We are a nation of immigrants. For almost three centuries, America has stood as the Promised Land, where beleaguered people from all around the world came to escape persecution, start a new life and pursue their dreams – black, white, brown; Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa. We were the melting pot that welcomed and assimilated them all: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
But now America has a new immigration policy, as pronounced last week by President Donald Trump: "Welcome to the United States of America … as long as you're white." That's the clear message he left bipartisan senators with at a hastily called Oval Office meeting on immigration.
Here's the full story. At a packed White House meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday, Jan. 9, Trump said he'd only sign an immigration bill that dealt with four issues: border security; the Dreamers; chain, or family, migration and the lottery system for immigrants from countries with temporary protected status (TPS). Immediately following the meeting, six senators – Republicans Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; and Democrats Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. – got to work and hammered out a compromise bill.
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When they walked into the Oval Office on Thursday morning, Jan. 11, invited by the president to outline their plan, Durbin and Graham were surprised to discover immigration hardliners Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., who had already convinced Trump to oppose the bipartisan bill. Whereupon, instead of talking, as expected, about how to solve the immigration problem, Durbin and Graham sat there as Donald Trump made it even worse with his vulgar, inflammatory and now infamous language.
Once informed, apparently for the first time, that immigrants of certain countries considered extremely dangerous, including Haiti, El Salvador and certain African countries, enjoyed priority status, Trump exploded. "Why do we want all these people from s---hole countries coming here?" he reportedly asked repeatedly, adding that what we really needed were more people from countries like Norway.
Those comments triggered one of the strangest political debates this country has ever seen. At first the White House applauded Trump's comments, with one official telling CNN: "Though this might enrage Washington, staffers predict the comment will resonate with his base, much like his attacks on NFL players who kneel during the national anthem did not alienate it."
Sen. Durbin meanwhile condemned Trump for saying such "hate-filled things." Sen. Graham, seconding Durbin's outrage, said he rebuked the president on the spot. But Sens. Cotton and Perdue defended the president, first by saying they didn't "remember" hearing him say "s---hole" and then by insisting he never said it at all. That's when things really got bizarre.
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As first reported by the Washington Post, citing several White House aides, Trump actually called them "s---house" countries, not "s---hole" countries. So Cotton and Perdue might have been technically correct. And, believe it or not, official Washington then tied itself in knots for three days over whether the president of the United States called Haiti and other countries "s---hole" or "s---house" – as if it made any difference.
Puh-leeze. The point is not whether Trump said "s---hole" or "s---house." Either description's equally wrong. Either way, Trump is saying we don't need any more black or brown people here; we need more white people, like residents of Norway. It's offensive. It's wrong. And it's outright racist.
This, of course, is only the latest evidence of Trump's inherent racism. He has a history of it. He first made news in 1973, when he and his father were sued by the Justice Department for refusing to rent apartments to African-Americans. In 1989, after the rape of a female jogger in Central Park, he took out full-page newspaper ads demanding the death penalty for five African-American teenage suspects – all of whom were later exonerated. For five years, Trump personally led the birther movement, denying the legitimacy of our first African-American president.
Nor has Trump changed his stripes in the White House. He hailed white supremacists and KKK members who marched in Charleston as including "some very fine people." He called black NFL players who took a knee "sons-a-b––s." He's put in place a Muslim travel ban. And now he wants to end protected status for black and brown immigrants so we can let more white people in.
There's no dancing around it. Tell it like it is. His words and actions prove: Donald Trump is a racist.