Nov 12, 2019

DACA debate erupts over SCOTUS decision.

DACA debate erupts over SCOTUS decision.

Plus, I answer a question about how I pick stories.

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Today’s read: 7 minutes.

What’s going on with DACA? Also, a question about how I pick stories and the changes coming to your social media platforms.

A protest to defend DACA recipients in Los Angeles, CA, in 2017. Photo: Molly Adams / Flickr


Yesterday, I announced Rep. Peter King’s retirement and referred to him in one mention as Rep. Steve King. Both Peter and Steve King are in Congress, and both are loathed by members of the left, but Steve King is a representative from Iowa and did not announce his retirement yesterday. Peter King, the New York representative, did announce he’d be stepping down after serving 14 terms. I apologize for the crossing of the wires. If you ever notice an error or typo, please feel free to write in and let me know. It helps with keeping the newsletter tight.

What D.C. is talking about.

DACA. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program hits the Supreme Court today, and the fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants is in the balance. Last year, President Donald Trump ended the Obama-era program on the premise that it was unconstitutional. But the courts are not examining whether DACA is constitutional — instead, the case is challenging whether the president had a legitimate policy reason to end the program. Lower courts ruled that he didn’t, and now the Supreme Court is going to give it a look. This case is considered the most important of the entire Supreme Court term.

What the right is saying.

This morning, President Trump threw the DACA chatter into high gear with this tweet:

One of the top comments to the tweet came from Ryan Girdusky, the conservative writer, who linked to a data release from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) citing the fact that over 50,000 DACA recipients have arrest records. Republicans have long pointed to the number of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in the United States as the top reason to limit programs like DACA that allow them to live and work here without fear of deportation. Even Republicans who support the “Dreamers,” as they’re known, have stayed silent this morning while Trump attacks them. Trump himself has actually praised the program, once asking if anyone “really wanted to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” But after lots of internal debate, it appears his advisers convinced him to end the program.

Now that the Supreme Court could effectively end the program, some conservatives are rejecting the idea that SCOTUS will “decide their future.” Instead, they want Congress to act — to pass immigration reform or a DACA replacement — and present a legal framework for how to handle the Dreamers. This is the crux of the argument: DACA was an unconstitutional overreach by Obama and it should be ended, thus forcing Congress’s hand to do something about the broken immigration system.

What the left is saying.

It’s just gross racism. The view from the left is that Trump, his immigration adviser Stephen Miller and others in the administration loathe Hispanics and immigrants in general, and this is just the latest in a series of moves to reduce the number of them in the U.S. A lot of people on the left responded to Trump’s tweet by noting that a requirement for DACA recipients to renew their status is to have no criminal record:

Others noted how many DACA recipients go through rigorous background checks and have strived to make themselves positive contributors to our country. In fact, one of the lawyers who will be at the table during the Supreme Court arguments today is himself a DACA recipient. One of the largest studies to date on DACA recipients found that 91 percent of them were employed and a large percentage of the ones who aren’t were in school. 72 percent of the DACA recipients in school are pursuing a bachelor's degree or higher.

My take.

The numbers on DACA crime and the premise of what Trump is saying is pretty misleading. I looked at the data Girdusky shared and more than 31,000 (61%) of the arrests listed were non-DUI driving offenses or immigration-related, which is pretty baked into being an undocumented immigrant. So that brings the number down to about 20,000. Of those, 12 percent are “theft, larceny, etc.” (it’s unclear what “etc.” means), and less than five percent are tied to assaults, weapons or sexual crimes.

Worse, these records cover arrests, not convictions. So it’s perfectly fair to assume that another large chunk of the DACA recipients counted in the USCIS data were actually innocent of whatever crime they were convicted of, as is common in American policing. It also totally lacks context. The CATO Institute analyzed the original data when it was released for the first time last year.  Cato found that 6.7 percent of the 888,875 applicants were arrested for a criminal or civil violation. Of those, 53,792 were approved for DACA after they had been arrested. Comparatively, the best estimates we have show that about 30 percent of adults in the United States have arrest records, meaning DACA applicants are far below the average for U.S. adults.

With that out of the way, I still think the heart of this issue is a moral one. Call me a bleeding heart whatever but we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of kids who were brought here against their own will by their parents. Whether they wanted to come here or not is beside the point, the reality is the vast majority of them are making a positive life for themselves and working extremely hard to be a part of the fabric of our country. Ending this program was not something Trump had to do. Plenty of Republicans, including some of his staunchest supporters, support DACA. In the best-case scenario, Trump is doing this to force Congress’s hand on an immigration deal and give himself some leverage to get what he wants. In a worst-case scenario, he knows Congress can’t get an immigration deal done and he doesn’t really care what happens to the Dreamers when this is all over.

Either way, the lives of nearly a million young people are being put in jeopardy just so they can be used as a political pawn. The legal questions of DACA are dense enough they will be debated in the Supreme Court, so I won’t opine on them here (the short version is there are a lot of legal holes in the program). But this is one of the messes that didn’t need to be made and now has to be sorted out, and my personal hope is that the Supreme Court finds legal justification to leave the DACA recipients here in America, because the overwhelming amount of data and evidence we have shows they’ve earned a place here.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: You can send in a question by simply replying to this email.

Q: How do you differentiate between important/impactful news stories and non-essential ones (both when choosing articles for Tangle and just reading the news in general)? Sometimes I feel like there are so many outlets reporting on so many different stories that it's hard to tell which ones I should be paying attention to and which ones aren't required in order to have a good understanding of what is going on in the world. For example, I have probably read four or five articles this week about how different billionaires have responded to Elizabeth Warren's tax plan -- and instead of feeling more well-informed, I feel like I've overloaded my brain on unimportant political news.

- Brendan, New York, NY

Tangle: When I’m searching for stories for Tangle, I’m focused on two things: in the lead story, I’m really just keeping an eye out for what the political class is talking about in the newspapers, on television and on social media. This is generally the story that is causing the most buzz but also has some bar of standard. For instance, some days the most talked about thing is a political gaffe or a Trump tweet, so it’s pretty unlikely that I am going to cover that story. What I’m really looking for is a lead story from a reputable newspaper that has drawn big and divisive reactions from across the political spectrum. This gives me an opportunity to dive into what each side is saying and offer readers perspectives they may not be getting when they hear about that story from whatever their typical news sources are. Whether I think the story is really important or not, it is inherently valuable to understand when so many people are discussing it.

The second kind of story I choose is for “A story that matters,” and I have a really high bar of inclusion for this story. To me, a story that matters is a story that has been overlooked — or drowned out — by the stuff the most out of touch television pundits or newspaper columnists seem really worried about. It’s a story that involves deep reporting and impacts a large group of Americans (or is representative of something that’s impacting large groups of Americans). A lot of the stories that matter — to me — involve education, health care, immigration, opioids, tech, workers strikes, gun legislation or big court decisions. I look for stories that are complex but have a core that I think most Americans would be interested in learning more about, regardless of political affiliation.

Finally, the newsletter is often spattered with breaking news and the “Numbers” section. The kind of breaking news I include is usually stuff that I think will move the needle in politics since that’s what my newsletter is about. This is usually viral videos, viral tweets, insane clips from television, retirements from Congress, a new bill being passed or some kind of election result. The numbers section is literally just from me pulling fascinating numbers that stick out to me during the whole process of putting together Tangle. This is one of the most fun and challenging parts of the newsletter, but I think data and numbers can tell a really compelling story so I enjoy sourcing that section a lot.

A story that matters.

Big tech is backpedaling. In the last few weeks, tech companies have begun to reverse course on many of the features that make their platforms or products addictive to users. Instagram is considering removing the “like” counts that are public, as is Facebook. Both companies think that they have become unhealthy barometers of social status. Twitter is trying to deploy new features to make people engage in a more positive tone. YouTube recently changed the way it’s displaying subscriber counts. All of this illustrates how tech companies are acknowledging their products’ negative impact on our health. Axios has the story here.


  • 101. That’s how many Republican members of Congress have been defeated, retired or left office since Trump was inaugurated in January of 2017.
  • 34 million. The number of adults in the U.S. who report knowing someone that has died in the last five years because they couldn’t pay for medical treatment.
  • 27%. The percentage of Americans who say they could change their mind on Trump and impeachment.
  • 50%. The percentage of voters who turned out in the 2018 midterm elections.
  • 31%. The percentage of active duty service members who voted in 2018, showing how the restraints of military life stop some from voting.

Have a nice day.

A group of engineers published a paper in Science Daily saying they have found a new way to remove carbon dioxide from a stream of air. The method could be used to battle climate change. The technique passes air through a stack of charged electrochemical plates that can absorb carbon dioxide in smaller concentrations than other methods currently available. You can read more about the breakthrough here.

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