Trump speaks out against shootings by reinforcing his own racist immigration policies

"Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform."

(Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Monday suggested he may hold gun violence prevention measures hostage to furthering his racist agenda on immigration, in the wake of two deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

While investigations have not yet clearly discerned the motives in each of the recent shootings, the alleged shooter who killed 20 in El Paso is believed to be the author of a manifesto published on 8chan touting white nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-Hispanic racism. Many on social media also drew attention to the fact that, on what is believed to be the suspected gunman’s Twitter account, he had “liked” a photo of the word “Trump” spelled out with firearms.

Both the alleged gunmen in El Paso and Dayton were white men.

Despite this, Trump tweeted Monday morning that his support for legislation such as requiring background checks for gun purchasers may be conditioned on taking up his anti-immigration policies.


“We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. Likewise for those so seriously wounded. We can never forget them, and those many who came before them,” he wrote. “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform. We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”

It would not be the first time that Trump held the country hostage to advance a xenophobic agenda. At the end of last year, Trump was so insistent that his border wall be funded by the American people that he allowed the government to be shutdown for a record 35 days. He later declared a “national emergency” at the border to empower himself to circumvent Congress. His administration is also reportedly considering reducing the number of refugee admissions to zero next year, essentially closing the border to those fleeing for their lives.

Trump has stoked racist sentiments throughout his presidency, but particularly in recent weeks with multiple attacks on nonwhite members of Congress. He took no responsibility for his own rhetoric, and instead lashed out at the “fake news” media, accusing it of stirring “anger and rage.”

(In his alleged manifesto, the suspected El Paso gunman also complained of “fake news.”)

In addition to telling four congresswomen of color to “go back” to the countries they came from, the president stood by at a recent rally as supporters chanted “Send her back!” in reaction to his comments about Somali-born U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who immigrated to the United States as a child. He has attacked both Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings (D), who is black, calling Cummings’ home district in Baltimore a rat-infested, disgusting place, and has attacked Cummings’ supporters, including Rev. Al Sharpton, by suggesting falsely that Sharpton hates “whites & cops.”


The president notably launched his 2016 presidential campaign by claiming immigration crackdowns were necessary because Mexicans were “rapists” and murderers. He has frequently claimed that caravans of refugees are trying to “invade” the country — something the suspected El Paso shooter allegedly mentioned in his racist manifesto.

Trump, by contrast, has repeatedly assured his supporters at campaign rallies that he will protect the Second Amendment. A year after the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people, the Trump administration did finally take the step of banning bump stocks — a ban that took effect this past March. But it’s unclear just how far the administration is actually willing to go in terms of supporting other measures that would create barriers to gun purchases and usage.