President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that undocumented immigrants are “infesting our country” — and language expert Aviya Kushner says this should set off alarm bells.
“The President’s tweet that immigrants will ‘infest our Country’ includes an alarming verb choice for anyone with knowledge of history,” she writes. “Characterizing people as vermin has historically been a precursor to murder and genocide. The Nazis built on centuries-old hatred of Jews as carriers of disease in a film titled ‘Der Ewige Jude,’ or ‘The Eternal Jew.'”
In particular, she notes that the connotations of the word “infest” implies that undocumented immigrants are insects who can be exterminated.
“For anyone familiar with Nazi history — the exhibit of ‘Degenerate Art,’ the film ‘The Eternal Jew’ and the persistent campaign to paint Jews as vermin or animals, and certainly not human — the word ‘infest’ is not only remarkable, but terrifying,” she writes. “The verb ‘infest’ is… language at its clearest.”
For good measure, Kushner also quotes Amherst College linguist Ilan Stavans, who has similarly been waving red flags about the dangers of Trump’s rhetoric.
“The Trump Administration’s policy of separating children of their asylum-seeking Hispanic parents is spiteful,” Stavans wrote on Twitter this week. “It is reminiscent of the Nazi strategy to divide Jewish families.”