John Oliver and his Last Week Tonight team had plenty of material to work with after this past week in Trump’s America, but the President’s last-ditch efforts to stoke xenophobic fears with the migrant caravan took the cake.
Trump used the caravan, which is currently months away from reaching the southern U.S. border, as a centerpiece of his closing argument heading into the midterms, calling it an “invasion” of “young men, strong men” on the country’s women.
“That is such old-timey racism, I’m genuinely amazed that image didn’t automatically turn black and white as he talked,” said Oliver. “Like Pleasantville in reverse.”
Trump might not be able to keep asylum seekers out by sending troops to the U.S.-Mexico border or ending birthright citizenship by executive order, as Oliver points out, but his administration is very much responsible for the policy of separating families at the border.
Around 2,600 babies and children were reportedly taken from their parents in the period of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, and around 220 are still being held in ICE custody. Two weeks ago, the administration added 14 additional children to its tally of those separated from their families, as Oliver notes.
The government’s ineptitude came through even as families were reunited, as one mother learned when she received the wrong baby, after being separated from her breastfeeding five-month-old.
“To put it mildly, when it comes to how did we do this, the answer seems to be a combination of incompetently and cruelly,” said Oliver.
And why was this happening? Oliver also took down the administration and its supporters’ claims that they are forced to do so. “It’s not that they don’t want immigrants to come here because they’re criminals, it’s that they’re calling them criminals because they don’t want them to come here,” he said.
“We don’t have to do any of it. Because even though the language of war is being used, there is not a war,” Oliver later added. “And the only reason people keep talking like there is one is to give themselves permission to make the choices they want to be forced to make.”
President Trump and former ICE chief Thomas Homan have both flirted with bringing back the family separation policy, using the migrant caravan fears as an excuse ahead of the midterms, and Oliver says this policy is emblematic of his entire presidency:
It was cruel, sloppy, needless, racist and ultimately exactly what we should of expected. And I would argue the biggest threat to our status as the greatest nation on Earth is not a caravan a thousand miles south of us. It’s whoever thinks doing this is an acceptable fucking response.
In another segment, Oliver also took on HBO parent company AT&T, one of the latest donors to back away from incumbent, white nationalist Rep. Steve King, who is currently seeking a ninth term for Iowa’s 4th congressional district. The company’s employee PAC bankrolled his campaign until Friday, when it announced that further support would not be consistent with the company’s core mission to “Stand for Equality.”
“The news really shouldn’t be ‘these companies bailed on him,’ so much as ‘they were OK with him for a shockingly long time,’” said Oliver. “Although of course AT&T didn’t catch on to King’s white nationalism—picking up on clear signals isn’t exactly their forte.”
Watch Oliver’s “Family Separation” segment below.