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Henryk A. Kowalczyk

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Wall Street Journal Immigration Debate Is Deaf to Facts and Logic

Posted: 08/11/10 01:17 PM ET

Several prominent Republicans decided to advocate for changing the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, so that children born in the United States by illegal immigrants would not receive American citizenship. This initiative is quite controversial, and the Wall Street Journal editors decided to join the debate. They put it on video, which tells us about the essence of our immigration crisis much more than -- I suspect -- the WSJ editors intended to say.

The interesting part starts when, in his second question (1:42 in the video), Jason Riley, a member of the WSJ editorial board, says: "that there is really no evidence showing that this (birthright citizenship) is what drives illegal immigration to the U.S. We know what does drive it; we know that economic opportunity, that they come for jobs, make a better lives for themselves; but we have no evidence that they come so that their future children would be U.S. citizens."

In response, William McGurn, who is a Vice President at News Corporation, says (2:07 in the video): "I do not know; I do not know the facts on that well enough to know what the positions are." Then he continues mumbling: "Again, I go back to..., I think these things caught on Washington when people don't feel that the real solution..., when you do not offer the real solution, you got a lot of these other kind of solutions," eventually steering into historical aspects of the 14th Amendment.

Let us look at the contexts of this exchange. Jason L. Riley did his homework on the immigration issue. He looked for the facts and documented his findings in his recent (2008) book titled: "Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders". Just in case someone might have doubts what his findings are, Mr. Riley gave a subtitle to his book: "Six common arguments against immigration and why they are wrong." One may argue with the conclusions reached by Mr. Riley, but no one can question that this man knows the facts and that he is an expert on the immigration issue.

However, facts and logic do not matter much to Mr. McGurn. He is deaf to Mr. Riley's statement that "we have no evidence that they come so their future children would be U.S. citizens." After candidly acknowledging that he does not know the facts, Mr. McGurn shamelessly follows with speculations taken out of a thin air. For God's sake, this is a news organization; if you do not know the facts, go, and learn them first before going in front of the camera. Before speaking up on immigration, Mr. McGurn should read the book by Mr. Riley, written from the point of view of an advocate of the free market, and at least one book written from the opposite, liberal point of view. I would recommend "Lockout" by Michele Wucker. For those who did not read this book, let me say, that analyzing facts from the traditional liberal point of view, Ms. Wucker arrived with conclusions close to that of Mr. Riley. Simply, regardless of ideological leaning, whoever analyzes the facts in academic fashion, would arrive with similar conclusions.

Returning to the video, one can see that after Mr. McGurn proudly declared his ignorance, Mr. Riley became mute and did not correct Mr. McGurn that there are facts available for those who care to look for them; after all, Mr. McGurn is the boss. One may notice that the very concept of this conversation is up side down, as someone who knows the subject interviews someone who does not know it.

Mr. McGurn appears to be one of these Americans who speak on the issue just by the virtue of being, not in result of the toil of learning. However, the immigration debate goes this way in America. Those deaf to facts and logic speak loud enough to keep mute those who actually know. To give some credit to Mr. McGurn, he laments that we have not had a true debate about immigration; however, he speaks impersonally, as politicians do (2:35 in the video) "The American people can be trusted to make a good decision on immigration if you have an honest debate with them. We haven't really had an honest and open debate with them." Who are "we" in this sentence? Who should have that debate? Should it not be the Wall Street Journal for example? Is not it true that we have not had an honest debate on immigration because mainstream media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal or Fox News failed as the fourth branch of the government? Shouldn't Mr. McGurn state that we did not have an honest debate on immigration just because he did not do his job?

Surprisingly, Mr. McGurn knows how a good political debate should look like as he states: (4:18 in the video) "When you are talking about an issue, the worst way to talk about it is how do we appeal to this group or that group, rather than to say what is the right thing to do and then how do we sell the right thing to do to the American people." One may wonder - why he did not follow his own advice? Why did the WSJ not present to readers various options of the immigration reform? Why it did not coordinate the public debate? Why, in result of this debate, did the WSJ and Mr. McGurn not arrive with the right solution and try to sell it to the American people?

My wild guess is that Mr. McGurn assumes that most Americans are like him, deaf to the facts and logic, and eager to mute their opponents. Hence, he is concerned that selling to Americans "the right thing to do" could harm sales of the WSJ itself. However, there always is the hope that Mr. McGurn knows about Americans, and about running political debates in newspapers as much as he knows about immigration.

In my book, people need information as much as they need air, water, and bread. There is money to be made in delivering it. With the WSJ and other mainstream media outlets failing as the fourth branch of the government, I believe that out there are people who already have figured out how to make money on conducting public political debates on igniting issues, and how to collect commission on selling to the American people the right thing to do. Soon they will fill the void left by Mr. McGurn and the WSJ's inability to do their job.

Henryk A. Kowalczyk is an author of the Freedom of Migration Act proposal, a concept of the immigration reform.