Bill Pearl

[The text below is adapted from an editorial.]

A delegation from the Los Angeles Dodgers was allowed in. So were Long Beach City Councilmembers. So were supportive interest groups. But access to the Temporary Federal Migrant Detention Facility at the Long Beach Convention Center was thwarted from outset to end by the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services with Mayor Garcia serving as its local amplifier.

The stonewall began on April 22, the first day Mayor Garcia, Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D, Long Beach-West OC), Long Beach Councilmembers and allied groups were given a “tour” of the facility (accompanied by an official minder) while Long Beach and Los Angeles media outlets, including, were kept out. We and others were left standing outside a controlled press event and offered only “pooled” photos and text from one source (So Cal News Group, publisher of Press-Telegram/Gazettes) and video from an LA TV station.

To be clear; there was absolutely no physical reason to “pool” access at that day’s event. The real reason we believe was to control independent media access and oversight and legitimize the practice elsewhere. complained to the press representative in the office of Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (D, Carson, Compton, North Long Beach). Congresswoman Barragán could have publicly called on HHS to allow independent media access to the Long Beach facility. She didn’t. Nor did Long Beach Mayor Garcia. He could have publicly called on HHS to allow independent media access to the Long Beach facility. He didn’t.

Sure enough, varieties of the restrictions were replicated elsewhere. When officials staged a migrant minor event at L.A. County’s Pomona fairgrounds and again restricted independent press access – and a county media advisory sought questions in advance – we asked L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ deputy press aide if their office agreed with these groundrules. She acknowledged that the county was following HHS’ desired protocol but left unclear if the feds demanded it or merely requested it. Supervisor Solis could have called on HHS to allow independent media access. She didn’t. loudly and publicly objected. On April 30, we editorialized “From Long Beach to Pomona, Reporters Faced Federally-Desired, Locally-Enabled Block That Manipulated Media Coverage of Migrant Minor Detention Facilities. That’s Not OK.” Our text in pertinent part:

“It’s ugly when third world regimes rush to cover a reporter’s camera lens. It’s similarly ugly here when smiling officials block reporters from accessing firsthand a major newsworthy matter and then spoonfeed media outlets what officialdom wants shown and told.

“In both Long Beach [Convention Center] and Pomona [Fairplex], HHS and its local enablers abused the practice of offering “pooled” coverage in which one or two reporters and a photographer get access and allow others to use their text and photos. Pooled coverage is appropriate when physical conditions (e.g. a political fundraiser inside a person’s home) don’t permit access by a large group of reporters. That wasn’t the case on April 22 at the commodious Long Beach Convention Center and won’t be so on April 30 at the sprawling Pomona Fairplex.

“No, the pool isn’t to protect the privacy of migrant children. They weren’t present at either location yet. Those two events should never have been pooled. In our view, they were pooled as part of an effort to manipulate press coverage.

“...[On April 22] one of our competitors got to the heart of the matter with his question, paraphrased here: How will we be able to confirm whether everything you’re promising will actually be provided? he asked. After hearing the tap-danced response, we have no idea.” A month later an AP pool reporter was allowed to tour the Pomona facility.

We expect matters officialdom doesn’t want told will eventually come out. We plan to pursue this, and hope our brothers and sisters in the L.A. and Long Beach press corps will join in objecting to future attempts to thwart independent coverage of matters the public has a right to know.


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