On the campaign trail in 2000, then-candidate George W. Bush famously said, “Family values don’t stop at the Rio Grande [River].” Bush embodied a strand of compassionate conservatism that began to decline in the mid-2000s and died altogether by 2010.
In an article published Tuesday night, The New York Times detailed the White House’s ongoing immigration debate. In an Oval Office meeting earlier this year, President Donald Trump suggested shooting migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to slow them down. This idea was one of Trump’s many suggestions. According to The New York Times, the president also talked about building an alligator-and-snake-infested moat and placing metal spikes that could pierce flesh at the top of the border wall to prevent illegal crossings.
Trump eventually settled on shutting down the border, a decision that he would later walk back. The New York Times article revealed more than just the internal debate on immigration; it highlighted the president’s disregard for the law and his patronizing treatment of former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
“Kirstjen, you didn’t hear me the first time, honey,” Trump said during a briefing on the department’s legal authority to down drones. “Shoot ‘em down. Sweetheart, just shoot ‘em out of the sky, OK?”
Trump’s suggestion to shoot migrants in the legs is the latest example of a lifetime spent dehumanizing people of color, from the Central Park Five to his 2016 campaign rhetoric.
Louisiana’s GOP congressional representatives stand near the edge of a perilous cliff. They can continue to march in unison with the president, or they can offer a rare voice of dissent in the Republican Party.
There is a real need for comprehensive immigration reform, but that debate should be settled in the Capitol chambers and at the ballot box, not by the executive-ordered shooting of migrants crossing the border. Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Clay Higgins and Sen. Bill Cassidy have reputations for being Trump lap dogs. Scalise votes in line with the president an incredible 99.2% of the time, and every other Republican representative from Louisiana votes with Trump at least 90% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Some of the votes may be simply a result of congressional politics and similar ideologies, but when will enough be enough? Will Louisiana’s Republican representatives continue to ignore every moral and ethical instinct, or will they speak out against Trump on this issue? Unless Scalise, Higgins, Cassidy, Rep. Ralph Abraham, Rep. Mike Johnson, Rep. Garret Graves and Sen. John Kennedy criticize the president for his suggestions to shoot migrants and build medieval border defenses, we should assume they share the same belief.
The response to the president’s rhetoric detailed in The New York Times’ article needs to transcend political differences. This is the supposed leader of the free world talking about shooting individuals whose crime is fleeing poverty, corruption and violence and seeking refuge in America.
Scalise’s website says, “He does not want to reward those who have committed a crime,” but also that the United States was founded on immigration. He may not want to reward migrants for illegally crossing the border, but certainly shooting them is not an option either. Higgins’ website reads, “America will always be a land of compassion.” It’s time that Louisiana’s congressional representatives do more than simply plaster beautiful, articulate phrases on their websites. If they believe the U.S. is really a land of compassion and was founded by immigrants, then will they denounce Trump’s dehumanizing rhetoric?