2019’s State of the Union was an unusual speech for President Donald Trump in that he only spent some of the speech talking about immigration. But when he did — just as he has on pretty much every major rhetorical occasion of his national political career — he told America that immigrants are coming over the US-Mexico border to kill them.
It is not exactly an exaggeration to say that this is the only speech Trump knows how to give — or at least, the only one he appears to enjoy giving — in solemn settings of state. I have been following Trump’s immigration rhetoric since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower, and the relentlessness with which he hits this particular narrow subgenre of anti-immigrant panic is noteworthy.
This isn’t just a matter of Trump going back to a stump speech, or the riffs he knows the audience loves. The idea that immigrants are coming to kill you is a persistent motif in his scripted speeches — the formal addresses that are supposed to be the hallmarks of statesmanship, the moments when other presidents “truly become president of the United States.”
Most politicians have more than one way to talk about the enemies of the American people. Most have more than one way to express sympathy for Americans going through hard times. Most have more than one way to assure America that they can keep its people safe. Trump only has the one note, and he has played it literally every time he’s been called on to talk like a president.
His campaign launch on June 16, 2015:
They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
His response to the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016:
We cannot continue to allow thousands upon thousands of people to pour into our country, many of whom have the same thought process as this savage killer.
The speech with which he formally accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency, in July 2016:
They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.
One such border-crosser was released and made his way to Nebraska. There, he ended the life of an innocent young girl named Sarah Root. She was 21 years old, and was killed the day after graduating from college with a 4.0 Grade Point Average. Her killer was then released a second time, and he is now a fugitive from the law.
I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family. But to this Administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.
A campaign speech on immigration (billed as a policy address and delivered in primetime) in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 31, 2016:
Also among the victims of the Obama-Clinton open borders policies was Grant Ronnebeck, a 21 year-old convenience store clerk in Mesa, Arizona. He was murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member previously convicted of burglary who had also been released from Federal Custody.
Another victim is Kate Steinle, gunned down in the Sanctuary City of San Francisco by an illegal immigrant deported five previous times.
Then there is the case of 90 year-old Earl Olander, who was brutally beaten and left to bleed to death in his home. The perpetrators were illegal immigrants with criminal records who did not meet the Obama Administration’s priorities for removal.
His “American Carnage” inauguration speech (which, in this company, looks pretty tame), January 21, 2017:
the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
His speech to a joint session of Congress in February 2017:
Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them. Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.
Jamiel’s 17-year-old son was viciously murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member who had just been released from prison. Jamiel Shaw, Jr. was an incredible young man, with unlimited potential who was getting ready to go to college where he would have excelled as a great college quarterback. But he never got the chance. His father, who is in the audience tonight, has become a very good friend of mine. Jamiel, thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Also with us are Susan Oliver and Jessica Davis. Their husbands, Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis, were slain in the line of duty in California. They were pillars of their community. These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations. Should have never been in our country.
A speech to law enforcement in July 2017, in which he casually ad-libbed an endorsement of police brutality:
MS-13 gang members have brutally murdered 17 beautiful, young lives in this area on Long Island alone. Think of it. They butcher those little girls. They kidnap, they extort, they rape and they rob. They prey on children. They shouldn’t be here. They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs. They slash them with machetes, and they stab them with knives. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful, quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They’re animals.
We cannot tolerate as a society the spilling of innocent, young, wonderful, vibrant people — sons and daughters, even husbands and wives. We cannot accept this violence one day more.
His State of the Union address in January 2018:
Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens. Their two teenage daughters — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — were close friends on Long Island. But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa’s 16th Birthday, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage gang MS-13 have been charged with Kayla and Nisa’s murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors ‑- and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school.
Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert: Tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you. We cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain.
His speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2018:
These are animals. They cut people. They cut them. They cut them up in little pieces and they want them to suffer. And we take them into our country because our immigration laws are so bad. And when we catch them — it’s called catch-and-release — we have to, by law, catch them and then release them. Catch-and-release. And I can’t get the Democrats — and nobody has been able to for years — to approve common-sense measures that, when we catch these animal-killers, we can lock them up and throw away the keys.
A speech given at an event held with the “Angel Moms” — a group of parents whose children were killed by unauthorized immigrants, featuring some of the parents highlighted in previous speeches — in June 2018, during the peak of the family separation crisis, with the message that the press should pay attention to families “permanently separated” because one of them was killed by an immigrant:
No major networks sent cameras to their homes or displayed the images of their incredible loved ones across the nightly news. They don’t do that. They don’t talk about the death and destruction caused by people that shouldn’t be here, people that will continuously get into trouble and do bad things.
A speech on the eve of the midterm elections — also billed as a policy address and thus covered (at least initially) by multiple TV networks, but which, compared to Tuesday’s, is actually pretty heavy on policy — given November 1, 2018:
At this very moment, large, well-organized caravans of migrants are marching towards our southern border. Some people call it an “invasion.” It’s like an invasion. They have violently overrun the Mexican border. You saw that two days ago. These are tough people, in many cases. A lot of young men, strong men. And a lot of men that maybe we don’t want in our country. But again, we’ll find that out through the legal process.
But they’ve overrun the Mexican police, and they’ve overrun and hurt badly Mexican soldiers.
His first primetime address to the nation from the Oval Office, delivered January 8 (in the midst of the government shutdown) and carried by all major networks:
Day after day, precious lives are cut short by those who have violated our borders. In California, an Air Force veteran was raped, murdered, and beaten to death with a hammer by an illegal alien with a long criminal history. In Georgia, an illegal alien was recently charged with murder for killing, beheading, and dismembering his neighbor. In Maryland, MS-13 gang members who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors were arrested and charged last year after viciously stabbing and beating a 16-year-old girl.
Over the last several years, I’ve met with dozens of families whose loved ones were stolen by illegal immigration. I’ve held the hands of the weeping mothers and embraced the grief-stricken fathers. So sad. So terrible. I will never forget the pain in their eyes, the tremble in their voices, and the sadness gripping their souls.
How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?
To those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask: Imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken?
The January 25 speech in which he announced he would allow the government to reopen:
In the last two years, ICE officers arrested a total of 266,000 criminal aliens inside of the United States, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 homicides or, as you would call them, violent, vicious killings. It can be stopped.
And most recently, Tuesday’s State of the Union:
Just yesterday, an MS-13 gang member was taken into custody for a fatal shooting on a subway platform in New York City. We are removing these gang members by the thousands, but until we secure our border they’re going to keep streaming back in.
Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.
I’ve gotten to know many wonderful Angel Moms, and Dads, and families – no one should ever have to suffer the horrible heartache that they have had to endure.
Here tonight is Debra Bissell. Just three weeks ago, Debra’s parents, Gerald and Sharon, were burglarized and shot to death in their Reno, Nevada home by an illegal alien. They were in their 80s and are survived by four children, 11 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren. Also here tonight are Gerald and Sharon’s granddaughter, Heather, and great‑granddaughter, Madison.
To Debra, Heather, Madison, please stand: few can understand your pain.
This isn’t necessarily a complete list — I haven’t watched every scripted Trump speech. And some of these selections read more like off-the-cuff remarks than scripted speeches — as if Trump went off-script to riff about immigrant murder. During his January 25 speech, the Hill’s Jordan Fabian reported, the teleprompter simply instructed Trump to “[Talk about Human Trafficking]”.
In a way, though, that’s the point. Scripted speeches are scripted because they’re supposed to be more thoughtful and considered than off-the-cuff remarks, and draw on a broader range of topics and emotions.
Trump doesn’t appear to enjoy stretching himself, though. He likes letting loose and talking about how immigrants are coming over the border to kill you. As unpredictable as Trump can sometimes be, it’s the one point he can reliably be expected to make.