CNN Headline Warns ICE Is Sequestering Teens, Ignores Fact Teens Were Deemed Dangerous


It sounded both scary, outrageous and damning in equal measures: “‘Secret and unaccountable’: Where some immigrant teens are being taken by ICE.”

That was what CNN’s headline had to say about teens who were being sequestered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Just in case you weren’t outraged enough to take to Twitter by the headline alone, a picture of an ICE agent with his firearm ready at the holster peering into a front door appeared right below it.

The lede to the Wednesday article added to the sinister vibe: “Angelina Godoy started digging for answers more than a year ago,” it read.

“The human rights researcher had heard that ICE agents occasionally swept up migrant kids and locked them up in juvenile detention facilities, but she had no idea why.”

She had done some digging and was about to get some redacted files from a juvenile detention facility near her — until, that is, ICE blocked their release.

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“Unbeknownst to Godoy, she had stumbled upon an obscure pocket of the immigration system, where little is known, and little is divulged,” CNN said.

Before we go onto the next paragraph, you can always tell how slanted a story is by noting how many paragraphs in critical information is buried. In this case it’s just six — but one of those paragraphs is a whopping 117 words and this is stuff that should have been right up front.

Here it is, with emphasis added by me on the relevant part: “For more than a decade, ICE has been taking a small number of immigrant teens it deems to be dangerous far from their families and detaining them for months at a time.”

That’s right. Part of the outrage, we’re told in that 117-word third paragraph, was that “these minors were being held in places run more like jails than the shelters most migrant children end up in when they are detained.”

Do you think that this headline was deliberately misleading?

Well, yes, they probably are — if they’re too dangerous to be held in shelters.

Godoy, the director of the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington, doesn’t even sound as apocalyptic as the headline or lede.

“I may not object to the fact they are being held,” Godoy said. “But I object to the fact that nobody can even know who they are [and] why.”

The timbre of the piece is fairly straightforward: Teens who apparently represent a danger are being taken to juvenile detention facilities that don’t appear on the online map of detention facilities that ICE provides. Information given about the facilities is limited and that presents certain issues.

This is all well and good — and yet, it’s not how the piece was originally sold, either with the headline or in the first five paragraphs of the story.

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The piece goes on to say that ICE said it was only holding minors with significant criminal backgrounds where “it would be irresponsible and potentially dangerous for the agency to allow these individuals to remain out of custody with a guardian,” although it wouldn’t elaborate on any specifics of the cases.

CNN conceded that the evidence it had collected showed the majority of the minors in question indeed had serious criminal issues while still leaving the door open for more nefarious behavior by the authorities.

“Attorneys said most cases they had seen involved undocumented children who had faced a criminal conviction, charge or accusation, but that ICE also has the authority to detain those legally in the country with visas and even green card holders if their criminal records place them in violation of immigration laws,” the piece read.

But that’s the point: Those who have criminal convictions are treated differently by the system compared to those who don’t. This shouldn’t be news to anybody.

What CNN describes is one minor who was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana and gun possession; his mother was a cancer patient and he was released by an immigration judge as the charges were pending. In another case, CNN described how a North Carolina mother’s 17-year-old son was put into the facility after he was arrested by Raleigh police.

“She said as the weeks dragged on, she became increasingly frantic,” the article relates. “She depended on Victor [her son], whom she said she brought to the United States from Mexico when he was five. As her oldest son, he cared for her younger children while she worked long hours. He also supported the family financially by picking up odd jobs and working at McDonald’s, where the manager described him as ‘responsible,’ ‘reliable’ and ‘eager to learn,’ according to a letter shared by his attorney.”

It is only after those glowing details that we learn that he was convicted in a series of car break-ins as well as threatening a friend with a knife.

All of this isn’t particularly to say that there might not be an article here; keeping minors incommunicado from their parents, even when they pose a security risk in standard detention facilities, is a process that could stand to be looked at. It wasn’t the article Trump-hating CNN readers probably clicked on, though, and it wasn’t exactly what CNN was selling for the first several paragraphs.

Nowhere in that headline was it mentioned that these teens were security risks.

Nowhere did it mention most of them had criminal records or were facing criminal charges.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, too, nowhere did it mention that this was a long-running practice going back more than a decade — in other words, under former President Barack OBama’s watch.

If you were a regular CNN consumer waiting to get outraged about something Trump-centric, boy, were you disappointed.

In fact, had ICE been releasing dangerous migrant teens or housing them in shelters with women and children even though they knew they were dangerous, liberals would be just as outraged.

Then again, this is CNN. I suppose you don’t have to get beyond the headline to fire off the tweet. May I perhaps recommend “this is unacceptable!!” Liberals seem to love that one.

And CNN knows its audience.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture