There is a lot wrong with how the Trump administration is handling immigration at the U.S. southern border, according to the president’s critics and supporters alike. But one photo trending on social media now is garnering attention for who was not at the table trying to solve the problems.
Mark Knoller, a CBS White House correspondent, tweeted a photo Wednesday of President Trump's meeting with Vice President Pence, members of his Cabinet and lawmakers to discuss pending immigration bills and his executive order ending the separation of families of illegal immigrants at the border. The photo was notable for its demographic makeup.
It drew plenty of commentary on social media.
Those seeking solutions to the problem created by Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy toward illegal immigrants appear to have little in common with those affected.
This is partially because of the general lack of diversity within the administration. The Fix wrote this year about the relatively low number of women and people of color in Trump's Cabinet, compared with the past six administrations.
But that’s not really an excuse for why there were so few people at the table who could identify closely with the immigrant experience. There are several Latino Republicans in Congress who represent districts that give them deep knowledge about the immigrant stories we see coming from the border. And Trump had a Hispanic advisory council during his election, some members of which continue to represent him on cable news.
The optics of having all white men, most of them older, making decisions about populations they are not part of reinforces some of the largest concerns people of color have had about this administration.
Trump supporter Kanye West made headlines in 2005 when he infamously said that “[George W.] Bush does not care about black people” after the Bush administration's insufficient response to Hurricane Katrina, where more than 1,800 people died.
But the separation of upward of 2,300 immigrant children from their parents a month after the release of a report showing that more than 4,600 people — most of them Puerto Rican — died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria reinforces a belief that some Trump critics have held since the president called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers during his campaign launch: Trump does not care about Latinos and immigrants.
Despite this perception, nearly 1 in 4 Latino Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, according to the most recent Gallup poll. While not a large percentage, it’s twice the approval rating Trump gets from black Americans. It will be worth noting if this rating changes following the family-separation debacle.
Trump has repeatedly promised to have the best interest of the Latino population in mind, but he has repeatedly taken actions affecting the community that resulted more in criticism than praise.
A genuine fear of many Trump critics is that the president’s vision of making America "great again" excludes those not among his base. Photos like the one from Wednesday's meeting fuel this belief.
If the president is truly interested in hearing the concerns of those his policies impact most, a start would be to, at the very least, include them in the conversation. Their absence speaks volumes and gives the impression that people most like Trump are the ones who matter most to him.