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Steve Blow’s Immigration Column Is Extremely Sloppy

If it seems like we are constantly taking Morning News Metro columnist Steve Blow to task over this or that, that’s not an unfair assessment. In our defense, he needs to be taken to task quite a bit more than we actually have the time or energy for. I almost let his latest column — he believes our immigration courts aren’t equipped to handle the current situation — slip by with just a bit of gentle needling in Leading Off this morning. But then I read Bill Holston’s note in the comments, and then I read what Dallas Observer editor Joe Tone said a few more comments down, and then I read Blow’s piece again.

It is the worst kind of bad: dangerous. Someone might actually believe it.

If you didn’t read it and don’t have the time to do so now, I’ll walk you through it. After a bit of throat clearing about the “immigration mess” in general, he gets to what he calls “the biggest culprit” that has led to these kids crossing the border:

Perhaps you saw the news story. Twenty minors from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala were ordered to appear in federal immigration court Tuesday for initial deportation hearings.

Two showed up.

And those other 18? Well, I’m sure they’re settling nicely into life in their new country.

This is literally Blow’s only evidence for a pretty broad proclamation: “But what is absolutely true is that U.S. immigration courts are so understaffed and underfunded that kids can easily melt into society and never face deportation.”

Oh, really? Do you have a quote to support that? You don’t, huh? OK, cool cool cool. Hey, do you happen to have an un-sourced statistic that undercuts your point? You do! Fantastic! Let’s hear it:

Granted, this was a higher no-show rate than usual. Overall, about half of juveniles don’t show up for immigration court hearings.

I don’t need Blow to spend a lot of time backing up that statement. I don’t even need one sentence. I need two words — “according to” — followed by a reputable source. Stick a comma on either side and he can put it in the sentence he already typed.

But I don’t think he can do that because I do not think it is true. It’s not a guess. In the first comment left by Holston — the executive director of the Human Rights Initiative, by the way — he pointed to a study published this month by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC). You might not have time to wade through all that. Others already have done so. Here are the relevant findings:

Children have been designated in absentia only 18.4 percent of the time. Thus, in 82.6 percent of cases, the child has either appeared in court or insufficient evidence exists for removal or relief, so far.

Similar rates exist for children released to U.S. family. In 79.5 percent of cases in which a child was released or never detained, and in a parent or guardian’s custody, the child has not been designated in absentia.

Although many recent cases are still pending, even in closed cases, children were designated in absentia only 31.2 percent of the time. 68.8 percent of children appeared in court.

I don’t see a number in there that indicates “about half don’t show up for immigration hearings.” And then there is this:

The data shows that Guatemalan children, at least, really do skip out on court hearings slightly more often than other children. But children from Honduras and particularly El Salvador are slightly more likely to show up for court hearings than children from other countries. … The Department of Homeland Security, which published the map of where children are arriving from, concluded that Guatemalan children “are probably seeking economic opportunities in the US. Salvadoran and Honduran children, on the other hand, come from extremely violent regions,” which is probably what’s driving them to the US.

But, no, no, let’s trust the guy who read a news story. Who didn’t go to court to see for himself. Who read a story and extrapolated his way to this: “That’s the real-world experience that emboldens Central American families to spend their life savings sending children northward.” Joe Tone did send someone to court to see for himself. And?

“We had a reporter there this morning — mostly unrepresented cases, almost all of them there, and all of them given time to go find a lawyer,” Tone wrote.

How hard is it to write that column? You see a news story that piques your interest. You go to court to see what’s up. You find a source that gives you the rundown on the immigration court system and can give you the pulse of the situation. Call someone who is working with some of these kids. Or just maybe even do a routine Google search. That Vox story I quote from was on the first page of results. It’s not rocket science. It’s not even 7th-grade science.

In a sort of genius move, Blow finished by hiding behind this forcefield: “Let’s all take a deep breath, quit playing the blame game and find the prudent solution to this immigration hiccup — taking good care of the kids in the meantime.”

17 comments on “Steve Blow’s Immigration Column Is Extremely Sloppy

  1. It’s worse: I actually sat next to his colleague, Diane Solis, the morning those kids didn’t show. Everyone in the courthouse, Solis included, was totally baffled, because anyone who’s been in that court knows that even kids without lawyers generally show up to their initial hearings. And in her story — the story he cited — she makes it clear that it’s so uncommon that the judge, who was clearly confused himself, feared there was a paperwork screwup and just rescheduled their hearings.

    In other words, he didn’t have to go all the way to court. He just needed to read his own paper 9 percent more closely.

  2. Goodness. That’s unbelievable — except it’s totally believable, in Steve’s case.

    thanks for letting my copy off your homework, Joe.

  3. Goodness. That’s unbelievable — except in Steve’s case it’s totally believable.

    Thanks for letting me copy off your homework, Joe.

  4. Thanks for all the attention, Zac and Joe, but read the column a little more slowly. It clearly states that this was a worse no-show than usual and the judge thought there might be a mail issue. Normally about half don’t show, which is still a big problem. And if you want the source on that, Zac, it comes from the congressional testimony two weeks ago of Juan Osuna, who directs the Justice Department’s immigration courts. I figure he knows.

  5. OK, great, Juan Osuna, reputable source — why didn’t you credit that stat to him in the column? I don’t think your readers are going to read our comment section.

    And I realize you mentioned the mail issue. (I went back and read it s u p e r s l o w l y to make sure.) But you also said that the hearings were reschedule for August and — I quote — “stand on your head if you expect them to show up next time.” Which implies that it wouldn’t matter if there happened to be mail issues; those kids are coming back no matter what. Which is essential to the thrust of your column. Which I don’t think actually holds water, still.

  6. OK, great, Juan Osuna, reputable source — why didn’t you credit that stat to him in the column? I don’t think your readers are going to read our comment section.

    And I realize you mentioned the mail issue. (I went back and read it again s u p e r s l o w l y to make sure.) But right after that — the next paragraph — you also said that the hearings were rescheduled for August and — I quote — “stand on your head if you expect them to show up next time.” Which implies that it wouldn’t matter if there happened to be mail issues; those kids are coming back no matter what. Which is essential to the thrust of your column. Which I don’t think actually holds water, still.

  7. OK, great, Juan Osuna, reputable source — why didn’t you credit that stat to him in the column? I don’t think your readers are going to read our comment section.

    And I realize you mentioned the mail issue. (I went back and read it again s u p e r s l o w l y to make sure.) But right after that — the next paragraph — you also said that the hearings were rescheduled for August and — I quote — “stand on your head if you expect them to show up next time.” Which implies that it wouldn’t matter if there happened to be mail issues; those kids are not coming back to a hearing no matter what. Which is essential to the thrust of your column. Which I don’t think actually holds water, still.

  8. I didn’t read your column at all! Which is pretty funny considering my criticism of you! I should be working!

  9. WAKE UP AMERICA?

    Since 2012 President Obama Gave ACORN Replacement $644,000,000—for Illegal Aliens!

    Read the rest at http://theconservativetreehouse.com, by Sundance.

    For the past two years Barack the First has given $644,000,000 of your money to one private organization for the purpose of being the nanny for young illegal aliens the Administration has imported into this nation. While the group uses a religion in its name, this group has turned over kids to sex traffic people, worked with cartels and MS13. As part of their work, they give foreign kids to people in the United States—many, themselves, illegal aliens, almost NO background check on those given children and almost no background check on their clients—given to them by the White House.

    “They are taxpayer funded corporations who exist almost exclusively on government grants. Despite the words “Baptist” and “Catholic”, these are NOT religious “faith based” groups. The name Baptist and Catholic is only to give the appearance of “religion” and add a dose of “charity” to the appearances. We recently stumbled upon Mr. Kevin Dinnin when we were looking around for the primary recipients’ of HHS Grants and we came upon the 2012 tax filings of BCFS, or more accurately BCFS EMD where Kevin Dinnin is the principal officer and CEO. Paid at an annual salary of $477,799+” You should sacrifice a few minutes to read the documents, evidence and facts, that this administration doesn’t want you to see?

    Enough is enough. President Obama thinks he is above the law, able to end-run anyone he wants and change our laws simply by signing another Executive Order. He promised “fundamental change” and what he did was fundamentally destroy everything from our economy and jobs to our health care to our immigration system that was never broken—just not enforced, and even our families who have suffered immensely under his dominant reign. Help us remove him from office then Support the National Tea Party.

    Have you had enough? Stop Big Brother and this Imperial President from controlling every aspect of our lives. No more spying, targeting conservatives, persecuting the innocent or rewarding those in the administration who commit criminal acts—like Luis Lerner, Eric Holder and Madam Clinton. We can put an end to it once and for all by showing your patriotism. You can be certain the tens of millions of TEA PARTY members that we will nail lawmakers to the wall until they do something about these continuing scandals. Will you support our efforts to save America from the most destructive force she’s ever known?

    We need to alert millions of people about his betrayal and deceit. Help us get the word out across America and expose America’s Fraud President! What is Congress waiting for? Why haven’t they impeached Obama? It’s up to us to increase the pressure and force their hand. Since Obama took office ‘We the People’ have been subjected to gross misconduct ranging from a consistent outpouring of lies of treason and extreme abuse of power and gross violations of our Constitution. Save our country—IMPEACH OBAMA!

    Our most at-risk populations—our parents and grandparents—all senior citizens, as well as cancer patients and the terminally ill—have lost their insurance plans and their doctors. Illegal Aliens should not get any benefits, but this is yet another lie. Obamacare is an unconstitutional disgrace with deadly consequences. Demand Congress stops the death sentence. Check this site that has the phone Numbers and Mailing Addresses of Members of Congress at: http://www.contactingthecongress/ to demand an end to illegal immigration and the dismantling of our military, which is our lifeblood against our enemies.

    We must Block amnesty for illegal aliens, which is entirely up to us—grassroots America—the little helpless citizens. You can also get alternative—NO SPIN– news about issues at One-America cable TV News http:/www.oann.com/ and TeaPartypatriots.org. You might also like to try (AliPac) http://www.alipac.us

  10. What exactly is the best mailing address for the Court to use for children sneaking across the border illegally?
    Is there a lesson here for the parents in Chicago who want to get their children out of an extremely violent city? Should they be dumping them across a border somewhere?

  11. If “much of” the representation for the 50,000 – 90,000 UCs will be handled by lawyers on a pro bono basis as Bill Holston is suggesting here

    http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2014/07/24/leading-off-72414/

    there’s really little to worry about. OTOH, if people start filing legal complaints that the children aren’t getting appropriate legal representation, all 50,000 – 90,000 of them, and force the government to fund the representation demanded, we may have to put off that fun federal treehouse we were so looking forward to building or something else.

    OTOH, we could always use Michael Burgess’ proposed legislation to devote $15,000 per child from the aid otherwise going to their home countries into their legal representation here. And just think of the economic ripple effect through craft breweries.

  12. Joe. I would make a small attempt at your journalistic critique. You have singlehandedly destroyed the publication you are SUPPOSE to be in charge of. You
    have allowed the comments to dissipate to a Jerry Springer/Drudge level. In addition to effing up what Wilonsky spent years building, it is hard to say if you just simply don’t give a F or are more concerned about making snarky comments here or promoting your arrogance on Twitter, or perhaps you are so busy learning the Torah that you forgot you have a gig. And don’t be so blindly arrogant to think I am one isolated former reader. You want a list? How cute and apropos for you to jump on the Blow bandwagon. I hope it helps you score another gig, somewhere, anywhere away from DO. Now get busy putting together some keywords to incite your team of Drudge wannabes that do most of you mouthing. Or maybe, just go home.

  13. NO, please stop working completely. Today. This moment. Seriously DO would be so much better off without you there in any capacity. Let the kids run it. They know best.