During a recent roundtable discussion at the White House, President Trump referred to undocumented immigrants deported from the United States as “animals.”
In his statement, Trump tied undocumented immigrants to criminal gangs like MS-13 and Mexican drug cartels, despite the vast majority of undocumented immigrants being less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, according to a 2015 study from the National Academy of Sciences.
“We have people coming into the country, trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of ’em. But we’re taking people out of the country — you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said. “These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and a rate that’s never happened before.”
President Trump during California #SanctuaryCities Roundtable: "These aren't people. These are animals."
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 16, 2018
While it’s been argued that President Trump was only using the word “animals” to describe members of the MS-13 gang while responding to a question from a sheriff, Trump made zero mention of the El Salvadoran gang in his remarks. In the transcript of the exchange, Trump, on multiple occasions, was using the word “animals” to describe undocumented immigrants who have been deported from the United States.
I’m going to try to summon the patience that wasn’t in me last night on the off chance there’s someone out there who sincerely imagines the context here to be exculpatory. pic.twitter.com/vdcuaBP1RU
— Julian Sanchez (@normative) May 17, 2018
During the meeting, which was about so-called “sanctuary cities” in California in which undocumented immigrants will not be prosecuted, Trump lauded his Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, for her agency’s apprehension of undocumented immigrants at the U.S./Mexico border, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his prosecution of undocumented immigrants.
President Trump expressed his disapproval with “catch and release” tactics in which undocumented immigrants are detained and deported, rather than criminally prosecuted. He also blasted sanctuary cities as “dangerous,” accusing cities of enabling crime by not prosecuting or reporting undocumented immigrants.
Pres Trump meeting with California officials who share his opposition to Sanctuary Cities and "catch-and-release" programs. @POTUS cites cases of illegal immigrants released, later arrested for murder and rape. "People don't want Sanctuary Cities. "They're dangerous," he says. pic.twitter.com/dj0kd8zPNt
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) May 16, 2018
The Trump administration is ramping up its aggressive treatment of undocumented immigrants, now officially making it a policy to separate parents from their children when arrested at the border. Children will reportedly be held at warehouses on military bases in Texas and Arkansas in accordance with the new policy. There have already been at least 700 undocumented children (including an 18-month-old baby) separated from their families since October, according to the New York Times.
Trump’s remarks about undocumented immigrants are similar to those used by past fascist regimes to describe victims of ethnic cleansing campaigns. As NPR reported, slave owners considered their slaves to be subhuman. In the Rwanda genocide of the 1990s, the Hutus referred to the Tutsis as “cockroaches.” And Nazis used the word “untermenschen” (which translates to “subhuman”) to describe Jews.
(EDITOR’S NOTE, 5/17/18, 12:46 PM ET: This article has been updated to include a transcript of Trump’s remarks.)
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.