Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Pence aide makes the mind-boggling argument that Elaine Chao is a better immigrant than Ilhan Omar

Trump sparked a major controversy when he tweeted that Omar should "go back" to the country where she was born


Alex Henderson
July 18, 2019 8:29PM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
alternet-logo

During a “Make America Great Again” rally in North Carolina on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump doubled down on his racist assertion that four congresswomen of color should leave the United States and reiterated his disdain for Somali-born Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota while the crowd chanted, “Send her back, send her back.” Trump’s critics have been pointing out that prominent Republicans such as First Lady Melania Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao are immigrants — and Vice President Mike Pence’s deputy press secretary, Darin Miller, is responding with a mind-boggling claim that Chao is a good immigrant while Omar is not.

Mother Jones’ Matt Cohen is reporting that he received an e-mail from Miller stating that while Chao (who is originally from Mainland China and is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) “worked hard and assimilated” after coming to the United States, Omar “seems content to criticize America at every turn.”

Advertisement:

Miller, according to Cohen, wrote to the Mother Jones reporter to explain that he believed he misconstrued comments that Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, made during a Fox News appearance on Monday. Short, defending Trump, insisted that the president can’t have “racist motives” because he appointed a Chinese immigrant to an important position in his administration.

Over the weekend, Trump set off a major controversy when he tweeted that Omar and three other Democratic women of color in the House of Representatives (Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan) should “go back to” the countries “from which they came.” But except for Omar, all four congresswomen were born in the U.S. and are lifelong U.S. citizens — and although Omar is originally from Somalia, she has been a naturalized U.S. citizen since 2000.

Cohen, in his article, explains that most Republicans have “remained silent” about Trump’s racist tweets while “a few have joined Democrats in officially condemning” them and other Republicans “have committed wild jumps in logic to claim his tweets weren’t racist — and Short’s comment about Chao fit into the latter category. That’s why I included them in a collection of responses to Trump’s tweets.”

Advertisement:

But Miller, Cohen adds, “didn’t agree” and “insisted that Chao is a different kind of immigrant than Omar.”

In his e-mail to Cohen, Miller exalted Chao as “an example of what the president supports: she came legally to the U.S., worked hard and assimilated and is dedicated to giving back and serving her country. And we can all support that. Contrast that with Rep. Omar, who seems content to criticize America at every turn, instead of trying to fix problems she sees. For instance, she opposed the overwhelmingly bipartisan emergency border aid bill, which provided much-needed humanitarian aid for asylum seekers.”

Cohen views Miller’s Chao/Omar comparison as nonsense, writing, “The truth is there isn’t a meaningful difference between Chao and Omar’s immigration stories. Like Chao, Omar immigrated legally to the country and now serves in the federal government, albeit with a different agenda. Omar, along with many other of her Democratic colleagues, didn’t vote for the border bill due to policy disagreements.”

Advertisement:

On Tuesday night, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning Trump’s racist attack on the four congresswomen; only four Republicans voted in favor of the resolution, and they were joined by Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (an anti-Trump conservative who is calling for the president’s impeachment and recently left the GOP).


Alex Henderson

MORE FROM Alex Henderson



Fearless journalism
in your inbox every day

Sign up for our free newsletter

• • •