Last night, President Trump delivered the third-longest State of the Union address in history, and he spent a lot of the time talking about immigration. Much of his rhetoric was couched in stories of fear and danger, as he repeatedly warned of the MS-13 gang. But, this fear of immigrants committing more crimes than native-born Americans is unfounded. In fact, “immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be incarcerated than the U.S.-born population.”
He also co-opted the term “Dreamers,” using it to describe all Americans, rather than just young immigrants. But this is reminiscent of the argument over “Black Lives Matter.” Saying “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter, just like saying “Dreamers” doesn’t mean others don’t have dreams. But refusing to recognize the unique challenges that certain communities are facing is not only misleading, but dangerous. This kind of language is dog-whistling at its worst, and we spent time breaking down what Trump actually means when he says some of his most oft-repeated phrases about immigrants. Check it out here.
While many members of Congress refused to encourage such racist, nativist rhetoric, there were a few big fans of Trump’s language on immigrants: white supremacists. They applauded his attacks on immigrants, reinforcing how Trump uses this type of rhetoric to appeal to the most extreme parts of his base. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. After Trump called white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people,” he gained the admiration of David Duke and others. Trump’s dog-whistling is not an accident: it’s purposeful, and, for his base, it’s working. Even worse, he and his administration appear committed to turning his racist and nativist rhetoric into public policies that will devastate some of America’s most underserved communities. Analysis of his policies show that this rhetoric immigration debate will have real-life consequences. Trump’s proposal would “bar the majority of Muslim and Catholic immigrants,” and “Hispanic and black immigrants would be roughly twice as likely to be barred by the immigration cuts as white immigrants.”
ACTION OF THE DAY
State Your Demands (On Russia). With the latest attacks on the Russia probe, it is more crucial than ever that we ensure Mueller and his team can do their job—and Nunes stops interfering! Call your representatives at 202-224-3121, and demand that House Speaker Paul Ryan remove Nunes immediately from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. It’s past time that Nunes is prohibited from using power to act as a political cover for the Trump administration.
The State of Puerto Rico. In yesterday’s State of the Union, President Trump mentioned Puerto Rico once—alongside Texas, Florida, Louisiana, the Virgin Islands, and California—saying, “we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.” But what matters are his actions, not just his words—and his actions concerning Puerto Rico aren’t anything to applaud. Most of Puerto Rico is still without power, and many are still struggling to get adequate food and water; yet, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) cut off aid to the island this week. And even though Puerto Rico is in the depths of this long recovery, Trump is refusing much additional aid, as well as forgiving debts, because the administration believes Puerto Rico is too rich.
The State of Pollution. Last night, Trump claimed to have ended the so-called “war on clean coal.” Of course, there’s no such thing as clean coal, and there’s no war on coal. But Trump was referring to his administration’s giveaways to the coal industry at the expense of renewable energy, wildlife, and public health. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have all cozied up to coal executives and implemented policies that subsidize coal, rip off taxpayers, and let polluters off the hook for their messes. And just last month, Trump announced plans to repeal a rule meant to prevent black lung disease. So Trump and his cabinet may continue their futile attempts revive coal, but he’s doing it at the expense of clean air and clean water.
The State of Infrastructure. Trump gave his clearest vision for his infrastructure plan last night, although many of the details are still unclear. However, from what we know now, it is clear that this plan is just another scam—one that will largely benefit Wall Street. The plan, along with his budget, slashes funding for the Highway Trust Fund, meaning jobs will be lost. Additionally, the Trump administration is relying on magical math, saying $200 billion in federal spending will spur $1.5 trillion in investment. That’s a multiplier of 7.5 to 1, which is clearly unrealistic. In addition, the plan calls for increased local and state taxes, shifting the burden of payment to localities. And it would devastating for the environment and public health, as it guts protections for clean air, clean water, and wildlife.
UNDER THE RADAR
The State of the CDC. This morning, the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, resigned, following concerns of “complex financial interests.” Just this week, a new report was released, which revealed that “Fitzgerald had invested a fair amount of money in Big Tobacco shortly after being installed as top official at the CDC, which is charged with reducing tobacco use.” Given all the conflicts of interest, it’s good news that Dr. Fitzgerald stepped down. But it brings attention back to Trump and his cabinet, who have been overwhelmed with accusations of conflict of interests concerning financial investments.