In response to the President’s remarks referring to people being deported from the United States as “animals,” PEN America Director of Free Expression Research and Policy Katy Glenn Bass issued the following statement: 

“As an organization of writers, PEN America reveres the power and meaning of words, and unequivocally condemns these objectionable remarks. PEN’s Charter charges its members not only with defending free expression but also to “do their utmost to dispel all hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality in one world.” In this spirit, we reject the President’s statement and express our alarm at his continuing efforts to desensitize the public to his administration’s anti-immigrant policies. We are also mindful of how the power of words can be, and has been, used in an attempt to dehumanize others: to justify slavery, racial and religious hatred, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, in the United States, in Germany, in Rwanda, in Bosnia, and in too many other countries.

Suggestions that President Trump was referring only to gang members when he said “These aren’t people. These are animals,” do not change the underlying context in which these remarks must be understood: This President ran on an explicitly anti-immigrant, xenophobic platform. He has made numerous remarks that smear all immigrants as criminals and uses fear-mongering to shore up support among his base. His administration has adopted an immigration policy that includes the forcible separation of parents and children, the detention of those children on U.S. military bases, and the deportation of people who have lived in and contributed to this country for years. The President’s remarks are part of a broader reprehensible effort to stoke anti-immigrant sentiment that should be vigorously resisted.” 


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator:​