Last week, New York Times reporter Judy Tong lectured me about the importance of fairness and balance in journalism.
Based on that exchange, I can now say that I have experienced everything. What could ever top being accused by the New York Times of writing an immigration story unprofessionally?
Ms. Tong took umbrage at my review of her "Neediest Cases" story, "Setting Pride Aside and Stumbling Into Day Care," contained in my December 13, 2002 VDARE.COM column "Scrooge Was Right." My article expressed a strong resentment toward selecting illegal aliens as "needy cases."
In a barely civil e-mail, Ms. Tong complained that I referred to Francisco Ortigoza as having "most likely" (based on my 15 years of immigration observation) entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico in 1990. She added that I did not include in my summary the positive aspects of Ortigoza's tale.
Ms. Tong suggested that I follow the example of the New York Times.
"Here at the Times," she wrote, "Everyone works with facts not assumptions made at his own convenience. They also attempt to present both sides of the story."
Ms. Tong, who had not returned my phone calls when I researched the column, requested a correction. She claimed that Ortigoza had, in fact, "entered the country legally." And Ms. Tong asked that I share with readers that after Ortigoza arrived in the U.S., he
"…cleaned toilets, washed dishes, bussed tables even though he has an Associate's degree in accounting in his own country."
Furthermore, Ms. Tong reminded me, Ortigoza eventually earned a college degree at the City of New York's York College in Jamaica, Queens and says he paid for his education without financial assistance. She also tells me he has now become an American citizen.
In a return e-mail, I promised the correction - if Ms. Tong could confirm to me that Ortigoza entered the U.S. after applying for and receiving a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and presenting that document at his Port of Entry into the U.S.
According to three experts in immigration documentation – VDARE.COM's Juan Mann, NumbersUSA.com's Director of Government Relations Rosemary Jenks and the Center for Immigration Studies' Executive Director Mark Krikorian - this is the only way to enter and stay in the U.S. legally.
Ms. Tong did not immediately reply. After a second query from me, she e-mailed that "as far as the specifics of his visa, unfortunately I do not have the details for you."
Oh. Why not?
Although Ms. Tong has already chastised me for "making assumptions," I'm going to make a few more.
Ortigoza may indeed have entered the U.S. "legally." But how did he stay here?
In 1990, Ortigoza might have been issued a Border Crossing Card (the B.C.C. has been replaced by a biometric laser card) that would have put him "legally" in the U.S. But if he didn't return to Mexico pursuant to the terms of his card, i.e. overstayed his visa, then he could have secured an immigration lawyer, asked for an amnesty hearing or simply begun the process of, in Mann's words, "arreglando lo." [English: Regularizing himself; Legalese: "adjustment of status."]
The different ways that people can enter and stay in the U.S. is a maze. I can envision a charming and empathetic Ms. Tong interviewing the Ortigozas in their apartment and being told that Francisco "entered legally." That would be true—but misleading and incomplete.
Or she may not have asked at all. Nothing about Ortigoza's immigration or citizenship status appeared in her original story. Nor about his wife's – she just "came to the United States in 1997."
Unlike Ms. Tong, I'm grizzled and cynical. And I know much more about immigration than she does. If anyone wants to convince me that Ortigoza came to and remained in the U.S. legally, then prove it.
Let's set aside whether Ortigoza entered legally to examine the other fascinating aspects of Ms. Tong's story and her subsequent correspondence.
First, my original December question about Ortigoza remains unanswered. Why is this young and healthy man a charity case? He earns $26,000, has child in Head Start and recently received cash gifts from Children's Aid of $200 for clothing and $698 for food.
If the New York Times thinks he's needy, take up a collection in the office.
Second, Ms. Tong is impressed that Ortigoza worked at menial jobs, learned English, paid his way through college and eventually landed a semi-professional job.
Ms. Tong, this is how immigration should work.
[VDARE.COM note: In fact, US English carried Ms. Tong's story under the heading Learning English Helps Immigrants Move Up]
Come to the U.S., hit the ground running, bypass the public trough and keep clawing away until you make it.
Third, is it really possible that New York Times reporters think that they "at least make an attempt to present both sides of the story?"
Unfortunately for Ms. Tong, she had no way of knowing that she was e-mailing someone (me) who has spent three years evaluating how major newspapers report immigration stories.
Even so, Ms. Tong's statement is absurd. The complete lack of objectivity demonstrated by the New York Times regarding immigration has been the subject of two well-received (but not by the Times) books, "Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism," by William McGowan and "The Gospel According to the New York Times: How the World's Most Powerful News Organization Shapes Your Mind and Values" by William Procter.
For an excellent example of what readers get from the New York Times, see the recent VDARE.COM article by Howard Sutherland, "America Educating the World at Taxpayer Expense."
Sutherland cites a New York Times story by reporter Maria Newman, "School District Blocks 5 Children of Illegal Immigrants from Classes."
Newman quoted several immigration lawyers, "immigration experts," New Jersey school district officials and members of the ousted Medrano family about how outrageous it is that Superintendent David Verducci reported the illegal aliens to the proper authorities—or tried to, at least.
Newman even found time to call California to reach the Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project for a damning quote.
But although 80% of Americans are disgusted with footing an ever-increasing bill to educate illegal immigrants, Newman apparently could not find a single soul in the New York Tri-State area to express that well-shared opinion.
And that, dear VDARE.COM readers, is the New York Times version of fair and balanced.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.