Following President Donald Trump's televised Oval Office address, newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, slammed the commander-in-chief for stoking racial resentment of immigrants in an effort to use fear to rally support for the construction of his $5.7 billion "wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border
In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night, the 29-year-old Democratic socialist praised immigrants while dismissing the president's fear-mongering rhetoric and blatant lies, which were contradicted even by his own administration, about the so-called "pipeline" of illegal drugs that he claims is coming across the southern border.
"No one should feel unsafe in the United States of America," Ocasio-Cortez said, "and that includes our amazing and beautiful and productive immigrant community."
The freshman congresswoman, who has emerged as a national progressive firebrand, then called upon the president to recognize "that he has systematically engaged in the violation of . . . human rights on our border," including the separation of migrant families. She then recalled the death of an immigrant child in Border Patrol custody on Christmas Eve, questioning how Trump could continue asking for financial support for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after the agency's widespread corruption and abuse of authority has been brought to light.
"The president should be really defending why we are funding such an agency at all, because right now, what we are seeing is death," she said. "Right now, what we are seeing is the violation of human rights."
Earlier, Trump urged congressional Democrats to give in and allocate billions of dollars in funds for the border wall, which he repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for on the 2016 campaign trail, to reopen the partially-shuttered federal government. Portraying immigrants as violent criminals, the president argued that a wall was needed to resolve a "humanitarian and national security crisis on our southern border." "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?" Trump asked.
Summing up the president's comments, Ocasio-Cortez suggested that his remarks were unpatriotic, saying the immigrants attempting to seek refuge in the U.S. are "more American than any person who seeks to keep them out will ever be."
Trump and congressional Democrats continue to spar over funds to build a wall along the southern border, with Trump threatening to declare a national emergency to fund the wall if Democrats do not budge. The shutdown, which approaches the three-week mark, appears to have no end in sight. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue to go without pay.
"We have a national crisis at our border," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last week. "We also have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the president is not going to back off."
"The president has been willing to negotiate from the beginning, but he's not going to put our national security and the safety of American people at risk," Sanders continued. "The president is not backing down from that."
Trump, for his part, admitted the reason the federal government remains only partially operational is because of his ego, confessing that he would "look foolish" if he allowed the government to reopen while wall funding was being negotiated, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue to work without a paycheck. Trump has not spent the majority of the shutdown negotiating an end game, instead blaming Democrats for a shutdown he previously said he was proud to own.
"I am proud to shut down the government for border security . . . I will be the one to shut [the government] down," Trump famously said last month. "I'm not going to blame you for it."
He also alleged that the thousands of workers either furloughed or working without pay "are Democrats" — just days after he claimed that "many" of those government employees told him they were fine with not getting paid if Congress does not fund his long-promised wall. Both claims were offered without supporting evidence.