On the July 14 edition of Erin Burnett OutFront, the host gave ample time to advocates of amnesty for illegal immigrants. In fact, Burnett dedicated an entire segment of her program to an interview with a group of illegal immigrants, headlined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and himself an illegal immigrant, Jose Antonio Vargas.
Vargas – naturally a pillar of objectivity on the subject – made sure to criticize Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) for “politicizing” the issue and lamenting that there has not been enough talk about the “humanity” of the situation. This is a slightly bewildering, since the one thing left and right can agree on regarding the border is that this is in fact a humanitarian crisis. Later in the segment, Vargas declared that “I don’t want to bring race into this” issue. He immediately followed by doing just that, asking: “but if these were white kids would we be doing this to the kids?” [MP3 audio here; video below]
Vargas brought in another illegal immigrant into the discussion to complain about the poor treatment that illegal aliens receive from the United States government. Tania Chavez complained that she was unable to see her family in the U.S.:
We are segregated from an entire nation. We can’t go visit our family up north beyond the checkpoint even though we live in America. We live in the United States. I am an American but an undocumented American.
At this point Vargas, formerly of the liberal Washington Post, criticized the U.S. Congress for failing to pass an immigration reform package. Vargas lashed out at legislators who refused to pass any laws other than ones that deport children:
And here's my question to the Congress. Is this Congress really prepared to be that the only piece of legislation that they pass is legislation that deports kids? Is that gonna be the only legislation they're going to pass?
Unsurprisingly, Vargas was detained today by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at an airport. There is not yet word on whether he will be released from custody or be processed and moved through deportation proceedings.
It’s clear where CNN’s sympathies lie in regard to the crisis at the border. Rather than have a balanced debate, Burnett brought a whole host of illegal immigrants into the limelight in order to cast them in a positive manner. Towards the end of the interview, Vargas claimed that “we are a country of laws but also we’re a country of morality, right?”
He is absolutely correct. But he should note that a society which lacks social order and does not follow or abide by its own laws cannot possibly be moral. What’s more, it’s hardly moral or just to legal immigrants who have abided by U.S. immigration laws. It seems, rather, a recipe to encourage bitterness, resentment, and disrespect from legal immigrants who have been cheated by those who have cut the line.
Of course, that sort of perspective has all too often been missing from shows like Erin Burnett OutFront.
The relevant portion of the transcript is below.
Erin Burnett OutFront
July 14, 2014
7:15 p.m. Eastern
ERIN BURNETT, host: Outfront tonight, Pulitzer prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. He outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in The New York Times magazine in 2011. He's also director of the film Documented which premiered on CNN last month and tonight he's in McAllen, Texas, along with others who are undocumented immigrants. Good to talk to you tonight, Jose Antonio. Let me ask you first, you've been meeting with some of these children who have been fleeing these horrific situations. What have you seen in terms of how they're being treated and what their situation is like?
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, writer: Well, first of all, we came out here. I mean I came out here last Thursday to stand in solidarity with all these children, right? This is a humanitarian crisis that everybody, including Governor Perry, has been politicizing. And you know, there isn't enough about humanity that we should be talking about. And having met some of these kids, I dare any congressional member, the President to look in the eyes of these children and tell them they're going to be sent back. I dare them to look in the eyes of these children. Because once you see them, how can you send them back?
BURNETT: And maybe that's part of the reason the President doesn't want to go to the border. Do you think that then the answer is to keep all of these kids who don't have anyone to take care of them? I mean, is that the solution?
VARGAS: We are not a country – America is not a country that turns its back on children. That's not who we are as a country. You know, and I don't want to bring race into this, but if these were white kids would we be doing this to the kids? Right. And here's my question to the Congress. Is this Congress really prepared to be that the only piece of legislation that they pass is legislation that deports kids? Is that gonna be the only legislation they're going to pass?
BURNETT: So what should they do then?
VARGAS: Well, I think there's got to be a process in which we listen to the stories of these kids. You know, to me, the story that no one is talking about is the generosity of people here in McAllen. We're standing near the shelter here. The generosity of people all across Texas and all across the country that want to take these children in. I have to tell you, Erin, so when I got here last Thursday, I've never been to the Texas border so I didn’t really realize what it's like to be undocumented here in Texas at the border. I met a woman named Tonya Chavez. I remember when I got here, she said to me how are you going to get out? And I'm like what are you talking about? Tonya, you've been trapped here since you were how old?
TANIA CHAVEZ, illegal immigrant: I was 14 years old when I came into the United States and ever since I've been confined to the boundaries of what the border looks like of what the Rio Grande valley is like. On the south side we have international bridges and at the north side we have the checkpoints. There's several checkpoints, and you can’t be on them.
VARGAS: You can't get out. So all these people that are standing next to us, they have been confined to that checkpoint and people don't know that. I don't think Governor Perry even realizes that. Am I right, Tonya?
CHAVEZ: Yes. One thing I want to ask President Obama is that there's so many undocumented individuals in the Rio Grande valley that I think we deserve the attention that he hasn't given us for many, many years. When they write their pieces of legislation they never take into account the undocumented immigrants that are confined to the boundaries of the checkpoint. This, we are segregated from an entire nation. We can’t go visit our family up north beyond the checkpoint even though we live in America. We all live in the United States. I am an American but an undocumented American.
BURNETT: Tonya makes a very powerful case but let me ask you again because this is the question. If the United States says we're gonna let all these people go visit their families, many of them may not return back to the border or take all of these kids. Aren't you sending a message everybody can come? And that may not be realistic for this country to just let everybody come in.
VARGAS: Well, the message – Erin, we are a country of laws but also we’re a country of morality, right? We have to figure out a way that we can humanely have a process to let people see their family. You know, it's really interesting being around here, right, looking at all the border security. This is a militarized zone. And I’m looking around this morning – I went to the Starbucks to get coffee and there's border patrol agents everywhere. And I'm thinking they're here because of me. Are we a threat? Are we a national security threat? Are all these billions of dollars on border security being spent because of us?
BURNETT: And what about your situation in particular? Are you daring, in a sense, Jose Antonio, people to arrest you and deport you? I would say they are not going to. You're a Pulitzer prize winner and you’ve accomplished a lot of things, they’re not gonna waste their time on you. But is that your goal down there?
VARGAS: Well, but Erin why the double standard? When I outed myself three years my goal is to say I'm one of the 11 million people. I'm not asking for special treatment. I'm not asking for there to be any double standard, the government is doing that. My fate is tied to everybody else in this exact same situation. And we've done way too much politicizing and not enough finding a solution on this issue. The question here is how do you define American? That's the question.