Opal Tometi is the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration and a Co-founder of Black Lives Matter.
As an organizer and advocate that works with Black immigrant communities and the daughter of Black immigrants, let me be clear: President Trump’s statement calling Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” is racist.
Unfortunately, it is all too believable that this is how the President speaks in private, because his public policies have been driven by racism and hatred since day one. This is about far more than just vulgar language. It is about Trump’s vicious policies that treat immigrants and people of color as less than human.
Trump’s racism has clearly driven his policy decisions during his first year in office — from his Muslim ban and his despicable treatment of DREAMers to his ruthless ramp-up of immigration raids and the callous termination of protections for Haitians and Salvadorans who fled natural disaster and violence.
President Trump has demonstrated time and time again that he is mentally incapable of imagining the humanity of anyone who looks different from him or hails from a different nation — unless that is a predominately white nation, like Norway. In which case, they help his Make America White Agenda much easier.
But it is not enough for our nation’s leaders, on both sides of the aisle, to denounce Trump’s words. Now is the time for action.
At this moment, our lawmakers are negotiating for a solution for DREAMers. Democratic legislators who like to count themselves as part of the Resistance must recognize that their actions will speak louder than anything out of the president’s mouth.
As an immigrant justice advocate, I of course want legal status for everyone trying to make it in this country. However, we cannot sacrifice one group of immigrants for another. Many of the concessions that leading Democrats seem willing to make — from cutting diversity visas to chipping away at family visas — would be made on the backs of Black immigrants, people from Africa and the Caribbean who deserve these policies to remain intact as some of the few legal tools they have to immigrate to this country.
If Democrats concede to Republican demands and allow DREAM Act negotiations to backdoor in policies that harm Black immigrants and their families, they will be just as complicit as the President. Just because they don’t use Trump’s vulgar language does not mean that history — or their constituents — will forgive them for furthering his racist agenda.
I call on Democrats to use their leverage to fight for a clean DREAM Act and to reject Trump’s racist agenda — not only in word, but in deed.