Obama saw the mad, cruel tactics of the Trump administration coming

New York Times book excerpt this week claimed Trump wanted to investigate shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down, as well as constructing moats with alligators and snakes at the southern border

Michael Arceneaux
New York
Wednesday 02 October 2019 20:56
Watch Donald Trump hold a press conference with President of Finland

When Donald Trump declared his bid for the presidency, he did so with outwardly racist contempt of Mexican migrants to the US, using a litany of gross stereotypes which culminated with the unforgettable sentence: “They’re sending us not the right people.”

As president, he has governed accordingly, subjecting Latinx migrants to the harshest of conditions designed to deter others from seeking similar refuge in the United States. The Trump administration’s purposeful cruelty has been widely documented and rightly condemned, but it appears the depths of Donald Trump’s indecency go even further than many could have ever imagined. Frustrated with a record number of people seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border earlier this year, Trump is said to have asked close aides whether or not the US could shoot migrants below the waist to slow them down.

Moreover, he spoke of the construction of a snake and alligator-filled moat in addition to an electric wall that could shock people daring to cross it (along with spikes that could pierce human flesh). And I suppose, if all else fails, that’s when he would like border control officials to shoot migrants in the leg.

The claims were first reported in a book excerpt released by the New York Times on Tuesday. ABC News has reported similar claims, noting that Trump’s aides discouraged the idea of shooting unarmed migrants and it was never acted upon only for him to bring it up again later.

In response, Trump wrote on Twitter: “Now the press is trying to sell the fact that I wanted a moat stuffed with alligators and snakes, with an electrified fence and sharp spikes on top, at our Southern Border. I may be tough on Border Security, but not that tough. The press has gone Crazy. Fake News!”

Trump offered another denial during a bizarre (even by his standards) joint appearance with Finnish president Sauli Niinistö in which Niinistö said very little. But, given Trump’s lifelong battle against telling the truth, is there any reason to take him at his word now? After all, this is a man who deems it appropriate to separate children from their parents and lock them up in cages — who had already publicly suggested shooting migrants about a year ago.

As despicable as Trump sounds, though, there is a bit of twisted irony here.

Donald Trump falsely tells supporters in New Mexico 'Hispanics want a border wall'

As Crooked Media’s Jon Favreau, who served as Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama, reminds us, many of Trump’s ideas for heightened border security were once joked about by the then-president.

In 2011, Obama complained about Republicans’ refusal to engage in comprehensive immigration reform legislation. "We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement," Obama said. "But even though we've answered these concerns, I gotta say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time."

"Maybe they'll need a moat," Obama continued mockingly to an amused crowd. "Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat."


What was funny at the time is frightening now. There is reason to be grateful that Trump’s incredibly stupid ideas for deterring migrants along the Mexican border were shut down, but that doesn’t outweigh the underlying barbarity of Trump’s mindset.

I am not a psychiatrist, so it is not my place to dole out a diagnosis to Trump. However, as a decent human being, I can surmise that only someone disturbed would find it appropriate to sic snakes, alligators, human flesh-piercing spikes, and bullets on desperate people merely seeking sanctuary — mainly from nations harmed by US meddling.

I understand how desensitizing Trump’s rhetoric can become due to repetition, but we cannot allow ourselves to get used to the president of the United States suggesting that some of the most vulnerable people walking the earth be shot down like dogs or eaten alive by alligators for simply looking for a better life in a country Trump seems to believe belongs to white people. This report should have brought our nation still. And yet, like so many other heinous words and actions from this administration, it’s lost in the ever-expanding chaos. By design, no doubt.

A day after Trump’s despicable previous requests were made public, Buzzfeed News reported that Trump’s Department of Justice has drafted a regulation that would place a two-month deadline for unaccompanied children to apply for asylum with US Citizenship and Immigration Services officials. Presently, there is no timeline for children to file an application. Worse, the DOJ regulation would also “instruct immigration judges to determine whether an individual appearing before them claiming to be an unaccompanied minor and requesting asylum is in fact qualified to be labeled as such.”

In a similar vein, NBC News has revealed that less than a week after saying that “non-citizens” could be served by a program designed to grant housing to human trafficking victims, the Trump administration abruptly delayed a $13.5m grant that funds it.

In the words of Adam Serwer, with the Trump administration, “the cruelty is the point,” but I can’t help but wonder how much crueler will it get — especially if Trump somehow manages to extend his run as president another four years. He can’t shoot migrants, but he can lock the youngest of them in cages; he can let those victims of the most exploitative crimes go without housing until presumably, ICE sends them back to the very places that placed them in such a dire predicament; he can let them stay stuck in perpetual purgatory in a glorified concentration camp.

He keeps upping the ante and he won’t stop unless he is taken on and taken down.

Trump’s behavior warrants exorcism as much as it does impeachment. If he ends up reelected, he will feel newly empowered — and I shudder to think what “not the right people” will have to deal with then.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in