Joe Biden's Expulsion Machine
Today in 'What Now': the BORDER/LINES crew on immigration in Biden's America.
WOW it feels like it’s been AGES since I last hosted What Now, and it sure does feel great to be back. And what a special week too — the one-year anniversary of my last normal week on earth. This weekend last year I went to a karaoke hall with 10 friends and performed a very involved rendition of Papa Roach’s “Last Resort.” And now, this morning, I am watching the undoing of the British monarchy from the comfort of my relatively new work-from-home setup. How the world spins madly on!
Today, I present to you an interview with immigration reporters Gaby Del Valle and Felipe de la Hoz, the brains behind the BORDER/LINES newsletter.
Gaby Del Valle is an independent journalist and graduate student in Brooklyn. Felipe de la Hoz is also an independent journalist living in Harlem. Together, they write BORDER/LINES, a weekly newsletter breaking down the latest in immigration policy, connecting the news to historical context to help you understand why President Joe Biden’s “ambitious” immigration policies aren’t nearly ambitious enough.
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This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
What led you to starting BORDER/LINES together?
Feliple: I had tweeted something, “What if I did a newsletter about federal immigration policy?” and then Gaby texted me saying, “I've been thinking about doing a newsletter about the history and contextualizing immigration stuff.” We realized that we were getting a lot of questions from both “normies,” but also other people in the media that were genuinely interested in the goings-on but really had no idea what was going on, because the headlines were so disjointed from one another. So we wanted to be the bridge between this really wonky white paper reporting and the more accessible stuff that didn't include any deeper information.
Gaby: I had a staff job covering immigration at the time. I ended up doing two, 400-word blogs a day that were like, “Trump did this bad thing.” I was always trying to get it in people's heads that this one person is not the singular force behind restrictive immigration policy. And the way news reporting works, you can't include hundreds of words on historical context. So I texted Felipe and [we] met up in Washington Square Park and sat at a chess table and sketched out a little logo, it was very cute. And two weeks later, our baby was born.
When I was starting out as an immigration writer nothing was reported as if it's building upon something else. It was, “This new thing is happening, never before has any policy been so cruel,” etc. There was no explanation as to why any of this was allowed to happen, especially in the context of, “Is he allowed to do this?” What has been your process for distilling all this information into a product that other people will understand?
Felipe: I think that sometimes [people say], “Wow, that's great that you guys are breaking down these really arcane complex things,” and we do do that. But a lot of what we do also is just breaking down really simple things, because people have such strong, passionate opinions about immigration, but the vast majority of the public really don't know anything about it.
And everything can just be entirely different from week to week. You can't just change tax policy overnight. And this isn't just some cursory shit. Your entire application is different based on whether [a policy] is or is not in effect. Congress basically delegated everything to the president with the Immigration and Nationality Act. And so that's why it's a particularly difficult area of policy to get your head around, because things that were true a month ago could just not be true now.
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