Sunday, July 7, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said that stories about migrants being abused and kept in inhumane conditions were "phony and exaggerated."

Trump was angry at pretty much all media everywhere today, even Fox News, which normally serves as a sort of safe space for the easily provoked Trump. In particular, he was upset about coverage of the shockingly inhumane conditions that many detained migrants and asylum-seekers were being kept in. He tweeted, "The Fake News Media, in particular the Failing @nytimes, is writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers."

(In the same thread, though, Trump also insisted that he and he alone had foreseen the "crisis" and that if there was one, it was someone else's fault.)

The NYT is hardly alone in covering the latest rash of reported abuses in what amount to internment camps for migrant families seeking asylum in the United States. But it's hard to see what (if anything) Trump thinks is "phony" about their coverage. Here is a summary of some of their recent reporting on the subject.

  • June 21. "Hungry, Scared and Sick: Inside the Migrant Detention Center in Clint, Tex." This article describes rampant overcrowding, a lack of basic necessities like soap and toothpaste, "outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox" among detained children, attempted suicides of children, and conditions so filthy that agents working at the detention center would carry the smell with them on their clothes after they left work.

    Sources for this article include the CBP's own chief accountability officer, "dozens of current and former Border Patrol agents and supervisors," the attorneys for interned children, a father of an interned child, a man whose house is adjacent to the station, and sworn testimony obtained by reporters. It includes detailed maps of the interior of the station. 
  • July 2. "Squalid Conditions at Border Detention Centers, Government Report Finds." This piece covers the Trump administration's own report that found serious problems in how migrants were being treated in DHS facilities. Government inspectors found that detainees were denied the ability to bathe themselves, put in frigid rooms with inadequate clothing, and given inappropriate or inadequate food. They also found severe overcrowding. Members of Congress who toured DHS facilities at the same time found migrants begging visitors for help and who said they were forced to drink from toilet bowls.

    The main source for the article is the report itself, as well as public statements by members of Congress from both parties and the acting Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • July 3. "Trump Says Migrants Are ‘Living Far Better’ in Overcrowded Border Facilities." This article deals with the political fallout from the most recent news about migrant abuses. It quotes Trump himself as saying that "many of these illegal aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions,” and that Democrats would find fault with conditions "no matter how good things actually look, even if perfect." It also quotes Trump as saying that if refugees didn't like being put in detention centers, "just tell them not to come. All problems solved!" It reports on Trump's policies—charging penniless refugees fees to apply for asylum, and allowing only a trickle of applicants across at legal ports of entry. (This has created massive backlogs on the Mexican side of the border and pushed some desperate families to attempt to cross at other points, with deadly results.) The article quotes the acting Secretary of Homeland Security as saying that a Facebook group for Border Patrol agents full of racist and violent sexual fantasies about detainees and Trump's political opponents was "disturbing and inexcusable.

    The sources for the article are Trump himself, public statements from members of Congress, government reports, and the acting Secretary of Homeland Security.

Trump hasn't said why he thinks any of these people are lying or exaggerating.

Why should I care about this?

  • Reality doesn't go away just because presidents wish it would.
  • Only dictators fear a free press.
  • Presidents who cannot even acknowledge a problem exists cannot solve a problem.