US President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his administration’s immigration policy and the forced separation of children from their parents at the US-Mexico border with language that critics said was reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda that preceded the murder of six million Jews.
Worried that the lack of progress on his signature border wall will make him look “soft,” according to one adviser, Trump unleashed a series of tweets playing up the dangers posed by members of the MS-13 gang, which make up a minuscule percentage of those who cross the border. In one tweet, he used the loaded term “infest” to reference the influx of immigrants entering the country illegally.
Social commentators pointed out that history has shown, particularly before and during the Holocaust, that “infest” — a term almost exclusively used to describe vermin — dehumanizes a population and is often a precursor to murder or genocide.
“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,” the president tweeted. “They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”
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. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2018
One of the most notorious anti-Semitic films produced by Nazi Germany’s Ministry of Propaganda was “Der ewige Jude” (“The Eternal Jew”), with input from propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum says that “One of the film’s most notorious sequences compares Jews to rats that carry contagion, flood the continent, and devour precious resources.”
The museum’s website explains that the film ends with Adolf Hitler’s infamous speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939, in which he warned of the “annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”
According to the museum, “The speech appeared to herald a radicalization of the solution to the ‘Jewish Question’ in the coming ‘Final Solution,’ and provided a foreshadowing of mass murder.”
Many commentators on Twitter said there was the alarming connection between Trump’s choice of language and Nazi Germany.
Neo-conservative Bill Kristol, founder of “The Weekly Standard,” tweeted that “Trump’s statement that immigrants will ‘infest our Country’ probably sounds better in the original German.”
Journalist Eric Boehlert wrote, “If this isn’t a direct quote from Mein Kampf, it’s pretty close.”
“‘Infest’ is language used in Nazi propaganda to describe the ‘infestation’ of Jews in Germany, who were compared to rats,” writer Rob Sheridan posted. “Here’s the President of the United States saying illegal immigrants ‘infest’ our country. Keep telling me those Nazi comparisons are unfair.”
Republican lawmakers, increasingly fearful of a voter backlash in November, met with Trump for about an hour at the Capitol to try to find a solution that both holds to Trump’s hardline immigration policy and ends the practice of taking migrant children from parents charged with entering the country illegally. Many lawmakers say Trump could simply reverse the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and keep families together.
While Trump held firm to his tough immigration stance in an earlier appearance Tuesday, he acknowledged during the closed-door meeting that the coverage of family separations is taking a toll. Trump said his daughter, Ivanka, had told him the situation with the families looks bad, one lawmaker said.
Under the administration’s current policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution — a process that moves adults to the custody of the US Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under the Obama administration, such families were usually referred for civil deportation proceedings, not requiring separation.
More than 2,300 minors were separated from their families at the border from May 5 through June 9, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump has been watching the TV coverage with increasing anger, telling confidants he believes media outlets are deliberately highlighting the worst images — the cages and screaming toddlers — to make him look bad.