The Trump administration has shamelessly wasted government resources along the U.S.-Mexico border while continuing to lead the press with anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric. Respected news organizations like the Associated Press are now making it easier for the administration to spread its false narrative of invasion.
One of the Trump administration’s arguments for more money — for militarizing the border, for jailing families and kids seeking asylum, and of course, for a wall (a key campaign pledge) — is that the number of immigrants arriving are “straining federal resources.”
We have seen the White House use this phrasing since at least the beginning of March, when it presented its budget to Congress, talking about a “crisis at our southern border” that has “strained Federal resources.”
In late march, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan spoke from El Paso, saying his agency was at a “breaking point” and that migrants were “straining the resources of Border Patrol facilities.” McAleenan’s speech changed the tone of much of the reporting, which began to assert that the system was indeed breaking. It also got him a promotion (pending congressional approval).
On May 1, an AP story by Colleen Long cited the administration’s concerns, and included a generic response from immigrant advocates:
“Trump administration officials have said the surge has strained resources beyond the breaking point, but immigrant advocates and some Democrats say part of the crisis is due to President Donald Trump’s own hardline rhetoric and failed border policies.”
In an article three weeks later, the “strained resources” phrasing remains, but the citation and the response from immigrant advocates has been dropped.
This is a classic example of successful agenda setting from the administration. Within two months, administration talking points have become accepted, unquestioned “facts” in reporting.
We ask reporters to not take these statements at face value. Are Border Patrol resources actually strained, despite record funding? Why are they being strained? Is it a question of resources being strained by migrants or by mismanagement? Who benefits from this storyline, that present day migration is at a “breaking point?”