Conservative lawmakers and media figures have unleashed a wave of racist vitriol in recent days, in a half-baked attempt to defend President Donald Trump’s controversial child separation policy.
Although the president signed an executive order this week supposedly ending the practice of separating immigrant families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of referring anyone without documentation for prosecution persists. Subsequent reports have suggested the administration plans to continue separating children from their families moving forward, despite the order.
On television and social media, conservatives and Republican legislators have leapt to defend the policy.
“Like it or not, these aren’t our kids,” Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade said during a segment of the Fox News show Friday morning. “Show them compassion, but it’s not like he is doing this to the people of Idaho or Texas. These are people from another country.” (Kilmeade later tweeted an apology, claiming he “didn’t mean to make it seem like children coming into the U.S. illegally are less important because they live in another country” and claiming he had “compassion for all children.”)
Kilmeade’s Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson offered a similarly racist take on the issue during a segment of his show Monday night. “This is one of those moments that tells you everything about our ruling class. They care far more about foreigners than about their own people,” he said, referring to the backlash among Democrats to the child separation policy.
On Twitter, Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) — who previously compared the “tender age” facilities housing children under the age of 12 to “playgrounds” — mocked a photo of several young immigrant boys being transported from the border to out-of-state detention facilities, claiming they were “old enough to be tried as adults” and likely prospective gang members.
“‘Young boys’ all old enough to be tried as adults or serve in the military and are prime MS-13 gang material & certainly grew up in the culture of one of the top 10 most violent countries in the world,” he wrote, offering no proof to back his racist claim.
“Young boys” all old enough to be tried as adults or serve in the military and are prime MS-13 gang material & certainly grew up in the culture of one of the top 10 most violent countries in the world. https://t.co/r8Ur40tqhd
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) June 22, 2018
Fox News contributor Rachel Campos-Duffy downplayed the controversy over Trump’s family separation policy Thursday night, excusing it by claiming 60 percent of border agents were themselves Hispanic and arguing that low-income Black families had it worse.
“The detention centers [where kids who’ve been separated from the parents are being kept] are far safer than the journey that the little children just came on,” she said during a segment of The Ingraham Angle Thursday night.
Pivoting to an obvious straw man approach, she added, “…People aren’t stupid. I spoke to some African-Americans who say, ‘Gosh, the conditions of the detention center are better than some of the projects that I grew up in.’ People are looking at this and saying, ‘Let’s not smear our Border Patrol. They are doing the best they can, these children were brought here under horrible, irresponsible circumstances.”
Fox News' Rachel Campos-Duffy: "I spoke to some African-Americans who say, 'Gosh, the conditions of the detention centers are better than some of the projects that I grew up in.'" pic.twitter.com/nQ1Lx5qMwl
— Contemptor (@TheContemptor) June 22, 2018
Campos-Duffy has notably made discriminatory remarks about the Black community before, defending Trump’s “shithole countries” comment about immigrants from several African nations back in January, and claiming Trump is doing more to “make Black America Great” than Snoop Dogg, who she claimed was “glamorizing drug culture [and] gang culture.” (The rapper has a long history of charity work for minority communities and children.)
Trump administration officials have scrambled to offer conflicting racist responses to the family separations, which are part of the “zero-tolerance” policy announced earlier this year. White House senior adviser Stephen Miller — the chief architect of the policy — claimed the decision to forcibly remove immigrant kids from their families had been a “simple” one and chief of staff John Kelly callously suggested in an interview that the practice would deter more families from seeking asylum in the United States.
“The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever,” he told NPR in May. “But the big point is [their parents] elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”
Trump himself has used unapologetically racist language to describe immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States on several occasions. Speaking at the White House Monday — only a few weeks after calling certain immigrants “animals” in a Twitter rant — the president claimed that it was necessary to crack down on immigration because those crossing the border “could be murderers and thieves and so much else.” The comments mirrored statements he made during his campaign announcement in June 2015, when he called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” criminals, and drug dealers.
On Thursday evening, Trump once again suggested immigrants were a burden on the country.
We have to maintain strong borders or we will no longer have a country that we can be proud of – and if we show any weakness, millions of people will journey into our country.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2018
We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2018
“We have to maintain strong borders or we will no longer have a country that we can be proud of — and if we show any weakness, millions of people will journey into our country,” he tweeted.
Trump added to his racist rant in a follow-up tweet Friday morning. “We must maintain a Strong Southern Border,” he wrote. “We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections.”
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials released a statement to CNN Friday morning suggesting that at least 3,000 or more immigrant children may have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border so far under the administration’s zero-tolerance policy. Many of those children have been sent to “tender age” prison camps — facilities for kids under the age of 12 — and experts suggest a large number may never again be reunited with their families.
This article has been updated to reflect new comments by Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade, who issued a public apology for his earlier remarks on Twitter Friday morning.