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The Associated Press — one of the largest journalism organizations in the world — released guidance last week restricting employees from using the word “crisis” when referring to the ongoing border crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But, as it turned out, the Associated Press found the word completely acceptable when Donald Trump was president.
What did the AP say?
President Joe Biden, his administration, and top Democrats have refused to acknowledge the migrant crisis unfolding at the southern border as that — a “crisis.”
The Associated Press revealed Friday they agree with Biden’s White House.
AP Vice President and Editor-at-Large for Standards John Daniszewski explained in a memo that reporters should use “accurate and neutral language” when describing the immigration crisis — and that means not calling it a “crisis.”
According to Daniszewski, the magnifying crisis at the border does not fit the definition of a “crisis.”
The current event in the news — a sharp increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors — is a problem for border officials, a political challenge for Biden and a dire situation for many migrants who make the journey, but it does not fit the classic dictionary definition of a crisis, which is: “A turning point in the course of anything; decisive or crucial time, stage, or event,” OR “a time of, or a state of affairs involving, great danger or trouble, often one which threatens to result in unpleasant consequences [an economic crisis].”
Therefore, we should avoid, or at the least, be highly cautious, about referring to the present situation as a crisis on our own, although we may quote others using that language.
If using the word “crisis,” we need to ask of what and to whom. There could be a humanitarian crisis if the numbers grow so large that officials cannot house the migrants safely or in sanitary conditions. Migrants may face humanitarian crises in their home countries. In theory, there could be a security or a border crisis if officials lose control of the border, allowing people to enter unencumbered in large numbers. But, in general, avoid hyperbole in calling anything a crisis or an emergency.
Daniszewski added that reporters should “avoid imagery conjuring war or natural disaster, which could portray migrants as a negative, harmful influence.”
“Avoid emotive words like onslaught, tidal wave, flood, inundation, surge, invasion, army, march, sneak and stealth,” Daniszewski instructed.
What did the AP write under Trump?
The AP freely used the word “crisis” to describe migrant surges during the Trump administration.
- July 2018: “Judge puts blame on Trump, Congress for immigration crisis”
- June 2019: “House passes emergency funding bill for migrant care crisis”
- October 2019: “Immigration official says US-Mexico border crisis not over”
- June 2018: “Ivanka Trump stayed silent for days as border crisis mounted”
Despite reluctance to describe the border crisis as such, Border Patrol data clearly show a migrant crisis is unfolding.
In fact, the Border Patrol is on track to break the record of immigrant encounters set during the Trump administration.
“The U.S. Border Patrol has encountered an average of 5,000 undocumented immigrants per day over the past 30 days, according to a senior Border Patrol official who spoke to reporters on Friday, putting the U.S. on track to outpace the Trump administration’s monthly record of border crossings,” NBC News reported. “In May 2019, more than 144,000 undocumented immigrants were encountered by the Border Patrol, marking a 12-year high. March is likely to surpass that, reaching 150,000 crossings per month — meaning apprehensions plus crossings at legal ports of entry without paperwork.”