Ilhan Omar, First Somali-American State Lawmaker: Trump’s SOTU was “Disgusting” & “Fascist”

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During President Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday night, he repeatedly tried to conflate immigrants, including DREAMers, with terrorists and gang members—the latest in a string of racist or xenophobic statements Trump has made throughout his time in office. Yet, on Tuesday night, many lawmakers with the Congressional Black Caucus protested against Trump’s racism—and his recent comments calling African nations “shithole countries”—by wearing traditional African kente cloth. For more on the State of the Union, we speak with Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, as we look at President Trump’s first State of the Union, spending the hour on it. On Tuesday night, some Democrats in the chamber booed when President Trump used the term “chain migration” and tried to link terrorist attacks to policies allowing recent immigrants to sponsor relatives.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children.

This vital reform is necessary not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America. In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration. In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can just no longer afford. It’s time to reform these outdated immigration rules and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Trump at his State of the Union.

Joining us now, Minnesota state Representative Ilhan Omar, former refugee, Muslim, the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States. You were in Washington, D.C., from Minnesota, to attend one of the alternative State of the Unions, Ilhan Omar. Can you respond to what President Trump said last night?

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah, thank you, Amy, for having me. I was just sort of listening to that little bizarre bit about our immigration programs being outdated, and the only thing I could think about was his fascist ideas being outdated.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk specifically about these linkages he made, continually, this line he drew between young people coming to the United States over the border and MS-13 killing people.

REP. ILHAN OMAR: I mean, it is really disappointing, and it saddens me, but it doesn’t surprise me, that this person can’t comprehend how dangerous it is to create a link between people who might be committing some atrocious crimes to immigrants that are coming to this country seeking a brighter future for their children, and the countless people from Central America and South America who are coming to this country for opportunities, that my family came here for, and many of the immigrants before us came. It is unbecoming of a president and a leader to be able to make those kind of disturbing and disgusting links.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a part of a group, as a young Somali-American Muslim legislator, of America’s Cabinet, a nonpartisan project launched by young elected officials. Can you talk about what this is?

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. We realize that, this past year, we could be in the streets, we could resist some of the horrendous ideas that are coming out of Washington, or we could—or we could get involved as young electeds who have fluency and understanding of what our constituents need. We believe we have bold ideas that are going to lead our country to be able to keep up with fulfilling its promise.

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