Donald Trump is famously ignorant with regard to American history, but you would have thought that he would at least get the basics of Thanksgiving.
Trump greeted a holiday that celebrates the story of men, women, and children seeking refuge from harsh conditions in their native land by announcing that he was ending a humanitarian program that allowed entry to this country to men, women, and children seeking refuge from harsh conditions in their native land.
Since 2010, roughly 60,000 Haitians who fled an island nation ravaged by earthquakes and poverty have been afforded Temporary Protected Status, allowing them to live and work in the United States. On Monday, around the same time that the president was walking through the motions of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey named Drumstick, Trump’s White House announced that the refugees must leave the United States by July 2019 or face deportation.
“The decision set off immediate dismay among Haitian communities in South Florida, New York, and beyond, and was a signal to other foreigners with temporary protections that they, too, could soon be asked to leave,” noted The New York Times, which went on to point out that “Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is still struggling to recover from the earthquake and relies heavily on money its expatriates send to relatives back home. The Haitian government had asked the Trump administration to extend the protected status.”
The White House response to that request for compassion was “no”—as it has been for so many pleas on behalf of refugees, migrants, and immigrants during Trump’s first year in office.
We have come to expect the worst from Donald Trump. But when he mixes his worst with the symbolism of a holiday that is supposed to bring out the best in people, the president’s cruelty seems all the more stark and unrelenting.
Trump has given America a presidency in which refugees and immigrants are demonized and a harsh disregard for religious and cultural diversity warps our politics. He shows little or no regard for the fact that America is a nation of immigrants—and that many of those immigrants came seeking religious freedom. As such, he distinguishes himself in the worst of ways from his predecessors in the Oval Office, and from the values they embraced.