Trump’s crusade against immigrants took another repugnant step on Wednesday, when he labeled people who have attempted to seek refuge in the United States as “animals.”
Speaking at a White House event attacking California for being welcoming to immigrants — a notion so ingrained in American tradition it is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty — Trump lashed out in typically hateful fashion, including both shocking rhetoric and outright lies.
“We’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” he insisted.
In fact, in Trump’s mind, the people coming here, desperate for a better life, are not even human.
“These aren’t people, they’re animals,” he sneered.
This statement brought about immediate and wide-ranging condemnation. “Immigrants are not ‘animals,'” said California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “The president’s statement was deeply offensive and racist.” The Washington Post pointed to historical examples of dehumanizing language:
There’s important historical context here, too, that many social media users pointed out: Referring to marginalized groups as subhuman has been a way dictators have justified the abuse of those groups. This happened with the Jewish people during the Holocaust. It happen with the Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide. And it is happening with the Rohingya people in Burma.
In addition to his dangerously divisive language, Trump lied about California sanctuary laws, and their impact on the state, according to Gov. Jerry Brown. Trump “is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of CA,” Brown said on Twitter.
During the event, Trump said studies proving sanctuary cities encourage immigrants to report more crime are “fake news.” But the law enforcement community disagrees. Law enforcement officers argue it is cracking down on sanctuary policies, the very actions the Trump administration is taking, which make communities less safe.
“When police are viewed as immigration authorities, it creates a haven for criminals to prey upon immigrants who are afraid to report crimes to police. They are also far less likely to serve as witnesses or share information with detectives, says Austin Police Chief Brian Manley,” according to Vox.
“Criminals understand that, and they will feel emboldened to commit crimes against the immigrant community without fear of being held accountable because they know they won’t call police,” said Manley. “It creates a haven for crime.”
“Because of the trust and cooperation they have developed with undocumented immigrants, police in these [sanctuary] cities are often able to identify, arrest and prosecute dangerous offenders who might otherwise still be on the streets victimizing residents — both citizens and undocumented immigrants,” says Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which works with police departments to improve the policing profession.
Trump, building on his anti-immigrant rhetoric, goes even further, falsely claiming California has a growing crime problem. “[T]he crime rate in the nation is way down. But in California, it’s up. Because of the ridiculous laws,” Trump lied.
According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), “After declining in the early 1980s, the [crime] rate rose to a peak of 1,104 in 1992. Since then, violent crime has declined substantially.” Politifact, relying on data and statistics, and not anti-immigrant-motivated sentiment, drew the same conclusion, saying, “Between 1980 and 2015, the state’s overall crime rate declined by about 60 percent, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.”
The Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is echoed and supported by some California lawmakers. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) often uses inflammatory and racist rhetoric to describe immigrants. He regularly peddles in misinformation about sanctuary cities, once allegedly said he “hates illegals,” and has equated immigrants to terrorists.
While not as rhetorically outrageous as Rohrabacher, Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) is a staunch defender of Trump as the moral leader of the Republican Party. “He’s the president of our party,” Walters said. “He stands for what we stand for.”
Democrats are calling on members like Rohrabacher and Walters to speak up about Trump’s outrageous, divisive language.
“Despite pretending to stand with immigrants, California Republican members’ silence in the face of this troubling rhetoric speaks volumes – they must address these comments immediately,” says DCCC spokesperson Drew Godinich.
Trump started his campaign by calling Mexicans “rapists.” After he was in the White House, he denigrated all people from Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa, referring to their homeland as “shithole countries.” And now he is referring to immigrants as “animals.” Through it all, California Republicans stand beside Trump, supporting him every step of the way.
After all, Trump stands for what Republicans stand for.
Oliver Willis contributed to this article.