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Trump Vilifies Immigrants, Claims He's Civil Rights Champion

Trump Vilifies Immigrants, Claims He's Civil Rights Champion

Donald Trump

The president said he was there to unite the country even while consistently using divisive language.


Donald Trump tried a hopeful spin to his demagoguing of immigrants on Tuesday. But there were signs within the chamber that some in Congress weren't fooled.

Members of Congress who assembled to hear Trump's speech to the joint session groaned when he announced a crime-fighting task force, which he called VOICE, "Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement."

Combating immigration, he predicted, would create jobs, increase wages, and decrease crime. The converse loomed, in which Trump inherently blamed immigrants for stealing jobs, for decreasing Americans' wages, and for crime, even murder.

Trump told stories of those he said were victimized by criminal immigrants. Mourning family members were invited to sit alongside the first lady. The president spent lots of time painting a deviant portrait of undocumented immigrants, but he also expanded his attack to include those who come here legally.

"The current outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers," he claimed, describing legal immigrants as largely without means. In his proposed "merit-based immigration system," Trump said it would be a basic requirement that immigrants "ought to be able to support themselves financially."

Trump cast himself as a defender of Latinos and African-Americans, most especially by proposing a "school choice" bill as he proclaimed, "Education is the civil rights issue of our time."

Trump's Education secretary, Betsy DeVos, was on Tuesday facing outrage over her statement that historically black universities were the "real pioneers when it comes to school choice." In reality, black students weren't the beneficiaries of competition; they were barred from white schools.

Trump began his speech to Congress with a call for inclusion, noting Tuesday was the last day of Black History Month.

"As we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our nation's path toward civil rights and the work that still remains to be done," he said.

Later in the speech, Trump would blame crime in Chicago on those who work "against" the police. He didn't cite any example, but in the past Trump has attacked activists aligned with Black Lives Matter as anti-law enforcement. Their fight to eliminate racism in policing is part of what remains to be done in the civil rights movement.

Trump also used the start of his speech to directly address the rise of anti-Semitism and the shooting of two Indian men in an apparent hate crime.

"Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries -- as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City -- remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are country that stands united in confronting hate and evil in all of its many ugly forms."

Trump claimed, "I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message delivered deeply from my heart." He would later declare that "We all bleed the same blood, we all salute the same great American flag, and we all are made by the same God."

Trump's view of America was bleak, as usual. He said criminal cartels had spread across the country, that we faced "an environment of lawless chaos," and he worried that "we cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside of America." He said Americans needed protection from the "imploding Obamacare disaster" and called for repeal and replacing with tax credits and health savings accounts.

Trump was also his usual nationalist self, saying the middle class is shrinking because of globalization. "We've financed and built one global project after another but ignored the fates of our children," he said.

Trump called for investment in infrastructure only as a means of putting Americans before foreigners. "We've spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled," he said.

And of course Trump couldn't shy away from a chance to talk about his election win. He portrayed his win as the result of "the rebellion" led by "quiet voices" that "became a loud chorus." It didn't stop there. "The chorus became an earthquake and the people turned out by the tens of millions," he said, ignoring that he'd lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes.

He got snickers later when slipping in that "the time for trivial fights are behind us."

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Lucas Grindley

Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.
Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.