If the United States government were a company and President Trump an employer, his tweet in which he told four congresswomen of color to “go back” to their home countries would constitute as workplace discrimination.
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) were the unnamed targets of Trump’s Twitter rant. All are U.S. citizens and all except Omar — a refugee from Somalia — were born in the U.S. and would be “going back” to the districts they represent. The Washington Post reports telling immigrants and people of color to “go back to their countries” is such a common racist remark that it is even included in the literature the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission uses to protect immigrants’ workplace rights.
It says, “Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or coworkers.”
This law and the commission have been in place since 1964, when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed. It protects against discrimination based on race, color, religion sex or national origin.
Though there is no law regarding what the President can or cannot tweet, his language may still work against him. Though he denied the tweet’s racist intent, this legal document from 1964 explicitly defines comments like his as racist. This connection could undermine his agenda.
Judges in court could cite these tweets in court to block policies, proving that Trump has intent to discriminate against people for their colors and origins. Despite Trump claiming his policies like the Muslim ban, immigration or the proposed census citizenship question are not xenophobic, it would be hard for him to prove they weren’t akin to his “go back to the countries from which they came” comments — deemed in legal literature as racist.
Though a week later, these tweets are still making headlines and facing condemnation, the only consequence he has faced is a symbolic, nonbinding, narrowly-passed House resolution denouncing his words.