Today's Papers

Immigration Nation?

The Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times all lead with details from the latest demographic profile of the United States officially released today by the Census Bureau. USA Today goes instead with word that as a way of protecting against gas cost zooms and shortages, the EPA is considering reducing the number of pollution-lowering gasoline blends used around the country. The paper has “the oil industry” saying that the blends lead to price hikes as refiners switch to making them each summer and fall, but doesn’t quote anybody by name from the oil biz or anywhere else explaining this.

The WP lead emphasizes that the new Census info shows “a nation where nearly 1 in 5 Americans does not speak English at home, more than 2 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren, and the number of adults who work solely out of their homes has grown a third since 1990.” The NYT lead emphasizes that the data shows “American standards of living increased markedly throughout most of the country in the 1990’s, bringing gains in education, housing and mobility along with higher incomes …” The LAT headlines the survey’s revelation that the U.S. foreign-born population is now over 30 million, the highest level since the 1930s.

The NYT agrees with the WP that the Census figures depict a country where less English is being spoken than previously, adding that of the 18 percent of all U.S. residents over age 5 who say they speak a language other than English at home “60 percent spoke Spanish” and 43 percent said they did not speak English very well. But the LAT says the figures suggest that immigrant children “are swiftly becoming assimilated,” because those between 5 and 17 years old who speak Spanish at home are almost 12 percent less likely than in 1990 to speak little or no English, and the portion of Asian school-age children who spoke little or no English dropped 38 percent nationwide. And despite such coverage of bilingualism, with its obvious tie to increased immigration, the papers downplay any connection to illegal immigration. The LAT waits until the 17th paragraph to mention illegals, the WP waits until the 26th, and the NYT until the 27th. The Wall Street Journal effort doesn’t mention them at all.

The trend of grandparents raising grandchildren seems to be the biggest sociological surprise in the figures. Of the leads, the WP spends the most space on the topic, and USAT breaks out a story on it for the front of its “Life” section. The Post says most of these parenting grandparents are not poor but doesn’t put any numbers on the assertion. Nor does anybody else. And there is virtually no information in the papers about why the parents of these kids are unavailable. And none about how the trend breaks out across racial or ethnic groups. Why all these holes?

The LAT front says that a key part of the last U.S. attempt at dealing with illegal immigration–sanctions against employers who hire illegals–has failed, undermined by a booming market in phony documents, the needs of employers, widespread resistance to a national ID card, and politics. The story says that there have been huge drops in the number of arrests of workers, as well as in fines and warnings issued to employers in recent years, and has the just-past INS commissioner, saying, “There really is not any reliable way for employers to comply with the law.”

The LAT and NYT front the wounding of 10 people, mostly Israeli soldiers, by a Palestinian gunman, who was then shot and killed by Israeli police. All too common, except for the locale: in front of the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Both stories also report further down that Israeli forces conducted a helicopter-missile attack that killed a Hamas member and separately shot a Palestinian said to have been in the act of planting a bomb. Neither of these developments is mentioned in the stories’ headlines.

The WP front notes that the heightened presence of multinational companies in the United States now means overseas-based corporations can increasingly ease their bottom-line problems by laying off disproportionate numbers of U.S. workers. For instance, the story notes that the French telecommunications concern Alcatel recently pledged not to close any of its European sites but did eliminate one in four of its employees in the United States. Similar examples are given involving Finnish cell-phone maker Nokia and German chemical company BASF.

A WP editorial weighs in on the side of that free-lance journalist in Houston who’s sitting in jail thanks to a contempt order issued by the U.S. Attorney there seeking information she won’t give up about sources she’s acquired for a book she’s writing on a local murder. The government argues that the woman has never published anything, and hence is merely a non-cooperative witness rather than deserving of the special protections accorded by the feds to journalists. The paper responds that the government shouldn’t get to decide who’s a journalist.

In case you’re wondering what the papers can do next to wring more out of the steadfastly non-developing Chandra Levy story, turn to the WP “Style” section opus on Gary Condit’s wife. Thanks to 2,800 words supplied by four writers and a staff researcher, you’ll at least come away finally knowing that she has both thumbs.

“And we swear the ‘cross’ in ‘crossword’ has nothing to do with transvestites.” The NYT yesterday ran an “Editors’ Note” reassuring readers that its Sunday crossword puzzle, which ran under the title “Homonames” and featured many answers that were homonyms of well-known names, did not contain slurs involving gay life.