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The most powerful responses to Trump’s border speech didn’t come from Democratic leadership

They came to fight.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Donald Trump warned the American public about the dangers posed by undocumented immigrants during a televised speech on Tuesday, his latest attempt to convince Congress to provide funding for the border wall he wants to build between the US and Mexico.

Democratic leaders in Congress Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer replied in a diplomatic way—looking more like disappointed parents than fighting politicians. But the new class of Democratic representatives who were just sworn in didn’t hold back.

“I see right through you, and so do the American people,” congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said referring to Trump. “This has nothing to do with border security.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of New York City, condemned the White House’s “violent, racist rhetoric” and accused it of spreading “falsehoods.”

The new congresswomen are voicing the growing frustration among some Americans as the government’s second-longest shutdown continues over Trump’s request of $5.4 billion to build the border wall. Democrats, who now control the US House, are refusing to grant it, arguing the wall is unnecessary.

Aside from congressional leaders’ more subdued resistance, the Trump administration now has to contend with these progressive newcomers, who are more combative and not afraid to call him out. Speaking in the House of Representatives, Pressley, a Boston Democrat, refused to refer to Trump as president, instead calling him the “occupant of the White House.”

“You took an oath just as I did five days ago, to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people,” she said. “Sir, you dishonor that oath. You devalue the life of the immigrant, the worker, and the survivor.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show after Trump’s speech, dismissed his wall proposal as a “campaign fantasy.” She also chided him for his comments about immigrants. (In his speech, Trump singled out crimes committed by immigrants, and said a wall is needed to stop the drug dealers, human traffickers, and criminal gangs from slipping into the US.)

“Every day, immigrants commit crimes at a far lower rate than native-born Americans,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The women and children on that border who are trying to seek rescue and seek opportunities in the United States of America with nothing but the shirts on their backs are acting more American than any person seeking to keep them out ever will be.”

If he heard the congresswomen’s criticism, Trump didn’t acknowledge them.

The government shutdown, meanwhile, continues to disrupt life in America.

Here is Pressley’s speech in full:

Madam Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the occupant of the White House.
Mr. Trump, you took an oath just as I did five days ago, to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people. Sir, you dishonor that oath. You devalue the life of the immigrant, the worker, and the survivor.
I see right through you, and so do the American people. This has nothing to do with border security. Your shutdown, another Trump generated crisis, has brought a tsunami of hurt.
I rise today to lift the voices of the unheard. I rise today on behalf of the families concerned about feeding their children because their WIC benefits will run dry.
I rise today in solidarity with the thousands of workers with callused hands and broken spirits working for no pay.
I rise today in support of the survivor fleeing violent hands, seeking safety, only to find the shelter door locked because of your shutdown.
I rise today in support of the American people, who believe in the promise of this nation and ask for honest pay for an honest day’s work
Today I rise as one and I stand as thousands.

And Ocasio-Cortez’s comments:

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