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Why Trump’s “Animals” Rhetoric Matters

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“Dehumanization is what you do to unwanted social groups before killing them”

Last week, President Trump used the term “animals” when referring to immigrants. While some in the media are engaged in a debate over what immigrants he was referring to, key observers have stepped up to underscore the import and the dangers in Trump’s ongoing campaign to dehumanize immigrants.

Below, we excerpt just some of these commentaries:

Juan Escalante of America’s Voice in Vox“It’s Not Just Rhetoric: Trump’s policies treat immigrants like me as ‘animals’”

During the most recent immigration fight, in which Democrats wanted to pass DREAM Act legislation to protect people like me, Trump told the media not to “fall into the trap” of referring to young undocumented immigrants as “DREAMers,” implying that because of our lack of immigration status, we were still “illegals” in his eyes.

Trump launched his campaign by lambasting Mexican immigrants coming to the United States as rapists and drug dealers. This vile line found its way into the rhetoric of Republican hardliners running for state office in recent months. In Georgia, there are two gubernatorial candidates arguing who has the biggest vehicle to deport illegal “criminals.”

This week at the California roundtable, was the president referring to MS-13 gang members, not “illegal” immigrants, as animals? This is what the administration wants us to be debating, but at this point, can anyone really believe a statement that trades one insult for another? Why are some media outlets like the Associated Press bowing to Trump’s meaningless clarification as to whom exactly he called “animals?”

It is time to stop pretending that he has a “heart” for DREAMers — as he has repeatedly said — or that he sees immigrants in anything other than the most negative possible light. Trump has shown us the racist and xenophobe he is from the beginning. It is time we take him at his word.

Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum on twitter

Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot all called their opponents “parasites” or “vermin” or “animals.” Dehumanization is what you do to unwanted social groups before killing them.

New York Times Editorial Board: “The Cruelty of Breaking Up Immigrant Families

That families constitute so great a proportion of illegal border crossers undercuts Mr. Trump’s contention that he is cracking down on immigration to keep out rapists and criminals. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” he snarled on Wednesday, in a stunningly dehumanizing reference to deported gang members. But his administration’s policies are not calculated to deal with the specific threat of violence, but rather to immiserate people whose only crime is wanting safety or opportunity. Migration north to the United States is largely what it has always been, an act of desperation by those fleeing violence, and of hope by those seeking new opportunity.

San Francisco Chronicle editorial: ‘Trump’s dangerous rant about immigrants as ‘animals’

President Trump crossed into markedly authoritarian territory Wednesday when he referred to some undocumented immigrants as “animals” and called for the prosecution of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

The dehumanization of groups targeted by a government leader and the imprisonment of political enemies are not uncommon tactics in nations run by repressive regimes. But this level of hate-inducing vitriol against immigrants and threats against a mayor over a policy disagreement have no place in the United States of America.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne: “No one is an ‘animal’”

…No one wants to be put in a position of seeming to say anything good about gang members. Yet Trump’s strategy of dehumanization must be resisted across the board. We cannot shy away from what history teaches. Pronouncing whole categories of people as subhuman numbs a nation’s moral sense and, in extreme but, unfortunately, too many cases, becomes a rationale for collective cruelty.

The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk: “The Real Risk of Trump’s Dehumanizing of Immigrants

…The most likely outcome of Trump’s “animals” rhetoric isn’t a return to some mythological Pax Americana, as his supporters might suggest. Quite the opposite: It could fuel more informing on neighbors, more regular harassment for people of color, a deeper and wider dragnet, and an increased acceptance of brutality and extralegal practices. That’s what happens when people stop being people.

New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial: First Trump puts immigrant kids in camps. Then he calls them ‘animals’.”

…The language of dehumanization is often used as a license to kill. Separate people from their humanity, Martin Luther King once said, and it gives you justification to destroy them.

This is why Donald Trump’s latest condemnation of immigrants cannot be dismissed as his usual vile nonsense, because history is filled with examples of human beings being compared to lesser species, often before and during their extermination.

Julissa Arce, author and Dreamer, in Crooked Media“For Trump, Immigration Enforcement is ‘Animal’ Control”

…But predictably, each time the issue of undocumented immigrants has come up since his election—when he ended DACA, proposed warehousing immigrant minors on military bases, ended temporary protected status for migrants fleeing disasters—he has conflated black and latino immigrants with criminals and untouchables. When we recoiled at Trump for saying immigrants from Haiti, Nigeria, and El Salvador were from “shithole” countries, conservatives accused us of being snowflakes obsessed with political correctness. But Trump has made it painfully clear what he thinks of immigrants: “These aren’t people, they are animals.” He has spelled it out: we are not humans deserving of human rights. And his government is listening.