Of the many words Donald Trump used this week in defense of his horrific policy to separate children and their parents at the border, one tweet should especially trouble Americans. It's not the tweet you think — the repulsive one from Tuesday that said undocumented immigrants "infest our country." This one came a day before, as the heat began to intensify in response to the administration's border policy.
"Crime in Germany is way up," Trump said about migration in Europe. "Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!"
First, a quick fact check: Crime in Germany is, in fact, not up. It's down 5.1 percent since last year and is at its lowest rate since 1992.
More problematic is Trump's concern that immigrants have changed Germany's culture. That's a different immigration argument from the president, who previously has focused on security and safety and protecting Americans from the crimes committed by those here illegally. That's bunk, by the way. Statistics show that undocumented immigrants are considerably less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.
But now the president is hinting at something darker — that immigrants, legal or not, are a threat to our culture. And he's done more than hint at it. He's griped about the U.S. accepting immigrants from "shithole" countries. He's worked from the beginning of his presidency to limit not only illegal immigration, but legal. His administration has granted fewer visas and approved fewer refugees. He has significantly cut back on offering Temporary Protected Status to people living in the U.S. legally because their home countries are ravaged by war and famine.
There's also a new Trump administration proposal, reported last month by the Washington Post, that would reclassify legal immigrants who receive tax and other benefits as "charges" who could be subject to green card rejection and deportation. The rule seems designed as a tool to reject incoming immigrants who might claim such benefits, but it also would target immigrant families (including American-born children) who already receive Medicaid or health insurance subsidies. This despite immigrants being no more likely to claim these benefits than native-born Americans.
The targets of all these policies and proposals share one thing — they're not part of Donald Trump's America, the one that is whiter and richer and doesn't want its "culture" changed.
He's wrong about that, of course. Immigrants are not a threat to our culture. They are, and have always been, woven deeply into who we are. But now, with a president who has become even bolder and more vile about immigrants, we should be vigilant not only about how we treat those at our border, but those who contribute to the heart of America's greatness.