Miller vs. Acosta

I seldom call for a journalist to be fired, but the behavior of Jim Acosta of CNN in today’s briefing by White House adviser Stephen Miller was disgraceful and inexcusable. Acosta was acting like an opposition party politician, not a professional journalist.

But my main point in this blog post is to explain why Acosta was wrong. First, though he may be correct in saying that a points-based immigration policy would be a radical change for the U.S., it is the approach taken by Canada and Australia, whose systems I’ve never heard criticized by CNN/Acosta. Indeed, a points-based policy was the basis of the bipartisan 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. And to my recollection, no one at CNN opposed that approach, including Acosta. In other words, CNN/Acosta’s view of a bill depends on who supports it, not its content.

I personally have never been a fan of points-based systems, and have opposed the RAISE Act here in this blog. But Acosta is being hypocritical and, again, unprofessional.

The point I most wish to bring up here, though, is the objection Acosta had to requiring immigrants to know English as a precondition for being granted a green card. I have been advocating that for 20 years, and I am speaking on more than just armchair punditry, as I am a former ESL teacher in San Francisco’s Chinatown (I usually teach the sub-beginner course), and am someone who has been immersed in Chinese-immigrant communities for 30 years.

Let me state the obvious: English is a lot harder for Chinese people to learn than for, say, Spanish-speaking people to learn. And yet the Chinese do learn, because they know their success in the U.S. depends on it.

Moreover, if it were required that potential Chinese immigrants learn English back home before immigrating, they would learn English back home before immigrating. They would do this because of their intense desire to immigrate. There are lots of learning tools on the Web, and I guarantee you that English tutorial companies would spring up in China like mushrooms after a rain. They would not be of high quality, but they would be good enough. Even as it is, if you go into a bookstore in any Chinese city, you will see many books, tapes and so on for learning English.

THIS IS A NON-PROBLEM, FOLKS. Having this requirement would help the U.S. and help the immigrants, a win-win situation if there ever was one.

And yes, if I wasn’t clear, Acosta should be fired.


37 thoughts on “Miller vs. Acosta

      • Perhaps, but he comes across as sophomoric. I don’t think he makes points that resonate with all of America. They resonate with Trump’s 30% base. The election is over and they need to be speaking across political lines. There is crossover between Sanders and Trump supporters. Appeal to both.

        They are too small tent.


        • Sanders has also suggested (in the past) that immigration should be tightened up in various ways, especially regarding H-1B.

          Miller actually said very little, due to Acosta’s haranguing.


    • The level of English required to become a citizen is much lower than the sophisticated version in the ballot. That still doesn’t justify signs, just the bilingual ballot.

      By the way, there are exceptions to needing English to naturalize.


    • Bilingual ballots and instructions were first required by the 1972 extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its later extensions. In 1975 Congress expanded the Act’s scope to protect language minorities from voting discrimination. Congress defined “language minority” to mean “persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or of Spanish heritage.” California now prints voter information in ten different languages! People’s mastery of English varies, but I agree that translating ballots and voter information in nine other languages is both expensive and a destabilization of our country.

      “Congress also enacted a bilingual election requirement in Section 203, which requires election officials in certain jurisdictions with large numbers of English-illiterate language minorities to provide ballots and voting information in the language of the language minority group. Originally set to expire after 10 years, Congress reauthorized Section 203 in 1982 for seven years, expanded and reauthorized it in 1992 for 15 years, and reauthorized it in 2006 for 25 years.” [per ]

      But more importantly, I believe that democracy’s long-term viability as a form of government depends on a large majority of the populace believing that laws representing their interests and principles generally have at least an even chance of being implemented. For this to be possible requires largely common values, culture, history, and principles of justice and law. Language being the principal conveyor of culture, information, values, and understanding, a common language makes democracy more stable and viable. This is why assimilation is more important to democratic government than it is to autocracies and monarchies, and why the more successful and long-lasting democracies are nation-states.

      While it is important and desirable that a modicum of differences in values, culture, history, and world-view be tolerated, the more differences there are, the less desirable (or satisfactory!) democratic governments seem to their populace.


  1. I don’t think English should be a requirement for the GC because it is already a requirement for the naturalization test. Living in the US can help one to learn English.


      • The immigrant might be rejected for a GC. All that studying for nothing. He could have used this time/money to learn a trade or start a business.

        Google Translate (includes speech in addition to text and handwriting) could be used.

        An elderly would be immigrant that can not read/write in his own language will have a tough time learning English. He would not be able join his kids in the US.

        Where do we draw the line? How tough would the test be?


        • An immigration policy cannot be all things to all people. You can come up with all the hypotheticals you want, but no policy will accommodate all of them.

          I had elderly people in my ESL courses, and I believe (this was long ago) that they did as well as anyone else. But for the elderly, that is secondary; the real question is, WHO IS GOING TO SUPPORT THEM? The typical elderly immigrant these days, especially in the Chinese and Korean cases, eventually goes on SSI, Medicaid, senior housing etc. This is NOT the way it should work, a real outrage, and for that very reason, Canada has clamped down on senior immigration.


          • I am also concerned about the family reunification of individuals with serious medical issues. We cannot adequately care for our own physically and mentally disabled yet we are now to take care of foreign born too just because they are related to a citizen.


          • Till recently (not) getting health insurance was an impediment for bringing in elderly/sick relatives. ACA did away with that problem.
            Apparently no politician realizes this ?

            I see people winning a Green Card, allowed in despite serious illness, getting a Silver ACA policy for $ 150 a month.
            Again, no politician realizes what is going on ?


        • Sorry, but that’s a decision they’re going to have to make.
          Specifically, regarding elderly, you’ve not read the proposal. Elderly parents can visit, no GC. His proposal chops chain migration.


  2. I caught most of the exchange between Miller and Acosta, live as it was happening (on CNN). I’d never even seen or heard of Miller before, but what he was saying was music to my ears. He talked about immigration’s negative effects on wages, and basically was unapologetic about a (new) policy to favor existing American workers, and the fact that such a policy might actually be expected to help African-Americans.

    It all sounded bloody reasonable (and indeed desirable) to me, even though I am not now, and never have been a fan of Trump. Not by a long shot.

    Still, this fellow Miller was attacked, verbally and rather viciously, I thought, by the WH press corp in attendance. It was pretty clear that none of them even -wanted- to try to understand the policy or the reasons for it. I’ve never believed in the so-called “liberal media bias”, but after today, may have to change my mind.

    I don’t think that Acosta should be fired, but he certainly should be strongly reprimanded. He did indeed stray way way WAY out in the direction of advocacy. Obviously, just because his father came here from Cuba at age 11, not speaking any English, Acosta has a personal blind spot, and can’t even imagine how either his father’s experiences, or even the lofty words inscribed on the bottom of the Statue of Liberty might not actually make for a rational or well-reasoned national immigration policy, ya know, here in the current century.

    To me, what’s even more stunning than Acosta’s heavily biased performance today is the reader comments I perused beneath the WaPo strory on the WH briefing room interactions today. Every bleedin’ reader commenter seemed to want to denounce Miller as a faschist, or worse, while praising Acosta to the hilt, as if he had done something noble today. He didn’t. And Miller’s comments were all emminently reasonable.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What you seem to be missing here is that Acosta was being an “activist” rather than a journalist in this meeting. Having had revious experience in media, what Acosta did was wrong for his position, and like much of the liberal biased media, his comments were accusatory rather than investigatory….meaning he was trying to teach Miller. In this case, Miller did the teaching and rightfully so.

      Past media people were versed in matters that Acosta, though trying to seem educated on, was completely ignorant of the facts and statements that he made. Like the rule that a lawyer should never ask a question he doesn’t already know the answer to, a journalist should never make a statement or write a story he doesn’t have corroborated facts for.

      Media has become lazy in the last 30 years, and it shows… many avenues,…spelling, proof reading,…factual basis for stories and statements. The media is supposed to question authorities, not badger them with allegations. and erroneously and unappologetically insist it’s assumptions are fact.

      .Acost was totally unprofessional, comically outclassed, and insultingly rude in his statements, assumptions and assertions. He came unarmed to a battle of wits. We should not be surprised, he talks as if he’s part of the trash TV activist school of journalism.

      As I used to tell the internet newbies, and should be saying to the liberal media,…vigorous assertion does not a fact make.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ” but the behavior of Jim Acosta of CNN in today’s briefing by White House adviser Stephen Miller was disgraceful and inexcusable”

    What I find astonishing are the comments posted to the Wash Post article. Many ‘side’ with Acosta and demonize Miller, deaf to what Miller was saying: immigration numbers have increased over the years and it’s time to reduce them to better match what is good for the country.


    • At least one solid year of Democrats’ narrative training much of their followers _any_ mention of downsides of our (lack of) immigration policy is racist/xenophobic/hate speech.
      I am disgusted with the lack of integrity, to the public’s and to the immigrants’ interests.


  4. Norm, thanks for the awesome job you do even while out of the country. While several provisions of Cotten and Perdue’s RAISE Act are long overdue, to me tentatively, US STEM workers’ interests seem ignored.

    Click to read the full text of the legislation.
    Click for a section by section summary.
    Click for a the bill’s rationale.

    Though few give the bill a chance of passage in this Congress, I suggest we need to weigh in on how US “need” for imported labor should be assessed, as that is fundamentally how the H-1B visa has hurt us.


    • It not only hurts US workers, it hurts the entire workforce including foreign workers.
      “Shortage” is a lie to citizenry.
      “Temporary” is a lie to citizenry and most legal work visa’d immigrants.
      And don’t get me started on illegal employers.


  5. I agree that Acosta was completely unprofessional. I don’t know the where over-talking someone became “a thing”, but it’s very annoying. That aside, my wife is from Taipei, Taiwan. They got essentially beginner’s English in school (the equivalent of high school, methinks). She came here on an F1 visa eventually landing citizenship. What I found out about traveling there is that, however accommodating most citizens try to be, I have to speak Mandarin to get around. I think this comes under that, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” adage.


  6. I agree with Norm’s perspective and common-sense comments above. Having a basic ability to understand and express oneself in English is the bedrock foundation of assimilation. For those that want to watch the 17-minute-lomg press conference to make their own determination here is a YouTube Link:,


  7. I didn’t see the exchange you refer to in the story, but being a Latina and living in New York and Florida, I know this has a lot to do with money. Spanish TV and radio make a lot of money, I used to watch it often but not any longer, I voted with my feet, it was either my country or my culture. I know liberals think there is no difference, but they are wrong. BTW professor, the Muslim issue is the same.

    The non English speaking immigrants, legal and illegal, rely heavily on Spanish media as a bridge to government services. They are “educated” by these channels on beating the system. I could go on at length in the scummy things that go on in plain sight.

    The Spanish speaking reporter is most likely also on Spanish media. These exchanges sell well on the Spanish media side. It is probably part of his job to support the immigration agenda, no matter what. If the size of his audience shrinks, so will his paycheck and job prospects.


  8. My wife immigrated from Russia when she was 37. She spoke broken English when she arrived.
    She was able to land a job almost immediately. She came to this country and wanted to become apart of the American culture. She has paid income tax every year, starting at the bottom cutting fruits for the fresh salad bar, and collecting shopping carts in the parking lot. Within two years she was promoted to a supervisory position. She originally bought her own healthcare and now is on a company plan. This is the opportunities English gave her. Her accent in retail selling gives her a worldly galore.


  9. On Chinese learning English: I’ve heard Chinese parents and grandparents speaking to young children IN ENGLISH in public as a regular thing. But I’ve generally heard Spanish speakers speaking to their kids in Spanish. There seems to be a real difference in attitude between the 2 (and you don’t need to speak a lot of English to speak to a young child in English).


      • My grandparents and most immigrant Europeans I know had the same rule. Remember your ancestral language but learn English and use English out in the world. And it was a given that if you ever went to another country long-term you were expected to learn their language.


  10. Years ago, comedian George Lopez was on a talk show. He related a story where he was in LA, in an elevator with two Chinese immigrant ladies. They were jabbering away in Chinese.

    He got mad and said, “Hey! What’s the matter with you? You’re in America now!”

    “Speak Spanish!!!”


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