If Joe Biden is looking for inspiration on immigration policy, he might look to a speech he gave in 2013 when he was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame. The then-vice president talked of how his own ancestors found refuge in the U.S. and how the immigration policies of the time made it possible for their entire family to join them and escape the ongoing famine in Ireland. Today, many Central American immigrants are getting a different sort of welcome at the southern border. John Washington and José Luis Sanz join Ryan Grim to discuss.
Ryan Grim: As the crisis at the Southern border has continued to attract national attention, something Joe Biden said at his last press conference has stuck with me.
President Joseph R. Biden: It’s not like somebody sitting on a hand-hewn table in Guatemala — I mean somewhere in Mexico or in Guadalupe — said, “I got a great idea. Let’s sell everything we have, give it to a coyote, have them take our kids across the border into a desert where they don’t speak the language. Won’t that be fun? Let’s go!”
That’s not how it happens. People don’t want to leave. When my great-grandfather got in a coffin ship in the Irish Sea, [the] expectation was: was he going to live long enough on that ship to get to the United States of America? But they left because of what the Brits had been doing.
RG: I’m Ryan Grim, and this is Deconstructed.
What “the Brits had been doing” was one of the great crimes of the 19th century. We know it today as the “potato famine,” but as anybody raised with a bit of pride in their Irish heritage knows, a lack of food was not Ireland’s real problem: the potato blight, after all, affected crops all over Europe, but it was only the Irish who starved. The problem was that the British government was intent on disciplining their Irish subjects and carrying out an economic experiment on their bodies. Efforts in the British parliament to end the starvation were beaten back in the most bigoted terms.
Charles Edward Trevelyan, the official in charge of relief efforts, famously said the famine, “the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.” He was a radical, free-market idealogue and opposed any government intervention to subsidize food prices or offer direct relief. Food continued to be exported during the famine. A million or more people died over a few short years, and another two million fled.
By the end of it, the Irish population had dropped by a staggering 25 percent. The lingering resentment toward the British fueled demands for Irish independence, which finally came in 1922, and ultimately contributed to the formation of the IRA and the Northern Irish uprising known as the Troubles. For the details, there’s a great show called Irish History Podcast, hosted by Fin Dwyer, that goes through it blow by blow.
Here he is reading a letter that Frederick Engels wrote to Karl Marx about the devastation Engels witnessed in 1856, a full five years after the famine ended, when Engels was touring Ireland.
Fin Dwyer: “Throughout the West, but especially in the region ’round Galway, the country is covered with these ruins of peasants’ cottages, most of which have been abandoned only since 1846. I never understood before that famine could be such a tangible reality. Whole villages are deserted and there amongst them lie the splendid parks of the lesser landlords … who are almost the only people who live there now. Famine, emigration, and clearances together have accomplished this. Here there are not even cattle to be seen in the fields. The land is an utter desert, which nobody wants.”
RG: For our purposes, it’s enough to understand that Joe Biden knows this history very deeply — in his bones, he might say.
In 2013, he was inducted into the Irish-American Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, he told a story about something his Aunt Gertie said to him when he was a boy.
JB: “Now Joey, your father’s not a bad man.” [Laughter from the audience.] It never crossed my mind that my father was a bad man. And then she’d go on to say, I swear to God it’s true, she’d say, “It’s not his fault he’s English, Joey. It’s not his fault he’s English.”
RG: In his address to the Irish-American audience, Biden talked about the stories he’d heard from his family about his great-grandparents.
JB: I don’t know how many of you were told the kind of things I was told by my grant-grandfather and my great uncle, everything from the Black and Tans, who fight in the IRA. They weren’t even in Ireland, and they fight in the IRA. [Scattered laughs from the audience.] My grandfather Blewitt. He was the class of ’79 of Lafayette University, and he was a mining engineer.
RG: By ‘79, of course, he means 1879.
JB: When he ran for state Senate in the state of Pennsylvania, 1904, newspaper articles my Uncle Ed left me, accused him of being a Molly Maguire. You know the Molly Maguires? He denied it; we all hoped it had been true. [Audience laughs.]
RG: They hoped it was true because having a Molly Maguire in the family tree is a serious boon to your Irish-American cred.
The Mollys were one of the many secret societies that had been a major part of Ireland’s political economy for centuries. Their namesake, the original Molly Maguire, was an Irish widow who launched an organization called the Anti-landlord Agitators in the 1840s. The fight between those landlords and those people working on the land was central to how the famine unfolded. The landlords, who were allied with the British elite, were effectively starving people off their land, seizing it from families that had been working it for centuries, but had no legal claim to it under British rule.
In the U.S., the Molly Maguires emerged in the 1860s in Pennsylvania coal country and were concentrated among mineworkers. They got the Hollywood treatment in 1970, the first year Biden ran for elected office.
Voiceover [in the “Molly Maguires” trailer: They were Irish. They were Catholic. They were rebels.
Sean Connery [as Jack Kehoe in “Molly Maguires”]: They won’t stop now. What’s the meaning of it? They won’t stop, so we can’t stop.
Voiceover [in the “Molly Maguires” trailer: These men take justice into their own hands. They’re… the Molly Maguires.
RG: There’s still contentious debate about what exactly the Molly Maguires were, and I’d again direct you to the Irish History Podcast for more detail. But there’s no doubt how their story ended. The Irish mine workers were infiltrated by covert strikebreakers from the Pinkerton Agency, which worked, and still works, for major corporations looking to keep their workers in check. It happened during what was known as the long strike of the 1870s. In 1877, 20 Irish men, thanks to what was likely perjured testimony from the Pinkertons, were executed for alleged involvement with the gang of workers. Sean Connery plays one of those men, “Black Jack” Kehoe, in the movie.
Judge [in “Molly Maguires”]: This court sentences you, John Kehoe, Frank McAndrew, and Thomas Dougherty, to be confined to the country prison until the date of your execution, where you shall be hanged by the neck until dead.
RG: Mass execution was the most extreme form of discrimination Irish workers faced, but discrimination against immigrants was rampant in the 1840s and onward, reshaping American politics. As the Democrats became a pro-immigrant, pro-slavery party, the nativist Know-Nothings briefly surged to national prominence. That gave Lincoln a path to power by straddling the line on immigration while opposing slavery.
When Republicans in Congress amended the Constitution to give freed black men the franchise, they made sure to leave in loopholes intended to block Irish and German immigrants from voting — since, at the time, they voted Democratic.
JB: Most people think the KKK, the Ku Klux Klan, started because of African-Americans. It was an anti-immigration movement as well. There were too many of us Catholics coming. In the late 1800s, this sentiment generated an entire political movement known as the Know-Nothing Party. In 1892, the New York Times wrote of our ancestors the following: “It is next to impossible to penetrate this mass of protected, secluded humanity with modern ideas […] Where they halt they stay, and where they stay they multiply [audience laughs] and cover the earth.” That was a quote.
RG: In researching this episode, I stumbled on a coincidence too fun not to share. As Biden noted, his great grandfather, Edward Francis Blewitt, served in the Pennsylvania State Senate, and Biden was always told that Blewitt was the first Irish Catholic to do so.
JB: When he ran for the state Senate in Pennsylvania, I’m told, I haven’t been able to verify this part of the legend, the first Irish-Catholic senator in the state of Pennsylvania.
RG: Well, I did try to verify it. And it’s not exactly right. That would be State Senator William McSherry, who served from 1813 to 1817 representing — where else — but McSherrystown. His son James was in the state Senate during the Civil War, so that makes Blewitt the third. While Joe Biden’s great-grandfather was serving in the state Senate representing Lackawanna County, there was an Irish-Catholic state representative in Luzerne County, which is just across the line from Scranton. That state rep, Patrick Francis Boyle, was my own great, great-grandfather, something I had never been told before. At the age of 5, with his family, he fled County Donegal for Philadelphia, driven out of Ireland at the height of the famine.
The advantage that my family had, and the one Biden’s family had, was that they were able to emigrate as families. Plenty of orphans, of course, came across the ocean as unaccompanied minors, but that wasn’t because American immigration policy forced them to do it that way.
It’s a distinction Biden discussed at length in front of the Irish audience:
JB: Today, our legal immigration system, though well intended, has the effect of keeping family separated. America is about family. We Irish are about family. My grandfather, when he came a year ahead of his family, would not have stayed were he not able to bring his family — and I mean, his whole family — with him.
Because that’s about what happened. What did we do when we got here? We built communities. We weren’t a polygon of individuals. We were about family, about neighborhood, about community. That’s who the hell we are.
But today, most people don’t realize today a naturalized American has to wait a minimum of 12 years for the opportunity to bring his brother or his sister to join him. That’s a system that needs to be changed and can be changed.
RG: There are a ton of parallels between the exodus from Central America today and the one from Ireland when the Boyles and Finnegans arrived. First, both of them begin in one way or another in the ground. The potato blight that ruined several years of crops in a row was a product of globalization, as the English had brought the potato from the Americas, creating an unstable monocrop system that allowed a single fungus to rip through everything. In Central America, climate change has steadily made the region simply less livable.
It’s something AOC touched on this week:
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Because it’s not a border crisis. It’s an imperialism crisis; it’s a climate crisis; it’s a trade crisis. Well, number one, our solutions need to be rooted in foreign policy, because our interventionist history in foreign policy over decades of destabilizing regions. But people don’t want to have that conversation.
RG: Just as the British drove the Irish to misery, the U.S. has done the same in Central America, through deliberate policies aimed at propping up a corrupt, landowning elite that allies with U.S. leaders with the shared mission of exploiting and oppressing the local population.
The cultural give-and-take is similar, too. Just as the Molly Maguires were exported to the U.S., Irish Americans became a base of fundraising and organizational support for the IRA back home. Now, street gangs like MS-13, which were founded here, have grown in power there, connected by underground global trafficking networks.
To talk more about all of this, we’re joined by José Luis Sanz and John B. Washington, journalists with El Faro, an international news outlet based out of El Salvador, which has an English-language version you can find at elfaro.net. John Washington is also a contributor to The Intercept, and he translated the book, “A History Of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America,” which was written by his El Faro colleague Óscar Martínez. Sanz is now the Washington correspondent for El Faro.
John and José, welcome to Deconstructed.
José Luis Sanz: Hi, how are you?
RG: I’m wonderful. John Washington, thanks for joining me here.
John B. Washington: Glad to be back with you, Ryan.
RG: So for people who are not familiar with your work, John, obviously, probably a lot of our listeners are from your work at The Intercept. But, and José, let’s start with you, can you just tell people how it is that you got involved in Latin-American journalism, and what brought you to this place?
JLS: Well, I’m Spanish, as you can recognize from my horrible accent. [Laughs.] The thing is, I moved to El Salvador when I was 24. I have been working in El Salvador as a journalist for 22 years. That means, obviously, that migration and the relationship with the United States becomes part of the day-by-day work, because migration in Salvador, in [unintelligible], is something that defines the life of everybody, of the countries, of the future of the countries is to immigration.
So, I got to move to the United States as a correspondent, and now I will be more focused on the topic.
RG: And, John, what about you?
JBW: Well, I’ve been writing about and have been an activist in and around immigration at the border for a long time, for about 12 years. I’ve been translating, I started translating Óscar Martínez’s books starting in 2013, and have since traveled to Central America and written on immigration and asylum ever since. And my book, “The Dispossessed,” is mostly about Central Americans seeking asylum in the U.S. and the extraordinary difficulties that they face in doing so.
RG: So John, can you put this current wave that we’re seeing in context, and in the context of the recent waves over the past several years?
JBW: Sure. The broad context is that people from Mexico and Central America have been heading north, heading to the United States for decades for a century. In the past year, since last March, after about three years of the Trump administration doing all they could to deny — it was a really concerted attack against asylum — so after three years of that, they absolutely shut down the Southern border, and that was on very specious public health grounds.
JBW: So the system has been shut down for a year. And now as the Biden administration has taken some efforts to re-implement the asylum system, a federal judge in December blocked part of the Title 42 order, which was doing exactly that, left asylum off the table for everyone who was coming to the U.S.-Mexico border. And that happened under the Trump administration.
So what we’re seeing now is the effect of a build-up of years, or decades, of migration; a year-long pandemic, which has had catastrophic economic effects on Central America; a couple of hurricanes, which a lot of people are mentioning, rightly, as another motivating factor for people to head north — in November, two hurricanes slammed into Central America; and then that year-long, absolute shutdown, where people had nowhere else to go, but try to wait out the period where they could finally make an asylum claim. Finally, they’re able to do so — some of them.
But I think there’s a couple other things I need to put in perspective here — that in 2020, approximately 100 million people crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, many of them — the vast majority of them — without any health checks at all. So the public health grounds for blocking asylum seekers, which are a tiny sliver of that huge number, doesn’t make any sense.
Over the past year, over 500,000 people have been automatically expelled, turned back without any chance at asking for asylum; 13,000 unaccompanied minors were automatically expelled over the past year without any chance to ask for asylum. That is both illegal under U.S. and international law, and putting those people — putting those children — in extreme and mortal danger.
I think what it shows, the political expediency here, is that people are willing to use the misery and the the marginalization of children and families to score political points, and they’re cloaking, an actual crisis, that is a humanitarian crisis, and they’re trying to just turn it into a political war. And it’s quite, quite disturbing.
RG: And also, I suspect Democrats, in a presidential election year, were just fine not to talk about immigration at all.
José, what’s the rough breakdown of home countries among the migrants in this wave?
JLS: Obviously, mostly Honduras and Guatemala, but something is happening that is interesting. The agreement with Mexico makes the administration, the United States’ administration, to drop most of the asylum seekers, or the Central-American, Mexican migrants on the other side of the border. So most of those that are right now waiting here for the decision about the case are from other countries. I was, two days ago, in Ajo/Gila Bend, that area of this sort of the Sonoran Desert, and most of the people that have been processed in the last weeks are from Venezuela, from Chile, from Ecuador, even from Brazil.
I met this guy, Maxi, he’s 24 years old, and he has been waiting for six years. He’s from Venezuela, from Maracaibo, and he first moved to Colombia, and then from Colombia to Chile, and in Chile he made some money to pay the flights to come to the United States where his family has been living without documentation for the last six years. So people from other countries, not only from the Northern Triangle, are coming right now.
RG: Right. And you mentioned Guatemala, John, and for people who don’t know the history, can you run through a little bit of Guatemalan history? You can even start in the 1950s, if you want, with the Dulles brothers and Jacobo Árbenz.
JBW: Yeah, so the United States has been using much of Latin America, including Guatemala, as both a laboratory, as Greg Grandin very succinctly put it, to extract resources and to practice and engage in warfare.
And in 1954, with direct backing from the CIA, a democratically elected president who was instituting much-needed, and much-demanded by the populace, land reforms was overthrown. And even more so since then, the country has been in political turmoil. And that erupted pretty quickly in a 36-year-long civil war. And the United States played a very heavy hand in that as well: enormous amounts of aid were going to a extraordinary, violent military who was engaging in anti-indigenous genocide, and that ended only in the 1990s.
So very much this is a reality that is still being lived by a lot of people, the fallout from that. And the corruption — the elite corporate class who has been able to maintain a stranglehold on much of the rural indigenous population — is a dynamic that we’re still seeing, and it’s still being upheld, if not directly by the U.S. government, then by USAID and U.S. corporations who are still extracting and exploiting the people of that country.
And what we’re seeing now is a slightly different iteration of that, perhaps. The United States is more and more focused not on just extraction, but on using Guatemala as well as Mexico and the other countries of Central America as a wall, as a means of stopping further migration. We’ve seen this a couple times this year under the Biden Administration. Juan Gonzalez, who José Luis has spoken with, praised Guatemala for blocking Hondurans, mostly Hondurans, from migrating north. The United States now is trying to turn Central American Mexico into its own border.
RG: José, I wanted to get your perspective as somebody who lived in El Salvador for a couple of decades. And as John mentioned, a pretty gentle effort at social democratic reforms in Guatemala, a very popular land reform — which was being done with compensation to the landowners — was met with violent overthrow. And so it convinced a lot of leftists in Latin America that the only way that they were going to be able to bring about change was if they took up arms, that the United States would not allow the ballot box to be used to make any real changes.
And Che Guevara was even in Guatemala while that happened. He witnessed that and then he kind of popularized this idea that, look, you can’t trust Uncle Sam. He’s going to come for you, even if you try to just raise taxes on a couple of oligarchs. They’re not going to allow any amount of social democracy.
And so you wind up having these dirty wars throughout the 1980s that lead to these waves of refugees that come north. That’s happening at the same time, in the United States, that we are kind of deindustrializing, that our manufacturing base is collapsing; this is the Reagan era; this is neoliberalism. You’re seeing the middle class get hollowed out, you see the rise of mass incarceration, you see gangs begin to be formed across the United States.
When deportations pick up again, in the 1990s or so, you start seeing a lot of gang members deported back to places where some of them only lived for a year before they came up. And so did you see the influence of the American wave of deportations back into Central America over the last 20 years? And how has that affected the region?
JLS: Well, I think there are two things. One, of course, the deportations changed Central America, especially because the United States exported the gangs from America. MS-13 was born in Los Angeles. We’re talking about American gangs, to [come to] control in countries with weak police force and weak institutionality. And El Salvador was just coming up from the war when the deportations started. So the relationship with the United States has been kind of strange. The Homeland Security strategy and policies in the states changed Central America; at the same time, it’s kind of the safe place where everybody wants to go. So it’s a cycle that never breaks, never stops.
RG: John, Óscar’s book, one of Óscar’s books that you mentioned, “A History Of Violence” goes kind of deep into this relationship, and you translated that book. Anything you’d want to add to that particular cycle?
JBW: Well, yeah. I think not only the system of migration enforcement is really important to take into consideration here, but also the system of incarceration. And that, José Luis mentioned that MS-13 was born in Los Angeles. It was born mostly in Los Angeles-area prisons. And the reason that so many people were were taken up and deported in the first place is because they were criminalized in the first place in the United States, and you have to look at the context in which they were criminalized, too, is that there had been a decades — and that Might be selling it short — -long process of criminalizing mostly Black residents in the Los Angeles area, which helped form some of the gangs that developed in the prisons there. And then in response to those prison gangs, a lot of the recent Latino arrivals or Central American arrivals form their own gangs in response as a defensive mechanism.
So it’s not just the deportation-immigration process, but the criminalization and incarceration process. And then that process was also exported into Central America, and has been exported in much of the rest of the world.
RG: José Luis, why do people see no future in Honduras? And how would you balance just general climate collapse in Honduras against the 2009 coup, the U.S.-supported coup which further destabilized the country?
JLS: And in most of the region in the ’90s, had some kind of hope. The civil war-era was ending, democracy seemed to be the response — the tool — to build new countries. Finally. But the democratic projects failed, or were subverted. In the case of El Salvador, obviously corruption and the failure of the leadership of the country led to an institutional crisis.
And in the case of Honduras, corruption, drug trafficking, influence in politics, and the kind of 19th century elites that you have in Honduras, that is the most conservative country in the region — and that’s a lot to say. It’s not only the 2009 coup d’état. It’s the whole process that never, never went into something close to a democracy.
RG: Right. And John, there are people who say that: Look, you can refer to this as a crisis in the sense that there are thousands of people who are suffering at the moment. And anytime that that’s happening, that is a crisis. But if you think of it as a crisis that is going to abate, then you’re misunderstanding this, that this is the new steady state, that out-migration is only going to increase. And so if this is the new steady state, what from a policy perspective can the United States do so this doesn’t become a crisis every year or every two years?
JBW: That’s a really good question.
There are a couple approaches right now that are being proffered by the Biden administration. And they are almost identical to the ideas that were put forth in 2014, when Biden himself was the Obama emissary to solve the crisis of unaccompanied minors. And there were a number of new policies that took place, there was a lot of money that they tried to raise to send to the region — not that much went to it. But the money that did go went to the same institutions that have been pocketing a lot of it or using it to crack down on the populations. There was establishment of the Central American Minors program, which is being hailed right now again. It was cancelled by the Trump administration; it’s going to be re-instituted. It’s a good idea. It would let people from Central America, minors from Central America, to apply for relief from Central America, so they don’t have to take the dangerous trip. Great idea. But only, I think, less than 3,000 people total, actually made use of that program during the Obama administration. So it’s not a real solution.
One of the things that I think is a good sign is that one of the many executive orders that Biden signed in February was to take a very hard look at how climate change is affecting migration out of the region. There is talk — and I don’t remember the exact language — but there’s talk about finding some sort of relief for people who are forcibly displaced because of climate change. Currently, even in international asylum law, there is absolutely no way to gain safety or gain refuge if you had to leave because of climate change. And that is a reason a lot of people are having to leave Central America right now.
We’ve mentioned the hurricanes, there’s also an ongoing decade-plus-long drought. There are not only more heavy storms, but there are crop failures and insect infestations. Coffee crops have been devastated in recent years. So I think looking at all these things, to avert an ongoing crisis or to understand how to deal with the crisis is to probably let people in. I mean, but parts of Central America are going to be uninhabitable, especially if we continue to back up narco states and corrupt officials, and climate change continues to bear down on the region, which, of course, it’s going to. The only reasonable response is to let more people in.
RG: Right. And there’s not an endless number of people in Central America. And José Luis, not everyone in Central America wants to come to the United States. So just as a thought experiment, if the Biden administration, or some future administration said: You know what? We’re living through a climate catastrophe, the humanitarian thing to do is to take anybody in who wants to come. What’s your sense of what kind of percentage of the population in various countries would actually take advantage of that?
JLS: Wow, that’s an interesting question. The polls say that around 30 percent of Salvadorians want to immigrate. Probably they won’t do it, not all of them. But for sure, in the first moment, you would face a big number.
RG: I mean, what’s the population of El Salvador?
JLS: Now, we’re talking about 6.7 million.
RG: Right. So two million people. It’s not a huge number.
JLS: Yeah. But you will agree that numbers, as John said, are used now as a weapon.
JLS: And two million, that’s a lot in terms of how that can be used.
JLS: And I agree with you. The thing is a lack of perspective. I mean, when Biden said: I will open the path to citizenship to 11 million people. And that’s almost nothing. That’s people that are already here. And nothing has happened. The United States has not collapsed because of that.
Not all the people will immigrate at the same moment; not all for the same reasons; not all with the same abilities. I mean, the United States will receive a lot of well-prepared people, for sure.
RG: John, so you have seen a lot of Republicans saying that the reason that you’re seeing this wave at the border is that Biden has sent signals that the gates are open, come on in. What’s your reaction to that?
JBW: So I think there’s a fallacy there, that is something like what we’re seeing is more clearly correlation than causation. Because if you look at the Trump administration, in 2019, after a couple years of the most draconian and absolutely restrictive asylum and immigration enforcement that this country has seen in a long time, there was a similar, and still, at this point, greater spike in border crossings. So it doesn’t really make sense that White House messaging is driving all of this current increase in migration. It might be a part of it, but I don’t think that’s exclusively it.
RG: Did you see the amazing admission from Rep. Darrell Issa in California? He said at a recent hearing you can’t give people legal status, because then they and their families will no longer work on the farms in California.
JBW: Yeah, I mean, he is saying out loud the part that people have been saying under their breath for decades. We know that people have been marginalized and kept illegal or illegalized in order to reap benefits from them. So, yeah. That is something that has been clear and ongoing for a long time.
You know, back to the question about solutions. And this is something that José Luis was touching on. I think this is a step that I think would be at least a good one, and that is to just follow our own laws. And that’s what we haven’t seen for a long time.
JBW: You know, if we could just actually follow our asylum laws right now, I think that there would be a much more humane response to what is going on at the border.
A very simple concrete example is the amount of time that minors are allowed to be held in Border Patrol facilities, short-term custody facilities, is 72 hours max. I think that’s already a long time to hold a child in jail, in miserable conditions where lights are on 24/7, guards who are heavily armed and untrained to deal with children are watching over them. But right now, currently, we’re seeing kids spend upwards of 10 days in those facilities. Just following our asylum laws, letting people in, hearing out their claims and deciding those claims and deciding whether or not to grant them status or not, and then allowing them an appeal process, all of which is already in U.S. law, I think just following that would be a good step. And that’s something that the law and order cries along the border are completely often overlooking.
RG: Mhmm. [Laughs.] Right. Exactly. José Luis, John Washington, thank you so much for joining me.
JBW: Thanks for having us, Ryan.
JLS: Wow. Thank you.
[“Molly Maguires” by The Dubliners plays.]
RG: That was José Luis Sanz and John B. Washington, and that’s our show.
Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Laura Flynn is our supervising producer. The show was mixed by Bryan Pugh. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.
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