09252018What's Hot:

Trump leans on inflammatory rhetoric to defend border separation

President Donald Trump and his allies frequently seek to conflate all undocumented immigrants with gang members, particularly those affiliated with MS-13, a gang with Salvadoran origins. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump and his allies are using the same inflammatory language they’ve used to describe violent gangs to defend the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the border.

Trump on Tuesday tweeted that immigrants would “pour into and infest” the United States and questioned parents’ decision to send children unaccompanied to the border. The tweet came a day after Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen referred to the “flood” of immigrants, and Fox News host and Trump ally Laura Ingraham described the border crossings as a “slow-rolling invasion of the United States.”

Story Continued Below

The comments have drawn sharp rebukes from elected officials, including at least one Republican.

“No, @POTUS, saying immigrants ‘infest’ our country is repugnant, reprehensible, + repulsive,” tweeted retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.). “To dehumanize those who wish to make a better life for themselves + their families flies in the face of decency. The real infestation is only one of your baseless rhetoric.”

Such heated rhetoric has a long history in anti-immigration politics. Trump’s latest salvo comes just weeks after Trump stirred controversy by stating that some immigrants being deported “aren’t people, they’re animals” – a comment he and the White House said was meant only to apply to members of the MS-13 gang.

The White House embraced the ensuing controversy, blasting out a 488-word release that repeatedly described members of the gang as “animals.”

“What sort of creatures infest? Vermin infests,” said David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy and expert in dehumanization and racism and the author of the forthcoming “Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization.” “The attitude that one takes to vermin – to cockroaches, to rats, to infestations of ants – is to exterminate them. That’s what it says.”

Immigrant advocates said there’s typically a clear political purpose behind such language.

“A government cannot commit open, widespread and notorious violations of human rights under both international and domestic law without substantially dehumanizing the people that they’re inflicting the pain upon to desensitize the nation to the injustices or make the injustices appear okay,” said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, a group aiding families being separated at the border.

“The only way to participate in such cruelty is to dehumanize them,” he added.

Trump and his allies – including Nielsen at Monday’s press conference – frequently seek to conflate all undocumented immigrants with gang members, particularly those affiliated with MS-13, a gang with Salvadoran origins.

Interactives Graphic

“They endanger all of our children,” Trump said of those crossing the border illegally in a speech to the National Federation of Independent Businesses on Tuesday.

In fact, only a small fraction of illegal border crossers have connections to gangs.

Congress is considering various pieces of legislation to halt the separation of families, but Trump appears committed to continuing to employ the same rhetorical attacks as he calls for strict control of immigration.

“Roughly half a million illegal immigrant family units and minors from Central America have been released into the United States since 2014 at unbelievably great taxpayer expense,” Trump added Tuesday. “Nobody knows how much we’re paying for this monstrosity that’s been created over the years.”

This article tagged under:

Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning — in your inbox.

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories

comments powered by HyperComments

More on the topic