The Wall Street Journal's news section has repeatedly parroted the Republican narrative on border security without pointing out that enforcement, not only along the border but in most areas of immigration law, is greater than ever. This uncritical coverage has allowed congressional Republicans to set the terms of the debate on immigration reform even though the Journal's editorial page has charged that these "border security first" arguments amount to obstructionism.
In an August 4 article highlighting an immigration reform proposal that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is reportedly working on, the Journal gave weight to Goodlatte's statement that "[n]o illegal immigrant would gain legal status before efforts were in place to secure the border with Mexico," and Rep. Cory Gardner's (R-CO) argument that "he didn't want to consider" a plan that included a path to citizenship "until the issue of border security had been resolved."
The article did not explain the facts of border enforcement, much less point out that the Republican narrative on the matter "has become a ruse to kill reform." That's the way the Journal described "the real story" behind Republicans "once again demanding more enforcement as the price of their support" in a June 19 editorial titled, "The Border Security Ruse."
In a May 2 editorial that offered a "border security reality check," the Journal mocked the "porous border" argument and noted that "[c]ontrary to Republican claims that President Obama has turned a blind eye to illegal aliens, the official data indicate the opposite." It continued:
One lesson is that we can continue to militarize the border, but at some point it becomes overkill. The Republicans who claim we must "secure the border first" ignore the progress already made because their real goal isn't border security. It is to use border security as an excuse to kill immigration reform.
The editorial went on to cite relevant data to show that fewer immigrants will come illegally if you "[g]ive people more legal ways to enter and exit America."
A July 9 editorial asking whether the GOP would prove to be a "party of opportunity or closed borders," added: "Too often Americans hear the shrillest anti-immigration Republicans whose only argument is 'secure the border,' as if that is a sensible policy for the 21st century. House Speaker John Boehner's job is to make sure those voices don't carry the day."
In the editorial, "House Republicans and Immigration," the Journal warned that it would be "unproductive" to "pass another border-security bill as the GOP did in 2006" and that it "would allow the legal immigration system to grow more unworkable by the day." The editorial further stated:
History proves without question that the best way to reduce illegal immigration is by opening more paths for legal immigrants to meet U.S. labor demand. Border security alone won't work. Almost all Republicans in the House insist they support legal immigration. It's time to prove that with some votes.
The dumbest strategy is to follow the Steve King anti-immigration caucus and simply let the Senate bill die while further militarizing the border. This may please the loudest voices on talk radio, but it ignores the millions of evangelical Christians, Catholic conservatives, business owners and free-marketers who support reform. The GOP can support a true conservative opportunity society or become a party of closed minds and borders.
In a June 20 editorial, the Journal called the border provisions in the Senate bill "overkill and waste" and wrote that the "immigration debate is increasingly overtaken by the folks who want to build a 'Game of Thrones' ice wall to keep out the wildlings."
But in numerous news articles covering the immigration reform debate over the past few months, the Journal has allowed Republicans to make these same arguments unchallenged even as it repeatedly criticizes them in its editorial pages:
- In an August 1 article, the Journal reported on a bill approved by the House Homeland Security Committee that would require the government to first develop a plan for gaining control of the Southern border within five years. It baselessly repeated the GOP refrain to "move first to strengthen the border to reduce the flow of illegal immigration before turning to other provisions." The article did noted only that polling data indicates people think this strategy is a move by Republicans "to block reform."
- In a July 21 article, though the Journal eventually pointed that the Senate immigration bill includes "tougher border-security provisions," it also repeated House Speaker John Boehner's contention that the Senate bill is "overly sweeping and lacking in sufficient border controls."
- In a July 14 article on how lawmakers in border states are chafing at efforts to shore up border enforcement as a condition of immigration reform, the Journal contrasted the Republican argument on border security with that of the Democrats, giving no indication of the facts in the debate.
- In a July 10 article describing a split between Republicans on how to approach reform, the Journal did not rebut Republican Arizona Reps. Paul Gosar and Matt Salmon who both advanced the border-security first argument. Gosar said the House shouldn't feel pressured to produce a bill "if border security hasn't first been satisfactorily resolved," and Salmon said "he envisions a guest-worker program that would allow unauthorized immigrants to gain legal status to work when the border is secure."
- In a June 27 article highlighting differences between Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) on immigration reform, the Journal reported that both "have called attention to their efforts to toughen the border-security elements of the bipartisan Senate bill" and noted that Rubio eventually voted for the bill. It went on to report that Paul voted against the bill "because he doesn't believe it met his standard of securing the border before steps to legalize immigrants begin."