Opinion: Like the Orwellian nightmare he is, Trump accuses migrant rights activists of ‘cruel and evil’ policies

President Trump speaks Monday at United Nations General Assembly, where he accused migrant rights advocates of pushing "cruel and evil" policies.
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

George Orwell couldn’t have created this guy.

President Trump used part of his speech at the United Nation General Assembly Monday morning to rail against “open-border activists, who cloak themselves in the rhetoric of social justice.” He went on, “The policies are not just. Your policies are cruel and evil.”

Well, the president would know. I mean, someone who views the forceful separation of children from their parents as an acceptable way to deter migration has some lessons to teach on cruelty.


And a president whose underlings are now forcing nearly all families who arrive at the border fleeing desperate conditions in Central America to wait amid violence and squalor while their pleas for sanctuary are weighed also has sufficient standing to define evil.

This is nothing new, of course. Trump constantly invokes “open borders” as a red herring as he accuses Democrats (and just about anyone else demanding a humane approach to immigration enforcement) of wanting to let the world’s thundering hordes swarm into the United States. It’s the kind of inflammatory language — often accompanied by racially charged comments such as accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists and drug dealers — that fires up his political base.

“You are empowering criminal organizations that prey on innocent men, women and children. You put your own false sense of virtue before the lives, well being and countless innocent people,” Trump said in his speech. “When you undermine border security, you are undermining human rights and human dignity.”

This is where Trump gets Orwellian. People urging policies that respect the asylum rights of the oppressed are, in Trump’s jujitsu approach to the English language, guilty of putting those same people in danger. “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” — and wanting to help the desperate is cruel.

Fits right in with the “1984” lexicon, doesn’t it.?

Journalists have documented numerous instances in which migrants forced to wait in Mexico have been kidnapped for ransom or violently assaulted. Last month, Human Rights First reported at least 110 such cases, all involving victims whom the U.S. government had returned to Mexico.

It is against U.S. law and international agreements to send migrants seeking asylum to places where their lives are in danger. But the Trump administration is doing just that every day, to the tune of more than 45,000 people now waiting in limbo, many of them in regions his own administration says are too dangerous for Americans to travel through. And there the migrants will stay while the overwhelmed immigration court system tries to sort through their claims.

And now the administration is striking agreements with El Salvador and Guatemala to take in asylum-seekers who are hoping to reach the U.S., which is an exercise in absurdity since those are some of the very countries the desperate are fleeing.

So if anyone is pursuing “polices that are cruel and evil” — well, I’m sure there are mirrors in the White House.