President Trump recoiled from a proposed immigration bill on Thursday, Jan. 18 that would include protections for people in Haiti and some nations in Africa, instead demanding to know why America would want to admit immigrants from “shithole countries” rather than more wealthy and developed countries like Norway.
Trump’s word choice shocked those in attendance, some of whom were a bipartisan group of pro-immigration members focused on legalizing the DACA program. But Trump’s rhetoric also made Americans question the President’s ability to administer just laws and policies on charged topics like immigration. According to a report by The New York Times, several Republican lawmakers denounced his comments.
Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia commented that “I did not hear it, but if it’s true, he owes the people of Haiti and all mankind an apology. That is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world ought to make, and he ought to be ashamed of it.”
Amid discussion on the immigration act, Trump asked, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?” and wondered if Haitians could be left out of the plan altogether. The President’s rhetoric is not terribly surprising after a comment he made last year saying that Haitians “all have AIDS,” and that once Nigerians had come to the U.S. they would never “go back to their huts” in their home country.
Trump’s racially charged comments have caused unrest in liberal and conservative circles alike; however, the President’s rhetoric also gives context to the sentiments that may lay behind his stance on immigration.
“President Trump’s immigration policy revolves around the golden-age myth that America’s greatness as a nation is inextricably linked to its status as a majority-white nation,” said Alvin B. Tillery Jr., an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern University, the day after Trump’s “shithole” comment.
“[Trump’s] desire to build a wall on the Mexican border and his various attempts to ban Muslim immigrants are about nothing more than fulfilling this vision and appealing to the large segments of his aging, mostly white voter base who share it,” Tillery said.
Though Trump’s remarks on Jan. 11 did not cause turmoil in day-to-day government tasks, they showed how strongly the President feels about immigration (and his preferred lack thereof) to the United States.
Trump’s inflexible stance on immigration indirectly contributed to the government shutdown that launched on Friday night. Considering the President’s clear dismissal of the bipartisan immigration group on Jan. 11, Democrats in the Senate felt they could not sway Trump’s stance. Democrats then insisted that Republicans implement an immigration bill to reinstate DACA, saying that they would withhold their support from government funding bills until these claims were met.
Some politicians have even stated that Trump’s recent statements regarding immigration are taking much-needed attention away from DACA negotiations.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said that Trump’s comments “detract from the very important issue we gotta get solved by March the 5th,” the deadline for Congress to fix DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump is ending.
The government shutdown ended abruptly at noon on Monday when Senate Democrats agreed to pass a three-week spending bill that would fund the government until Feb. 8, according to Vox.
Senators have negotiated their way out of the shutdown, but perhaps this was just the crisis Democrats needed to make Republicans acknowledge the DACA program and Democrats’ efforts to save it.