Democrats and others strongly rebuked President Donald Trump after he called some undocumented immigrants coming to the United States “animals” during a roundtable with law enforcement officials and political leaders about sanctuary cities.
“When all of our great-great-grandparents came to America they weren’t ‘animals,’ and these people aren’t either," tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
The dust-up began Wednesday, when Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims expressed concern during a roundtable with the president over a California law that forbids informing U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement of undocumented immigrants in the state’s jails.
“There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it,” Mims said at the roundtable.
The president went on to say: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them but we’re taking people out of the country."
“You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals,” Trump continued. “And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”
The California law, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, also says that police cannot inform immigration officials about the undocumented immigrants even if they believe they are part of a gang. Undocumented immigrants who have been convicted for one of about 800 crimes, which are mostly felonies, can be transferred to federal immigration authorities though.
Brown responded to Trump on Twitter, saying that the president “is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of“ California.
“Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed,” Brown continued in his Tweet.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., also called on those in the meeting to denounce Trump following his comments.
“IF you are a decent person and were in a meeting where @realDonaldTrump called immigrants “animals,” you will denounce him NOW. Otherwise, what makes you any different?“ the lawmaker wrote on Twitter.
In addition, lawmakers weren’t the only ones to admonish the president.
President Barack Obama’s former White House photographer Pete Souza on Wednesday shared a photo of zebras on his Instagram page that has 1.9 million followers with the caption: “Dear sir: THESE are animals.” Though he did not refer to Trump by name, Souza has in the past criticized president on Instagram, critiquing the president’s statements and administration.
Trump’s “animals” comment comes about two months after the president reportedly complained about immigrants coming from “shithole countries” during a discussion with lawmakers about a bipartisan immigration deal, which never came into fruition. The comment was directed toward immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
The president also referred to Mexicans as “rapists,“ “killers” and “murderers" during the 2016 presidential campaign cycle.
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. came to the president’s defense, saying that he was specifically talking about undocumented immigrants who were part of the gang MS-13.
“He was specifically talking about MS-13, and you know it. They are animals. I know you would rather side with them than Trump as you so often make clear but it’s a bad look for you Andrea,” Trump Jr. tweeted to NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell, after she wrote in her tweet about how the president “calls people trying to get into the country ‘animals’ not people.”