The president of the United States is explicitly encouraging police violence.
In a speech to law enforcement officials in Long Island on Friday, the president of the United States delivered a clear and chilling message: He thinks that unauthorized immigrants are subhuman, and that law enforcement should treat them accordingly.
The ostensible villains of Trump’s speech: the transnational criminal gang MS-13, which started in California but has taken root in El Salvador and whose members have been fingered in a string of high-profile killings in Long Island. Trump described MS-13 members as “animals” who “have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields.”
But the president has never been particularly scrupulous about differentiating “good” and “bad” immigrants. The lurid details of MS-13 crimes ended up underpinning a theme Trump has used before — that the US is “besieged” by migration (largely, in reality, of children and families) out of Central America:
You say what happened to the old days where people came into this country, they worked and they worked and they worked and they had families and they paid taxes and they did all sorts of things, and their families got stronger and they were closely knit. We don’t see that. Failure to enforce our immigration laws had predictable results. Drugs, gangs, and violence.
Of course, Trump claims that thanks to his administration — one of whose first priorities was to “unshackle” immigration field agents to give them more latitude in going after unauthorized immigrants — the rule of law is being restored.
But Trump’s idea of the “rule of law” is mostly about looking and acting, in his own words, mean.
Just like it’s important to have “a rich guy at the head of commerce,” he said, it’s important to have “rough guys” as ICE agents:
I saw some photos where Tom [Homan, the acting head of ICE]’s guys, rough guys, they’re rough, I don’t want to be — I don’t want to be, you know, say it because they’ll say that’s not politically correct, you’re not allowed to have rough people doing this kind of work.
At one point, Trump literally instructed the assembled police officers not to protect the heads of suspects who were under arrest and were being loaded into police cars:
When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don’t be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over. Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?
It’s the closest Trump has come since inauguration to his infamous calls for violence against protesters at campaign rallies during the presidential primary. The themes aren’t new — they’re literally the oldest trick in Trump’s book — but they’re increasingly explicit. That’s a very bad sign.
Demonizing immigrants brought Trump to victory. Now it’s the theme he returns to whenever he’s struggling.
Back in 2015, Donald Trump launched his journey toward the presidency by winning surprising support for a single, powerful theme: Unauthorized immigrants are dangerous criminals who are invading America and coming for your family.