Yesterday, four democratic congresswomen of color held a joint press conference to address a series of racist tweets made by President Trump in which he called for the women to “go back” to the countries they came from. The four women, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib, condemned his words as hateful rhetoric, emphasizing that his tweets were simply part of his weak attempt to divide the country on the basis of race, gender, and immigration status.
Three of the four women were born in the United States, and Rep. Omar has been an American citizen since she was a teenager. Ocasio-Cortez commented that she was not surprised by Trump’s words, stating that “weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy…He does not know how to defend his policies, so what he does is attack us personally.”
Pressley emphasized that Trump was using his tweets as a political tool. She told reporters that the attacks were “simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous, chaotic and corrupt culture of this administration.” Tlaib underscored Pressley’s point, stating that “we cannot allow these hateful actions by the President to distract us from the critical work to hold this administration accountable.”
Trump’s racist tweets came just one day before he instructed the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to issue a rule that would end all asylum claims for migrants who had to travel through another country to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. This rule effectively chips away at existing immigration law, which allows migrants to request asylum if they fear persecution or torture in their country of origin.
Trump’s tweets are also a clear attempt to distract the public from recent developments involving his transition staff as well as his cabinet. Yesterday was the first day of the second criminal trial resulting from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Bijan Rafeikian, a former Trump transition official in charge of intelligence matters, is now on trial for operating as an unregistered agent and receiving payments from a foreign country. In addition, last week, Alex Acosta formally resigned as labor secretary amid controversy stemming from a lenient plea deal he offered as US Attorney to billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted on charges of sex trafficking and abuse.
Trump’s racist tweets came as no surprise to the congresswomen, because he continued to further his racist agenda on Friday when he confirmed that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would begin raids to deport thousands of undocumented immigrants in 10 major cities, including Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles. His announcement on ICE came amidst reports about horrendous conditions at immigrant detention facilities at the Texas border. In fact, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was one of the most outspoken members of Congress to address the conditions. She took to Twitter, writing that “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.” A team of lawyers, doctors, and advocates noted that children are being held past the legal time limit, people are going weeks without showering or changing clothes, and most do not have access to quality food or medical care.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 7/12/19, New York Times 7/15/19, YouTube 7/15/19, Los Angeles Times 7/15/19, YouTube 7/15/19