The blatantly racist comments made by President Trump during a private meeting with lawmakers on Thursday—confirmed on Friday by Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois—were all too believable. Mr. Trump has a long history of racist and xenophobic remarks, including his defense of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Va., last year. When talking about immigration policy with congressional leaders on Jan. 11, Mr. Trump reportedly referred to African nations as “shithole countries” and asked, “Why do we need more Haitians?” in response to a proposal to protect refugees from that nation. (On a previous occasion Mr. Trump reportedly said of immigrants from Haiti, “They all have AIDS.”)
The latest cruel and small-minded remarks by the president are contemptible, as is any attempt to spin them as candor or straight talk. Mr. Trump was not making a serious policy suggestion when, for example, he said he would prefer immigration from Norway, and his comments do not deserve to be discussed as if he were. His history and the context of his remarks make it clear that he was acting on a primitive impulse to denigrate poorer nations with large nonwhite populations. Additionally, he was ignoring the essential human dignity that immigrants and refugees are given by God no matter what their birthplace.
Mr. Trump ignored the essential human dignity that immigrants and refugees are given by God no matter what their birthplace.
While Mr. Trump’s most recent remarks are terrible, by themselves they do not reveal anything we did not already know about his presidency. They are still damaging, however, because they have disrupted initial progress toward a compromise proposal to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. While national attention is devoted to parsing Mr. Trump’s language, some 800,000 young adults who were brought to the United States without documentation as children, known as Dreamers, are still facing the uncertainty and danger of deportation.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senator Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has been working on a package that would save DACA. Their bill would also impose tougher border security and include funding for Mr. Trump’s frequently touted “wall” along the Mexican border. Mr. Trump had signaled his willingness to back such a compromise, which includes significant concessions from both political parties, earlier in the week. That proposal also included plans to cut a visa lottery program by 50 percent but prioritize applications from nations formerly covered by the Temporary Protected Status program. These nations include Haiti, the detail that prompted Mr. Trump’s latest expression of intolerance.
The outburst should not derail the essential policy work of renewing DACA and bringing some stability and sanity to our nation’s immigration policy.
That outburst should not derail the essential policy work of renewing DACA and bringing some stability and sanity to our nation’s immigration policy. Mr. Trump’s outrageous remarks and neverending capacity to shock the body politic are understandably making headlines, but we must not allow such behavior to stop the work of basic governance, already threatened by partisan entrenchment and constant brinkmanship. Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, refugees and their families are waiting for Washington to do what is right. They deserve action, not another political sideshow.