Opinion

Decoder

Why does a NumbersUSA ad include a clip from 1995?

The clip of Barbara Jordan is at least 20 years and lacks context.
The clip of Barbara Jordan is at least 20 years old and lacks context.

TRANSLATION: A 30-second advertisement paid for by the nonprofit NumbersUSA has been airing regularly during debates and other televised presidential events. It calls for stricter limits on immigration, but the group’s point is eclipsed by the spot’s spokeswoman — Democrat Barbara Jordan. The noted civil rights leader in 1972 became the first African-American woman from the South to win election to Congress, representing Texas in the House of Representatives. Jordan is seen in a C-Span broadcast saying “lesser-skilled and unskilled” immigrant workers are hurting US citizens’ “job prospects.”

The ad doesn’t include any date references and fails to mention that Jordan died 20 years ago. Jordan’s immigration-control remarks were made in her role as chair of the US Commission on Immigration Reform, not long before her death. Among the panel’s recommendations, it called for reducing the number of legal immigrants from 675,000 to 550,000 annually. But one of Jordan’s chief’s contentions — that cheap immigrant labor was keeping Americans unemployed — has since been widely discredited.

Roy Beck, the founder of NumbersUSA, said in a statement that using the archival Jordan footage was a way to “help people begin to see that politicians today calling for an end to chain migration, an end to the visa lottery, mandating workplace verification of all hires, and tracking all entries and exits by foreign citizens are not being radical.”

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Perhaps, but there’s something unsavory about applying the decades-old comments of a bi-partisan committee’s chair to a partisan political ad in 2016. It’s a message that’s out of context, for sure, and given Jordan’s “deceased” status, really not of this world.

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MARK POTHIER