News and Commentary

Southern Poverty Law Center Compares Trump Calling MS-13 Gang-Members ‘Animals’ To Language Nazis Used To Describe Jews

On May 17, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released a series of tweets castigating President Trump for remarks he made about transnational gang MS-13, otherwise known as Mara Salvatrucha:

The final tweet features a link to an SPLC article that reads in bold: “President Trump said at a conference on sanctuary cities: ‘These are not people. These are animals.'”

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The SPLC’s description of the president’s language is misleading. Not only does the organization take Trump’s words out of context, they claim that referring to members of MS-13 as “animals” is “racist” and comparable to the way in which the Nazis talked about the Jews.​

First, here’s the context of the president’s “animals” remark, which he made during a May 16 meeting regarding sanctuary cities:

SHERIFF MIMS: But now ICE is the only law enforcement agency that cannot use our databases to find the bad guys. They cannot come in and talk to people in our jail, unless they reach a certain threshold. They can’t do all kinds of things that other law enforcement agencies can do. And it’s really put us in a very bad position.

TRUMP: It’s a disgrace. Okay? It’s a disgrace.

SHERIFF MIMS: It’s a disgrace.

TRUMP: And we’re suing on that, and we’re working hard, and I think it will all come together, because people want it to come together. It’s so ridiculous. The concept that we’re even talking about is ridiculous. We’ll take care of it, Margaret. We’ll win.

SHERIFF MIMS: Thank you. There could be an MS-13 member I know about — if they don’t reach a certain threshold, I cannot tell ICE about it.

TRUMP: We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals. And we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before. And because of the weak laws, they come in fast, we get them, we release them, we get them again, we bring them out. It’s crazy.

Reading only the SPLC’s quotation, one would think that Trump was referring to all illegal immigrants when he said: “These aren’t people. These are animals.” In context, one can see that his statement was preceded by Sheriff Mims’ remark about criminals and MS-13. Moreover, nowhere in the exchange between President Trump and Sheriff Mims is race or ethnicity mentioned — although a majority of MS-13 members are from Central America.

Now, let’s talk about the term “animals.” MS-13’s motto is “kill, rape, control,” and their crimes are often marked by shocking brutality. One Maryland man was lured to a park where he was “stabbed over one-hundred times, decapitated, [and] dismembered,” according to court documents. The man’s heart was also removed from his body and deposited in a pit which was dug prior to the murder.

It’s offensive and simply unacceptable for the SPLC to claim that calling members of MS-13 “animals” is akin to the Nazis calling the Jews “subhuman.” The Jewish people were targeted for extermination based solely on their ethnicity, while members of MS-13 are being targeted for deportation and prosecution because they have committed heinous crimes.