources. More important, I got the sense they felt local news wasn't relevant to them. They admitted that their friends outside the business don't watch local news at all.' . . ."


In Los Angeles, "Seven months after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, KTTV anchor Julie Chang has announced she is pregnant with her first child," Merrill Knox reported Wednesday for TVSpy.

"Following strong pushback from the Jewish community in May for Twitter comments deemed anti-semitic, MSNBC's Touré has apparently found his social media solution: stop tweeting," Jordan Chariton wrote Tuesday for TVNewser. "BuzzFeed’s Dorsey Shaw noticed yesterday that 'The Cycle' co-host hasn't tweeted since May 27, when he penned a tweet apologizing for 'using a shorthand that was insensitive and wrong.' . . . "


Monte Young has been named a senior editor at Newsday, editors announced July 10. "His strong understanding of Long Island is reflective of his varied jobs. Monte joined the staff in 1987 as a town reporter, worked on the copy desk, became a special writer covering local, state and national minority affairs issues and Nassau County government, and did two six month tours in Albany. He then became an assistant editor on the Long Island desk, Sunday night editor, deputy editor for towns and deputy political editor. Monte is the prime mover in forging our growing partnership with News 12 Long Island. Working across the editorial department, he coordinates appearances by Newsday staff and is the key liaison for joint print/broadcast projects," the editors wrote in a memo.

"Washington Post Pentagon correspondent Ernesto Londoño is joining the editorial board of The New York Times, editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal announced in a newsroom email this afternoon," Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke reported for the New York Observer. "In his new role, Mr. Londoño, who covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Arab Spring for the Post, will mainly write about foreign affairs, as well as 'lots of other stuff.' . . ."


"The National Council of la Raza (NCLR) will honor acclaimed Telemundo journalist and MSNBC host José Díaz-Balart, with its Rubén Salazar Award for Communications at the closing gala of the NCLR annual convention in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 22," Telemundo announced. "The organization presents the Rubén Salazar Award each year to an outstanding communications professional dedicated to portraying news relevant to US Hispanics. . . ."

In his syndicated Miami Herald column on Tuesday, Leonard Pitts Jr. cited recent examples of racial insensitivity, then wrote, "I might not have even bothered writing about it, except that John Seigenthaler died of cancer last week and that seems to demand it. His 86 years stand as proof that we are capable of better and that, while some of us refuse to see what others of us find glaring, none of us is doomed to denial. Blindness is a choice. . . ." Funeral services were held Monday for Seigenthaler, former editor and publisher of the Tennessean in Nashville and founding editorial page editor of USA Today.


The Atlantic magazine's June cover story, "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, set a single-day record for audience to a magazine story on Issues of that magazine have sold 60 percent more copies, the magazine announced on Monday. It declared record revenue growth in the first half of 2014.

"Bob Beckel, the Chinese are on to you," Bruce Einhorn wrote Tuesday for Bloomberg Businessweek. "Beckel, campaign manager for Walter Mondale's Democratic presidential run in 1984 and now a token liberal at Fox News . . . used a slur last Thursday when speaking of China's threat to American security. 'As usual, we bring them over here and we teach a bunch of Chinamen—er, Chinese people — how to do computers, and then they go back to China and hack into us,' Beckel said. That has prompted an outcry from Chinese Americans and calls for Beckel to resign. The clamor may get louder now that media in China have picked up on the story . . ."


"Seventeen years ago in Rwanda, longtime CNN producer Ingrid Formanek met someone who would change her life: Patrick Mbarushimana, a six-year-old orphan named who had lost both of his arms as punishment by his own father," Merrill Knox reported Tuesday for TVNewser. "Formanek, touched by the little boy's spirit in the face of 'ultimate cruelty,' became Mbarushimana's guardian and has given him financial support ever since. Mbarushimana, now 23 and an aspiring rapper, recently came to Boston to be fitted for prosthetic arms. . . ."

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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