Under intense pressure from the mainstream media and conservatives, the Obama administration refused to put a thumb on the scale against the unaccompanied minors who have flooded across the border, until they did. One of the big pieces of "news" to come out of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's Meet the Press interview was his alleged evasiveness over whether most of the children being screamed at by racists will be sent packing.
In an absurd exchange with David Gregory, Johnson patiently explained that the law requires children from Central America to be given their day in immigration court, and the administration is looking for ways to expedite that process, to which Gregory responded, "Well, I'm sorry, I have to-- I mean it sounds like a very careful response."
Yes, what kind of person would want to give a careful response to a question about legal proceedings affecting the lives and safety of tens of thousands of children?
Gregory then decided to demand that Secretary Johnson become either Miss Clio or King of the Immigration Judges, or both:
"Are they going to be deported or not? I mean this is the bottom line. I know there's a process they have to go through. Will most of these children that we have seen in this desperate situation stay in America or will they be returned to their homes in Central America?"
The nuance in Jeh Johnson's response isn't that difficult to grasp. "There is a deportation proceeding pending against everyone who comes into this country illegally and is apprehended at the border" means we will try to deport all of them, but theoretically, the goal is to only deport those whom judges decide ought to be, and not those who have legitimate claims of asylum. It would be improper for Johnson to prejudge those proceedings, and perhaps even influence those judges with the sort of declaration Gregory was looking for.
Of course, the headline here was "Johnson Evasive," or more pointedly, "Gregory Presses Johnson" (which, incidentally, is against several planks in the Republican Party platform), but on Monday morning's The Daily Rundown, MSNBC's Chuck Todd, whose keen interest and expertise in immigration extend back to his Miami roots, did an excellent job of explaining it, until he didn't:
"The administration will argue they can't prejudge an immigration court's decision on whether the kids get to stay or go, hence why you heard the type of language from Secretary Johnson on Sunday."
No, Chuck, "the administration" won't "argue" that, facts, the law, and the truth will. He started off that explainer so well with, "Here's the reality," but that horrible dismount made it sound like all of the solid, factual knowledge he had just dropped was actually just one side of a political argument, and not the actual, factual truth.
I was all ready to pen a measured critique of my pal Chuck for helping Gregory pressure the administration into further capitulating to frothing idiots who suddenly want the President to ignore the law, when Fox News' Ed Henry brought it all up like a hairball at today's White House daily briefing. Citing Gregory's interview, Henry put forth the same idiotic notion that in order for the administration to enforce the law, they need to completely ignore it. Rather than offering Henry some Valtrex for his raging case of Derpes™, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest gave him the answer that Gregory was looking for:
"Well, as you know, Ed, what the 2008 law requires, it requires some very specific handling of children who are apprehended on the border, who originated in Central American countries. And so when he’s talking about additional options, he’s talking about more efficiently processing them through the system. And in some cases that means sending them back to their home country.
"As I pointed out, that once they go through the immigration system, it is our view that it’s unlikely that most of those kids will qualify for humanitarian relief. If they don’t qualify for that humanitarian relief and don’t have a legal basis for remaining in this country, they will be sent back."
So, it turns out Chuck was partially right: The idea that you don't prejudge legal proceedings apparently is just one side of a political argument, just not the one this administration is actually making anymore.