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posted: 1/13/2018 7:00 AM

Trump comments highlight racial impact of migration platform

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  • FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. Trump's use of a vulgar term to describe African countries has left the small cluster of immigration hard-line groups in the U.S. scrambling to distance themselves from him. Trump used the vulgarity during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, with members of Congress in asking why the U.S. would want more immigrants from places such as Haiti and Africa.

    FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with lawmakers on immigration policy in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. Trump's use of a vulgar term to describe African countries has left the small cluster of immigration hard-line groups in the U.S. scrambling to distance themselves from him. Trump used the vulgarity during an Oval Office meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, with members of Congress in asking why the U.S. would want more immigrants from places such as Haiti and Africa.
    Associated Press

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes questions from Wispolitics.com President Jeff Mayers on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Milwaukee. The Q&A session was about the country's new tax law, but Ryan addressed obscene comments about immigrants made by President Donald Trump, calling the remarks "very unfortunate, unhelpful."

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., takes questions from Wispolitics.com President Jeff Mayers on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Milwaukee. The Q&A session was about the country's new tax law, but Ryan addressed obscene comments about immigrants made by President Donald Trump, calling the remarks "very unfortunate, unhelpful."
    Associated Press

  • Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is introduced as he speaks to students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

    Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is introduced as he speaks to students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
    Associated Press

  • Students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, listens to Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

    Students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, listens to Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
    Associated Press

  • Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks to students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

    Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks to students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
    Associated Press

  • Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks at a news conference as he visits students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

    Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks at a news conference as he visits students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
    Associated Press

  • Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is introduced as he speaks to students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

    Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is introduced as he speaks to students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
    Associated Press

  • Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks at a news conference as he visits students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

    Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks at a news conference as he visits students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
    Associated Press

  • Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, speaks at a news conference as he visits students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."

    Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, speaks at a news conference as he visits students of Year Up Chicago, a one-year long job training program that provides low-income young adults, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Chicago. The senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly."
    Associated Press

  • In this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 photo, immigration activist Nora Sandigo talks with immigrant families and their children at her home in Miami. Sandigo filed a suit Thursday in federal court in Miami, on behalf of 10 children who's parents had been deported or had been threatened with deportation.

    In this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 photo, immigration activist Nora Sandigo talks with immigrant families and their children at her home in Miami. Sandigo filed a suit Thursday in federal court in Miami, on behalf of 10 children who's parents had been deported or had been threatened with deportation.
    Associated Press

  • In this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 photo, immigration activist Nora Sandigo smiles during an interview at her home in Miami. Sandigo filed a suit Thursday in federal court in Miami, on behalf of 10 children who's parents had been deported or had been threatened with deportation.

    In this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 photo, immigration activist Nora Sandigo smiles during an interview at her home in Miami. Sandigo filed a suit Thursday in federal court in Miami, on behalf of 10 children who's parents had been deported or had been threatened with deportation.
    Associated Press

  • FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2017 file photo, Illinois state Sen. Kwame Raoul speaks during a news conference in Chicago. Members of the Haitian-American community are criticizing President Donald Trump for using bluntly vulgar language as he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and Africa rather than places like Norway. The comments angered Raoul, whose Haitian parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. The Chicago Democrat said, "I don't think there's any apologizing out of this."

    FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2017 file photo, Illinois state Sen. Kwame Raoul speaks during a news conference in Chicago. Members of the Haitian-American community are criticizing President Donald Trump for using bluntly vulgar language as he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and Africa rather than places like Norway. The comments angered Raoul, whose Haitian parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. The Chicago Democrat said, "I don't think there's any apologizing out of this."
    Associated Press

 
 

DENVER -- For years, a movement to limit the number of migrants into the U.S. and end a system that favors family members of legal residents has had to fend off criticism that it's as a poorly veiled attempt to produce a whiter America.

Then its most prominent supporter told members of Congress in the Oval Office this week that the U.S. needs fewer immigrants from Haiti and Africa and more from places like Norway.

President Donald Trump's use of a vulgar term to describe African countries triggered widespread condemnation, and left the small cluster of immigration hard-line groups whose agenda Trump has embraced scrambling to distance themselves from the president.

"They say it's about numbers, merit, security and control," Frank Sharry of the immigrant rights group America's Voice said of organizations that share Trump's desire to reduce both illegal and legal immigration to the U.S. "All of those are coded words that mean fewer brown, black and yellow immigrants into a white nation."

Hard-line immigration activists, who prefer the term "restrictionists," argue that the system they espouse - fewer overall migrants, an end to the family-based system that favors relatives of people already legally in the U.S. and a greater emphasis on picking immigrants with skills - is not racially motivated. They note, for example, that immigrants from some African countries have higher rates of education that the U.S.-born population and may benefit from a more skill-based approach.

"People who suggest merit-based may inherently favor white, northern Europeans - that is inherently racist," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

"Immigration is not tied to Donald Trump. This preceded Donald Trump," he added, dismissing the president as someone "whose tweets cause people to cringe."

Groups such as Mehlman's helped torpedo immigration overhauls in 2006 and 2013, but they have few overt supporters in Washington. Before Trump, the most prominent one was Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who became Trump's attorney general and whose former aide, Stephen Miller, is a top White House adviser to the president on immigration.

Sessions is a longtime critic of the country's system that allows people with relatives in the United States a chance to apply for visas. "Almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming here because they have a proven skill that will benefit us and would indicate their likely success in our society," he said on the Senate floor in 2006. "They come here because some other family member of a qualifying relation is here."

Trump has embraced Sessions' cause of trying to end "chain migration," a term opponents have long applied to the family-based system but one that got little attention until the president tweeted it in capital letters as he abruptly demanded its end amid immigration talks in September.

Trump also favors stopping the diversity lottery, a system that reserves visas for people from countries that have relatively few immigrants in the United States. It favors African countries and was part of an immigration deal Trump was negotiating with a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers Thursday when he made his explosive comments.

Trump disputes some of the accounts of the Oval Office exchange reported by others in the room but hasn't denied using an expletive to describe African countries or the overall tenor of his comments.

Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, which advocates for reduced immigration, contended the president is mischaracterizing his own immigration agenda. "The president's emphasis on doing away with chain migration and the lottery is about people who are brought into the country with no regard to their skills, education or what their effect will be on the country," Beck said. "It's a mistake to focus on what country anybody comes from."

The Trump administration has announced its intention to end temporary protections for Salvadorans and Haitians who have lived in the U.S. since natural disasters in their countries more than a decade ago, as well as President Obama's deportation relief for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The president also has backed a long-shot bill authored by two Republican senators that would sharply cut the number of immigrants allowed into the country and prioritize those who speak English, have a doctorate and have existing job offers.

Both sides of the immigration debate have long agreed that the U.S. should move toward a more skills-based program. But Andrew Selee, president of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, said recent data suggest the current system may be headed there already: Since 2011, 48 percent of all new legal immigrants have possessed college degrees, well above the 33 percent of U.S. residents with them.

"His vision seems to not only be less immigration but more high-skilled," Selee said of Trump, "and that may be the system we're already getting."

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