Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump skirted a question on “The Dr. Oz Show” show this week about whether he believes the United States has a moral responsibility to help an undocumented immigrant who is dying in the streets.
The reply demonstrated a few things, including Trump’s reticence to giving answers and Dr. Mehmet Oz’s failure to ask follow-up questions. More importantly, it showed that Trump, regardless of his efforts to muddy the waters on his deportation plans, is still arguing for driving all undocumented immigrants out of the country.
“You mentioned you don’t want people dying on the streets,” Oz said during the episode that aired on Thursday, as CBS News’ Sopan Deb pointed out. “What if an undocumented immigrant collapses and needs life-saving therapy? Do we have a moral responsibility, do you believe, to help that person?”
Trump rejected the premise ― under in his plan, he said, there would be no undocumented immigrants to help.
“Well, under my plan the undocumented, or, as you would say, illegal immigrant wouldn’t be in the country,” he said. “They only come in the country legally.”
Oz ― who, in fairness, is not a journalist ― let it go. “We’ll be right back,” he said, introducing a commercial break.
This is a serious issue ― quite literally life and death ― and it’s telling that Trump declined to say whether he thinks there is a moral responsibility to save an undocumented immigrant’s life.
There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, and some of them need life-saving care. Many do not have health insurance, and they are barred from Obamacare, although California officials are asking the White House for approval to let undocumented immigrants in the state onto its public exchange. Hospitals are required to treat people in urgent need of care even if they don’t have the ability to pay, but the cost of that treatment is typically very high and is only sometimes partially reimbursed by Medicaid.
Trump avoided saying whether he thinks undocumented immigrants should receive emergency care by saying he didn’t think they should be in the country.
This would only be the case if his plan was to deport as many undocumented immigrants as possible and drive out the rest by restricting their ability to work and live ― self-deportation, as 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney put it. Trump’s comment indicates he means to drive out all ― not just most ― undocumented immigrants.
Trump made inconsistent statements last month, leading many to believe he was not actually hoping to get every undocumented immigrant out of the country. He delivered a speech in early September reaffirming that it is his goal, but said the next day that “perhaps at a later date” he might do something about undocumented immigrants who weren’t, in his parlance, the “bad ones.”
Some interpreted this to mean that Trump might allow some undocumented immigrants to eventually earn legal status, although he hardly said so explicitly: He said he might consider something, but only if the border was secure and unauthorized immigration had been resolved.
The idea that Trump actually supports legal status for some undocumented immigrants was always far-fetched. But if you want more proof, it’s in the Dr. Oz interview: In his plan, there will be no undocumented immigrants in the country to save.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
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