In response to Trump's 'shithole countries' remark, let's look at some stats.

'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.'

Donald Trump doesn't see the value in immigrants from "shithole" countries — but he couldn't be more wrong.

It shouldn't come as any surprise that the president who opened his campaign with a rant about Mexicans being rapists, railed against the Muslim parents of a fallen soldier, claimed that an Indiana-born judge should recuse himself from a Trump case because he's "a Mexican," blamed "both sides" for a woman killed by a white supremacist, called for the execution of five men of color for a crime they didn't commit, and spent years speculating about whether or not the country's first black president was actually born in America would say something so overtly racist ... but that's exactly what he did on Thursday, Jan. 11.

"Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?" Trump reportedly asked during a bipartisan meeting with senators on immigration. By "shithole countries," he apparently meant Haiti, El Salvador, and the entire continent of Africa. According to the report, he thinks the U.S. should seek out immigrants from countries like Norway (i.e. white countries).  


While he's tried to distance himself from the comments, it's been confirmed by others in the room.

Trump met with members of Congress on Monday to discuss immigration. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The truth is that it really cannot be overstated how important immigrants are to the U.S., including — and perhaps especially — those from the countries Trump slurred.

A November 2017 report by New American Economy, a non-partisan organization for comprehensive immigration reform, sheds light on some of the contributions made by people in these countries. Focusing on immigrants from Sub-Saharan African nations, the group found the following:

  • In 2015, African immigrants earned $55.1 billion, contributing $10.1 billion in federal taxes and $4.7 billion in state and local taxes.
  • 73.4% of these immigrants are between the ages of 25 and 64. This is an age range many consider to be prime working years, in which people are most likely to have a net-positive effect on the economy. (In comparison, less than half of the U.S.-born population falls into this age bracket.)
  • There's a big demand for health care workers, and it's constantly growing. The report found that in 2015, there were more open positions in the health care industry than there were unemployed workers with relevant experience. Nearly 30% of African immigrants take up work in this field, providing some much-needed stability.
  • As of 2015, there were more than 90,000 African-born entrepreneurs in the U.S., creating jobs for hundreds of thousands of individuals.
  • 40% of African-born immigrants have at least a bachelor's degree, making them better-educated than the U.S. population as a whole.

New U.S. citizens attend a naturalization ceremony. Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

We have to ask ourselves who we are as a country — and who we want to be.

Looking to the Statue of Liberty, the very symbol of what so many of us were raised to believe about America, Trump's own message is contradicted.

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!' cries she
With silent lips. 'Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"













Lady Liberty holds aloft her torch — a beacon of hope to immigrants everywhere. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

No, it doesn't say anything about "shithole" countries, but it does advocate for the "tired," the "poor," the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free," "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore," and of course, "the homeless, tempest-tost."

When Trump says that other countries "aren't sending their best" or suggests that Haitians "all have AIDS," he's betraying who we strive to be as a country.

At this moment in time, there is, sadly, nothing more antithetical to so-called "American values" than our own president.

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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