After days of insisting, falsely, that the separations were the result of some Democratic-passed law, the president has partially shifted gears, defending the policy in a series of tweets. The most shocking is this one, with its description of unauthorized immigrants as an “infestation”:
In late May, a debate erupted after Trump said, during a roundtable in California, “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in—and we’re stopping a lot of them—but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” The White House said that in context, it was clear that Trump had been referring to members of the gang MS-13. Others argued that given Trump’s previous language about immigrants, he didn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, or that even if he did, the result of the comments was to dehumanize immigrants.
Trump left himself no such plausible deniability in Tuesday’s tweet. The infestation he refers to isn’t simply illegal immigrants per se, though he mentions the gang as well. Nor is this merely the pious language of enforcing the law, though Trump uses that elsewhere.
“Infest” is the essential, and new, word here. (Also popping up in the tweets is the older coded word “thugs.”) It drives full-throttle toward the dehumanization of immigrants, setting aside legality in favor of a division between a human us and a less-human them. What are infestations? They are takeovers by vermin, rodents, insects. The word is almost exclusively used in this context. What does one do with an infestation? Why, one exterminates it, of course.
If those apprehended are less than human, then Trump can shrug the problem off as “only” 2,000 children separated from their parents, though the Washington Examiner reported Monday that 30,000 children could be held by August.
It turns out that Stephen Miller is playing a crucial role in deciding how to handle
the Jewish question the imaginary immigration crisis. (h/t Newish Lawyer). I’m expecting Miller’s next move will be to inform Trump that there’s a really big island called Madagascar.