Photo: Associated Press
Photo: Associated Press

A Conversation with Representative Brendan Boyle

In an interview with AL DÍA on Monday afternoon, Congressman Boyle explained why he condemns Trump’s "racist" tweets, and how his immigrant background made him…


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On Sunday, July 14, President Trump posted a series of tweets telling four congresswomen to “go back to the places where they came from.” Since then, a flood of responses — from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress — have come out denouncing the President’s tweets. Many called the tweets racist and others called them xenophobic, un-American and wrong. 

Democrats were first to speak out against the tweets, but as of Tuesday morning, only 18 of the 250 Republican members of Congress have publicly denounced his tweet.  

Representative Brendan Boyle of District 2, responded on Twitter to Trump’s tweets, first on Sunday and then on Tuesday afternoon after the House voted that Nancy Pelosi could call out the President for being racist.

Boyle spoke with AL DÍA sharing his thoughts on Trump’s tweets, what it means to be the son of an immigrant and the values of immigrants and his views on immigration. 

Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been edited and condensed for reading purposes. 

Q: My first question for you, Could you expand on your response to Trump's tweet from Sunday when he wrote about "progressive democrat congresswoman" telling them to go back to the places where they came from and his further tweets that have come out?  

Rep. Boyle: First of all, Trump's tweet was clearly racist. There is no other word for it. His quote on quote go back where you came from tweet is directed at four colleagues of mine, all of whom are racial minorities and women. And my tweet was pointing out that actually I have a lot in common with them. I am a first-generation American born. My dad came here as an immigrant. 

I have also been extremely vocal in opposing this president's policies and yet I never get the response, either from him or his supporters.

I never hear "Go back where you came from." Yet, my colleagues who just happen to have different skin color than I do get that all the time from Trump supporters and now even from the President of the United States. The president is racist, is using racist language and it's wrong. 

Q: You mentioned that you are a first-generation American, can you talk about your father’s experience being an immigrant? 

Rep Boyle: My father came to America when he was 19, came right to Philadelphia, worked hard, first landscaping and then in a warehouse for 25 years and then as a janitor for septa for another 16 or so years in between would hold all sorts of part time jobs while also working the main full-time job he had. 

So growing up, I didn't need my parents to tell me about work ethic because I saw it every single day and my experience being around everyday my father as well as other immigrants in our family was just seeing tremendous hard work, real faith in this country, a tremendous appreciation to be here and the belief that you are in America and you work hard and you play by the rules you can get ahead and succeed. 

So it's really impossible to me to imagine my life without having had that immigrant background and experience and I think and I often say that I work everyday to try to have the tremendous work ethic that my father had. 

I wouldn't be where I am, my brother is also an elected official, state legislator, he wouldn't be where he is if it weren't for the sort of work ethic and values that we learned from our parents. 

Q: And what country is your father from? 

Rep. Boyle: He's originally from Ireland. 

Q: Is there any personal experience of either you or your father, with anyone ever telling you to go back to where you came from? 

Rep. Boyle: I don't ever remember experiencing that growing up. 

As for my father, he has still to this day, a very thick accent, so he might have heard such rhetoric, I actually don't know, you'd have to ask him. There's no question that there was a long time in American history which Irish immigrants were told essentially go back to where you came from, but fortunately, those times certainly don't exist today and haven't existed for many years.

I look at my job as to try to learn from that American experience and use that to try to show how the immigrants of today are facing discrimination or even hate from this president are very much continuing that American experience of certain immigrant groups being discriminated against. 

Q: I know you posed it as a rhetorical question on your Twitter,  but why do you think that the president has never told you to go back to where you are from? 

Rep. Boyle:  I meant it as a rhetorical question, because I think it's quite obvious that because I am white and perhaps because I am male as well he wouldn't look to target me in the same that he would look to target others as who he perceives as outside the American mainstream. 

I think that unfortunately it's rather obvious why he is holding them to a different standard and why in many ways he continues to run against them.

In part because this is who Donald Trump is, but in part a conscious strategy that he has he can brand them as "the other" that he will in a very cynical way politically benefit from. 

Q: President Trump he said his tweets weren't racist and Senator Lindsey Graham called the congresswomen anti-American as a response, what are your thoughts? 

Rep. Boyle: I can’t help but express how disappointing it is the way that Lindsey Graham really flip-flopped and become such a sycophant of this president. 

 I think that every single one of my colleagues is doing what they genuinely believe to be best for their district and for their country and the sooner we get back to actually debating the issues and the best way to help people, the better off we will all be.

But again in part because President Trump knows where he stands on issues is not the popular position.

He would like to distract us by having this conversation and labeling these four colleagues of mine as "the other" and something to be somehow feared. 

Q: Do you feel he is only targeting these congresswomen, or by what he said do you feel he is targeting anybody else by telling them to come back to where they came from? 

Rep. Boyle: I believe that either during the 2016 campaign or shortly after, David Duke (the former grand wizard of the KKK) said on twitter that this was the most excited that he's ever been about any candidate in his life ever, talking about Donald Trump. There's a reason why David Duke and others hold that racist ideology strongly support of Donald Trump. Now that doesn't mean that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is racist, I don't think that’s  the case. 

But certainly the people like David Duke get ginned up and excited and motivated when they see Donald Trump or President Trump saying that they should go back to where they came from. 

Q: What is your opinion regarding few republicans responding or speaking out against the tweet. What do you think that has to say about the party? 
Rep. Boyle:

It's very disappointing, but it's not at all surprising to me. one thing should be clear over the last three years, the Republican party is the Trump party. 

I've seen it now multiple times when President Trump has entered the house chamber to give the state of the union address. Standing ovation, loud cheers from every single one of the Republican members. 

The few Republican members who have boldly spoken out in opposition to the president are no longer here. They either retired or lost re-election. And this is yet just another example of the lack of courage on the republican side. 

Q: Republican Rep. Will Hurd from Texas spoke out against the tweet from Trump. He said that it was xenophobic.

Rep. Boyle: I certainly welcome and continue to hope that there will be far more than those few but I am doubtful based on what I see here over the last three years. 

Q: What do you think needs to be the rhetoric the government has surrounding immigrants? 

Rep. Boyle: First and foremost it would help if the President or any leader understood American history. 

We are a nation primarily of immigrants. Most of those immigrants who came here, came with very little. Picking up and immigrating to another country is extremely difficult. The reality is the people who make that leap are actually taking a very bold act and they tend to be people who are ambitious, who want to work hard, who want to contribute to their new country. And overwhelmingly they tend to be people who are pro-American.  

Certainly we are a nation of laws as well and we can have a civil debate about how many immigrants we should legally accept, what kind of protections there should be on the southern border, what we should do in asylum cases. We can have a civil conversation without demonizing people and labeling them as "Trump's shithole countries" or labeling them as the other. If you look at history, it would actually lead you to conclude that immigration is overwhelmingly a good thing.

Q: The Trump administration is hoping to change legislation for asylum seekers, do you have any thoughts on that? 

Rep. Boyle: On asylum, this administration's latest proposal is deeply disturbing.

We can't be a country that turns a blind eye to those who are filing and coming here as legitimate asylum cases and in the Holocaust experience coming out of that turned and said “never again” so if we decide that we are no longer going to accept asylum seekers, then we would be turning our back on saying “never again.” 

Q: How do you think Trump's rhetoric in his recent tweets affects Philadelphia?  

Rep. Boyle: Philadelphia is the city that my family came to when they first came to America. It's the city that so many immigrants groups have come to. I am very proud of my district to work with and represent so many immigrants and immigrant families who are working hard, playing by the rules and contributing to our city.  

I would point out by the way that over the last 25 years Philadelphia has finally turned the corner and has started expanding it's population after four straight decades of decline. Part of what has turned our city around has started growing it again has been the increase in immigration to our city. 

I think that what Trump is doing, his policies and his rhetoric affects the entire country, but it probably affects Philadelphia little more than your average city. 



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