On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump gave a prime-time address to the nation, using his 15 minutes in a typically Trumpian fashion: In his speech, which was carried by all major TV networks, he attempted to justify the ongoing government shutdown by laying out the urgent need for a border wall, falsely blamed the opioid crisis on our “open” border, once again erroneously implied that immigrants are sexual predators, and blamed the death of migrant children on their parents. None of this was new material — Trump has been demanding his wall using the same xenophobic justifications since the campaign trail.
This time though, Trump gave the speech in front of a little framed photo of his mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump. She was, as many have pointed out, an immigrant to the U.S. from Scotland. She boarded a ship bound for New York City in 1929 at just 17, and throughout the 1930s, census records showed that she was employed as a domestic worker. She married the president’s father, Fred Trump, in 1936 and settled in Queens. By March of 1942, she was a naturalized citizen of the United States.
While Trump happily credits his mother for his hairstyle and fondly remembers her love of “showmanship,” he doesn’t talk about her immigration history often. It would perhaps weaken his argument, contradicting his narrative that migration is something to be feared. There’s no indication that MacLeod Trump immigrated to the U.S. illegally; of course, asylum seeking is legal, too, though the president tends to ignore that fact, instead stoking fears about migrant caravans, gangs, and terrorists breaching the southern border.
There are obviously still clear differences between the immigrant experience his white Scottish mother had then and the experiences mothers from Central America are facing now. But as the portrait of his mother rested in plain view while he repeated lie after lie, it’s hard to not to think about how some of his own policy proposals could have prevented the president from ever becoming a citizen.