The Mainstream Media Turns the Truth Upside Down

The Wall Street Journalrecently ran a piece titled, “Attorney General Blocks Asylum Applications Based on Family Ties.” The article discusses Attorney General (AG) William Barr’s reversal of a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision which held that a Mexican national could seek asylum because his father was allegedly being targeted by Mexican organized crime.

The Journal notes that, “Federal law gives the attorney general the authority to overrule the immigration appeals board’s decisions.” But then, it quotes an Ohio immigration lawyer who characterizes AG Barr’s decision as “a surreptitious attempt to change the asylum law.” That characterization is absurd.

Asylum is available to individuals who can show persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. And the persecution must be perpetrated by the applicant’s home-state government or parties that it is unable, or unwilling, to control. That standard is intentionally very narrow. Asylum was never meant to be a general avenue of immigration, available to anyone who has been the victim of any unpleasant behavior by suspect characters in his country-of-citizenship.

Governments have a duty to protect their citizens but they can’t be everywhere, all the time, and protect every inhabitant from any kind of negative consequences. Simply put, we can’t give asylum to everyone who becomes the victim of a crime in a country where some of the police may be corrupt and some of the courts may be a bit dodgy.

But there is another problem with the mainstream media’s coverage of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The press inevitably implies that Team Trump is attempting to modify immigration law without going through the legislative process. The coverage of former AG Sessions’ reversal of several other flawed asylum decisions is a perfect example.

In reality, though, it is interpreting and applying our immigration laws as they were written and enacted by Congress. Decisions such this one made by AG Barr, and those made by former AG Sessions, are actually reversing legally suspect measures that were implemented by courts and prior administrations that wanted to avoid enforcing immigration provisions that they disliked.

As the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted in a January 2019 legal analysis, a small minority of courts have held that aliens who were subject to organized criminal violence may be eligible for asylum. But even a casual look at the opinions cited shows that these were cases of judges inappropriately legislating from the bench, unsupported by any reasonable interpretation of current asylum law.

More typically, says the CRS, the BIA and courts have held that, “aliens who fear gang violence do not qualify for asylum or withholding of removal, and have rejected particular social group claims that are broadly defined by the group members’ general resistance or vulnerability to gangs.”

So, far from being a surreptitious attempt to change asylum law, AG Barr’s precedential determination is a very public call for the BIA and the courts to stop the irrational expansion of asylum law without any legal basis for so doing. Either the mainstream media doesn’t understand immigration law well enough to comprehend that or it simply doesn’t care about telling the truth.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    Best way to handle the media’s lies and deceptions is to simply give the specific statute by number when they take such actions as Barr did. IF the media tries to change the facts, and omits the statute in their articles, haul the author/s into court and charge them with falsification & misrepresentation.
    They can run, but they can’t hide.
    By omitting the specific law they are proving that they are lying and can’t claim ignorance.

  2. avatar
    Don Richardson on

    The Mainstream Media is either supporting the Democrats or leading them and I think it is the latter. Any political ‘news’ that you hear from them is propaganda excepting a few sources on Fox. I have heard so much on the ‘news’ over the last 10 years or so that is absolutely false that it truly concerns me that we may have already lost the war for our freedom. If we do not vote the Republicans back into control of the House of Representatives and keep Trump and the Senate, we are in for a very scary future.
    When the Democrats campaign saying that it is the best thing to do to ignore the law, and saying that they want to eliminate law enforcement, it indicates that the founding principles of our country may be dissolving.

  3. avatar

    A government that can’t say “No” is not a government at all, by definition of the word ‘govern!” However, “liberals” have the childish belief that saying “No” is just, well, mean.

  4. avatar

    Actually a lot of the policies that Trump has reversed were only put into place during the Obama administration and not by Congress. And a lot of those policies were about “social justice” goals than actual good government. For instance, the military, which is supposed to be a fighting force to defend the country, and not some entity meant to be subject to every whim of every group claiming they are the victims of unfair policies.

    The Wall Street Journal has one goal. Flood this country with ever more immigrants so business gets cheap labor and the taxpayers pick up all the costs. There’s a new story being headlined by the media about 200 reindeer starving to death on some Norwegian islands and it’s blamed on global warming. You have to read well into the story before you see the population of reindeer has actually doubled since the 1980s. Which suggests it could easily be a matter of nature taking it’s course. Just like a few years ago when the media ran those pictures of an emaciated polar bear, supposedly starving because of global warming. Except no one had any idea of whether the bear was just old or sick. And it was another case where polar bears had really doubled in a couple decades.

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  6. avatar

    Either the mainstream media doesn’t understand immigration law well enough to comprehend that or it simply doesn’t care about telling the truth.

    I suspect it is both.