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Legal immigrant John Oliver has some thoughts on GOP immigration hypocrisy

John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Just a word of advice to fear-mongering, race-baiting, anti-immigrant politicians: You probably don’t want to piss off a guy who’s been through the arduous legal immigration process—and who has an award-winning weekly TV show—by lying about immigration. That’s a lesson certain to go unlearned by Donald Trump and the other Republicans (Ted Cruz even gets his own personalized Dr. Seuss poem for the second week in a row), but it’s still satisfying to watch an immaculately sardonic Brit lay out just what a melting pot of bullshit the current right-wing position on legal immigration is. Or, as Oliver sets up one incoherently wrong-headed clip from Trump about how one aspect of legal immigration works, “I’ll let the president explain so that you’ll know exactly what it isn’t.”

For Oliver, the issue of immigration is an immediate and personal one, having spent years going through the arduous, labyrinthine, and, under Trump, arbitrarily changing immigration system himself. And that’s with Oliver being a famous white guy receiving the official government designation “0-1" indicating “persons with extraordinary abilities in the arts,” a description at which Oliver preemptively bristled, “I know what you’re really thinking deep down, and fuck you.” Still, as Oliver lays out with the added acid heat of one who has smelled the clammy stench of xenophobic bullshit personally, the GOP rhetoric surrounding immigration has never been more pungently rancid than under Trump.

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Setting aside how hard it has always been for people to “get in line” like all the MAGA minions like to parrot when someone suggests their hatred of immigrants might be less about the rule of law and more about hating the thought of brown people moving onto their block, Oliver noted how all of Trump’s talk of coming to America “the right way” insufficiently obscures how much harder he’s making it to do just that. While spouting the tough love catchphrases about immigrating legally, Oliver shows, with customary diligence and those pesky facts Trump hates, that the Trump administration has moved to erect the “invisible wall” of ever more stingy caps and regulations in its white supremacist march to cut, for example, the number of refugees and asylum seekers to zero. That would even cut off, as Oliver shows in one particularly rage-inducing clip, someone like Nobel Prize wining immigration activist Nadia Murad, whose attempt to get Trump to show the merest glimmer of human empathy ran up against Trump’s inability to listen to the fact that her entire family had been murdered by ISIS for literally two seconds. “She just told you three fucking words ago!,” was Oliver’s outraged response after watching Trump ask “And where are they now?” directly after hearing Murad’s emotional Oval Office testimony that they are, in fact, very dead.

But, as Oliver notes, very few people even get as far as to have their wrenching personal history of fleeing from ethic cleansing, war, and genocide blown off by a malfunctioning hate-robot in the White House. Caps on immigration from any one country mean that would-be legal immigrants from populous nations like China, India, and Mexico face waits of decades in that disappearing line Trump supporters love to point them toward. (But if you’re from Malta—population 475,000—it’s you’re lucky day, for now.) Family members looking to join a loved one in the States face being smeared as potential “chain migration” killers by a president who lies about every facet of immigration—as Oliver shows with a clip from another jaw-droppingly ignorant/mendacious Trump speech. And then there is Trump stooge, fellow empathy vacuum, and acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, heard rewriting Emma Lazarus’ poem about “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” to exclude any masses whose huddled nature includes any present or potential need for help of any kind. (A group Oliver whittled down to “rich Norwegians and future wives.”) Taking up the apparent license to add crude insults to inspirational poems, Oliver closed by sending a doctored Emily Dickinson quote to Trump and company, ending, as all the most poetic rebuttals to hypocrisy and bigotry do, with a big, fat dick.

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About the author

Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.