The four US congresswomen told to “go back” where they came from by Donald Trump have hit back, as critics accuse the president of wanting to “make America white again”.
Trump’s tweets on Sunday have been widely interpreted as an attack on four first-term Democratic congresswomen – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar – who have referred to themselves as the Squad.
All four come from ethnic minority backgrounds and they were all born in the US with the exception of Omar, who arrived as a refugee from Somalia at the age of 12 and became a US citizen.
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Responding to Trump’s tweets, Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, said “the country I ‘come from’, and the country we all swear to, is the United States”. Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York City, as was Trump, and her family come from Puerto Rico, a US territory.
Pressley, the first African American woman to represent Massachusetts in the House of Representatives, has also spoken out, tweeting: “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like.”
Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, called Trump “lawless” and “a complete failure”, and called for him to be impeached.
Striking a similar note, Omar slated Trump as “the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen”, and stressed the importance of setting a “bold progressive agenda” ahead of the next presidential election in 2020.
Despite occasionally clashing with the more radical wing of her party, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has come out swinging for the four congresswomen, accusing the president of wanting to “make America white again”.
Trump’s Twitter tirade saw him asking: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
He added: “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”
There was an instant backlash to what The Washington Post called the “unmistakable ugliness of Trump urging brown-skinned congresswomen to ‘go back’ to their countries”, with #RacistPresident trending on Twitter in the hours after the rant.
The reaction to the racially-charged remarks has spread beyond the US. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt joined Theresa May in denouncing Trump’s tweets, although all “held back from branding him a racist”, as the The Guardian reports.
But who are the quartet, and why has the president attacked them?
Ocasio-Cortez last year became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, at the age of 29, after beating Joe Crowley, a ten-term New York Democrat incumbent. In her campaign video, which went viral, she said that “women like me aren’t supposed to run for office”, noting her age and Puerto Rican descent. Ocasio-Cortez ran on a progressive platform, which included the abolition of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reforms to the criminal justice system, tuition-free college and universal healthcare. Since taking office in January, Ocasio-Cortez has introduced a “Green New Deal”, a comprehensive plan to address climate change in the US, and spoken out about abortion and border control issues.
As a lawyer, Tlaib fought against racism and state abuses, before becoming, in the 2018 midterm elections, one of the first two Muslim American women ever elected to Congress. Born in Detroit to working-class Palestinian immigrants, Tlaib has been vocal about the treatment of children apprehended at the US-Mexico border, and one of the loudest advocates for impeachment proceedings against the president.
Omar was sworn into office alongside Tlaib. Born in Somalia, Omar and her family fled the country’s civil war when she was eight years old and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before moving to the US. Citing her own experience as an asylum seeker, Omar made immigration reform a key part of her election campaign.
Elected to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, Pressley is the first African American woman to be elected to Congress from that state. During her eight-year tenure on Boston City Council, she worked to improve provision for pregnant students and teen parents in Boston public schools and created the first “listening-only hearing” for 300 families impacted by gun violence to share their stories with officials. During her congressional campaign, Pressley pledged to be bold and speak truth to power - and in this instance, she appears to have struck a nerve at the very top.
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