Trump commemorates Juneteenth with tone-deaf statement

The president praised the "brave individuals" who "fought to defend the God-given rights of those unjustly held in bondage."

President Donald Trump issues a tone-deaf statement to mark the Juneteenth holiday, as thousands of immigrants are held in cages at the U.S. southern border. (CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump issues a tone-deaf statement to mark the Juneteenth holiday, as thousands of immigrants are held in cages at the U.S. southern border. (CREDIT: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump issued a statement on Tuesday celebrating Juneteenth, marking the occasion with a remarkably tone-deaf message that appeared to contradict the administration’s own views on non-white immigrants.

Juneteenth occurs every year on June 19 and marks the 1865 end of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years prior, on January 1, 1863, but according to historians, there was a delay in relaying the news to officials in Texas. June 19, 1865 marked the moment Gordon Granger, a major general in the Union Army, finally delivered the message to slave-owners in the state, who later announced the news to their slaves, effectively freeing them. Newly freed-men and women were advised to stay on in their homes and work for wages.

“This historic moment would not have been possible without the courage and sacrifice of the nearly 200,000 former enslaved and free African Americans who fought for liberty alongside more than 2 million Union servicemen,” Trump wrote in an official statement Tuesday morning. “These brave individuals fought to defend the God-given rights of those unjustly held in bondage.”

He added, “As a Nation, we vow to never forget the millions of African Americans who suffered the evils of slavery. Together, we honor the unbreakable spirit and countless contributions of generations of African Americans to the story of American greatness. Today and every day, we recommit ourselves to defending the self-evident truth, boldly declared by our Founding Fathers, that all people are created equal.”

Trump’s statement, which was not shared or echoed anywhere on his personal Twitter account, comes at a remarkable time as his administration holds thousands of undocumented immigrant families, forcefully separated from one another, in cages at the U.S. southern border.


According to the Associated Press at least 2,000 minors — some children as young as infants — were separated from their parents during a six-week span between April 19 and May 31, as part of a new Trump administration-initiated “zero-tolerance” policy that aims to crack down on the number of people seeking asylum in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security and the White House have both claimed that the practice of violently separating the children is simply the result of border officials enforcing the law, although there is no law in place that requires them to do so.

Regardless, Trump and his supporters have defended the policy, pointing the finger at Democrats, who they falsely claim are to blame for implementing so-called underlying legislation forcing their hands.

“Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13,” Trump wrote Tuesday — the same day as his Juneteenth missive — in a thread of racist tweets. “We must always arrest people coming into our Country illegally.”


Rather than tweeting a message to mark the Juneteenth holiday, Trump also decided to roll out a fake statistic about the current crime rate in Germany, which he incorrectly claimed Monday was “way up.”

“Crime in Germany is up 10% plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted,” he tweeted again on Tuesday. “Others [sic] countries are even worse. Be smart America!”

The current crime rate in Germany is, in fact, at a historic low. As ThinkProgress noted Monday, official government figures from May showed that the overall crime rate in Germany fell 5 percent since last year at the same time, the lowest rate since 1992, with an even steeper fall amongst non-Germans.

Trump has used similarly racist language in the past to discuss both immigrants and Black citizens alike, rendering his official Juneteenth statement this week empty. In his campaign announcement in June 2015, he called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and drug dealers, and as recently as this week, said immigrants from Central American were “murderers and thieves and so much else.” He has called immigrants “animals” on several occasions, despite insisting that he was only referring to MS-13 gang members. During his presidential campaign he applauded one Black supporter at a campaign rally by calling him “my African American.”

The president has shown an aversion to Black civil rights movements in the past as well, lying and blaming Black Lives Matter for supposedly inciting violence at rallies, and defending white supremacists at at rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer that left one counter-protester dead.


Trump also notably pardoned disgraced Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio last August. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt in July 2017 for ordering his officers to racially profile Latinx people, despite a court order barring him from doing so. Arpaio has a long history of anti-immigrant behavior and founded a concentration camp for immigrants in 1993.