Mr. Trump denied making the remarks on Friday, but Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who attended the meeting, said the president did in fact say these “hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”
Of course he did. Remember, Mr. Trump is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.
Even the president’s most sycophantic defenders didn’t bother denying the reports. Instead they justified them. Places like Haiti really are terrible, they reminded us. Never mind that many native-born Americans are descended from immigrants who fled countries (including Norway in the second half of the 19th century) that were considered hellholes at the time.
No one is denying that Haiti and some of these other countries have profound problems today. Of course, those problems are often a direct result of policies and actions of the United States and European nations: to name just a few, kidnapping and enslaving their citizens; plundering their natural resources; propping up their dictators and corrupt regimes; and holding them financially hostage for generations.
The United States has long held itself out as a light among nations based on the American ideal of equality. But the deeper history tells a different story.
The sociologists David Scott FitzGerald and David Cook-Martin have shown that the United States pioneered racially based exclusionary immigration policies in the Americas in the late 18th and 19th centuries. (Not long before he was elected president, for example, Theodore Roosevelt asserted the bigoted but then-common view that the Chinese should be kept out of America because they were “racially inferior.”)
It should sober Americans to know that authoritarian governments in Chile, Cuba and Uruguay ended racist immigration policies decades before the United States.
The current turmoil over immigration conflates several separate issues. One is DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided temporary work permits and reprieves from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. These are the so-called Dreamers, who number about 800,000.
Another issue is the Temporary Protected Status program under which undocumented foreigners who were in the United States when disaster or conflict struck their homeland are allowed to remain in the United States. In November, the Trump administration ended the…