The Media’s Trauma Porn Coverage of Immigrants Must Be Rejected

La linea…

By francisco aviles pino, Chispa

On April 24, the New York Times published a story about a three year old found alive at a South Texas cornfield along the border with a phone number tucked in the toddler’s shoe. “The 3-year old boy was alone, and crying,” the article begins. These are the moments when people keep reading and editors promote in writing provocative stories about migration. Yet it’s this very approach that continues to harm migrant communities.

Let me explain.

I came of age at the end of the Bush Administration (Dubya) and began political organizing while President Barrack Obama was in office in 2012. During retreats and coalition campaigns, I learned the art of sharing your story as part of the collective sacrifice for the good of the migrant movement. I remember learning how LGBTQ activism inspired undocumented queer organizers to “come out of the shadows,” and publicly share that we were “undocumented and unafraid.”

By contrast, the Times article is a perfect test case on the ways migrant suffering is framed as the fault of migrants  themselves and how state enforcers are our saviors. The Border Patrol is both the main source for the coverage and its central hero when the article notes that “agents have, over the years, saved children’s lives in these situations.” The lead photo of the article is from the Border Patrol’s own media team and demonstrates that, yes, they indeed “saved this child” who even got to play a video game on their computer.

Less than a year ago, No More Deaths, a migrant rights organization, released a video and report on the ways Border Patrol sabotages their efforts to provide water and food to migrants who would otherwise die of starvation while crossing the border. There have been multiple studies and reports on the inhumane practices of the Border Patrol throughout the decades. This explicit attempt by the department to display some humanity and the journalist’s access should raise questions to readers about intention.

The Times article also arrived when the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography was given to Reuters photographers for their photographs of the migrant caravan from last summer. As we get closer to this summer and reports of more migrants heading north, what standards do we have now?

A few weeks ago, I attended the first Photoville on the West Coast and found myself at a talk by John Moore, the photographer who snapped a viral picture of a little girl crying while her mom was getting handcuffed by the Border Patrol. He admitted to not knowing the name of the little girl but could recall the names of Border Patrol agents who gave him access and joyrides on helicopters. He joked about another photograph he took of a young man who was running away from a Border Patrol agent saying that “he almost got away!” When the room that was mostly made up of white people who work as photojournalists erupted in laughter, I looked to my friend next to me in disbelief; we left the room together.

Journalism’s approach to covering migration has taught me one truth, there’s no such thing as neutrality in settler nation-states like ours. The Times article and Moore’s photographs are only possible through collaboration with the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It’s both lazy and irresponsible for publications to continue to give such reporting a platform. Organizations like the Authority Collective, Diversity Photo, and the Center for Journalism Ethics lead by example on the ways how photographers and journalists can give authority and dignity to the people they create content with.

For the producers, journalists and editors who cover immigration, it’s absurd that the fact checking and actual reporting hasn’t prioritized truth; a truth grounded in both exposing the suffering and those whose mouths continue to cause more harm.

Deport This! is a partnership between OC Weekly, Chispa and Orange County Immigrant Youth United. The column is a rebuttal of Donald Trump’s racist politics and his OC cheerleaders, who’ll no doubt get triggered every week with news and views by and about the undocumented community.

3 Replies to “The Media’s Trauma Porn Coverage of Immigrants Must Be Rejected”

    1. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/16/world/photos-capture-near-drowning-migrants-u-s-mexico-border-rescue-agents/#.XN21VchKg2w

      https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/photos-capture-drowning-family-us-mexico-border-63056781

      https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/photos-capture-drowning-family-us-mexico-border-63056781

      i posted earlier how your article was biased to the far Left—and it criticized the border control agents, your own statement above, “There have been multiple studies and reports on the inhumane practices of the Border Patrol throughout the decades. “–what a sham you gave to border control when this man risked his own life to save a 7-year-old from the raging river water—when his incompetent mother forced him to cross with her— i have not see where my earlier post was on you web site–if i missed it, my apology–but it seems that you only want the good reviews published—–and you call yourself a journalist? this–all will be tweeted with your name for shoddy journalism

  1. if you are hardly one to publish this article in an objective manor—lets look at the plight of the migrants–back in November–the woman running with three small children when tear gas was applied–appropriately—OH–the trauma of the woman and her children–she was interviewed later and said she had been there for days–and at the time of the tear gas she was going to apply for asylum!–just at that opportune time when the border was assaulted by migrant was she going for asylum! really??? she was hoping the younger men (who were later deported) would provide a hole in the barrier to sneak thru–this has nothing to do with dark skin or white skin as you imply–it has to do with opportunistic migrants waiting for the opportunity to sneak in. 85%that were released have not shown up for hearings—-the best program so far is “remain in Mexico” with the only disappointment that they are all not there—and I have posted about supporting the Wall/barrier fence in protected areas to protect areas from tons of garbage left by the illegals which will further damage US protected areas.. they want the United States for bennies—lining up like “Price is Right “contestants and have no regard or respect for the Untied STates lands or laws–my husband and I live in the country of Panama as expats–we know what the attitudes are from Central America–these people disrespect the Mexican people as well–who also have brown skin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *