New York Times
July 12, 2018
Several readers have written to The Times to express their concern with our use of the phrase “catch and release” in our recent coverage of the Trump administration’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.
“ ‘Catch and release’ is a sport fishing term for the practice of catching fish and releasing them, alive, back into the water,” Tim Pierce from Berlin, Mass., wrote in a letter to the editor on Wednesday. “The Trump administration uses it as part of a strategy to dehumanize immigrants. The Times must not be complicit in this process of dehumanization, and must reject this biased term.”
We asked our deputy national editor Kim Murphy to respond.
The phrase “catch and release” has been used off-and-on to describe immigration policy since at least the administration of George W. Bush.
President Trump has made it a favorite term for what he considers the government’s lack of vigilance in detaining migrants who cross the border illegally. For too long, he argues, the government has allowed migrants in such cases to be released from detention and simply show up for their immigration hearings in order to remain, possibly for years, in the United States. Such a policy, he believes, encourages more migrant families to embark on dangerous journeys, persuaded by precedent that freedom waits at the other end.
Mr. Trump is a master of catchphrases; he uses them so often that news organizations can be tempted to adopt them, often tongue-in-cheek, as shorthand for government policy. “Drain the swamp” (trim government bureaucracy). “Big, beautiful wall” (fortify the border). “Worst trade deal ever” (Nafta). “Greatest theft in the history of the world” (China). “Rocket man” (North Korea). “Fake news” (fill in the blank).
“Catch and release” has had a way of seeping into news coverage because it so succinctly describes a complex set of responses to illegal immigration and asylum law. I personally would never have thought of it as a way of equating human beings to fish. Yet of course by adopting a fishing metaphor, it does precisely that.
Here on the National desk, we’ve asked all our immigration writers to think carefully before using this phrase, making sure they include it only in reference to the administration’s use of the phrase; we don’t want to make it ours.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com