Goaded on by the president, a crowd at a Donald Trump rally on Wednesday night chanted “send her back! send her back!” in reference to Ilhan Omar, a US congresswoman who arrived almost 30 years ago as a child refugee in the United States.
Trump used the 2020 campaign rally in Greenville, North Carolina, to attack Omar and three other Democratic congresswomen – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayana Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – calling them “hate-filled extremists”. The group, which calls itself “the Squad”, has been the focus of racist attacks by the president this week, kickstarted by tweets posted Sunday in which he said the lawmakers, all women of color, should “go back” to other countries.
Omar, of Minnesota, arrived in the United States at age eight as a refugee of war from Somalia. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were born in the United States.
Trump’s “go back” tweets were prompted by an appearance before a House committee in which the congresswomen testified to inhumane conditions they witnessed during tours of migrant detention facilities in Texas.
Trump’s tweets led the House to pass a resolution of condemnation. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on Tuesday. “To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people.”
But clearly sensing a political winner – notwithstanding polling showing that a majority of Americans found his remarks to be offensive – Trump riffed on the theme at his rally.
“Let ’em leave,” Trump said of the members of Congress. “They’re always telling us how to run it, how to do this, how to do that. You know what? If they don’t love it, tell ’em to leave it.”
The crowd chimed in as he finished, shouting “leave it”. The chant “send her back” was an embroidery of a chant popular during Trump’s first presidential run, when crowds attacked his opponent, Hillary Clinton, with chants of “lock her up”.
The “lock her up” chant was led at the Republican national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, by Trump’s then campaign adviser Michael Flynn, who later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI but has so far avoided prison time.
At least three former Trump aides have been locked up since the 2016 campaign, including Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his former adviser Michael Cohen, and his former adviser George Papadopoulos, while others, including Flynn and Trump’s former adviser Rick Gates, have pleaded guilty to federal felonies.
Trump’s speech in North Carolina also included a professed exasperation with the fact that Ocasio-Cortez’s name is hyphenated.
“No, no: I don’t have time to go with three different names,” Trump said. “We’ll call her Cortez. Too much time. Takes too much time.”
Sonia Rina Landry is a passionate entrepreneur, speaker, author, and personal development coach. She is an outspoken advocate of the free market economy and has helped countless clients identify their core values, envision and realize goals that resonate with those values. She oversees several businesses online and offline.