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2020-02-21 18:53:031 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made what is probably an unpopular comment around the White House, and it's a bad time to do it with Trump in a firing mood since he was acquitted at his Senate impeachment trial. Mulvaney said privately when out of the country this week that the United States "needs more immigrants" for the economy to continue to grow.
Mulvaney was at a private gathering in England when he made the remarks that were obtained by The Washington Post. "We are desperate — desperate — for more people," he said. "We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we've had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants."
Yet, he also added the caveat that the Trump administration wants the immigrants to arrive in the country in a "legal fashion."
This seems to contradict the position of the White House with regard to immigration. Trump and his senior policy adviser Stephen Miller have been working with multiple new legislation attempts to stop any and all immigration — legal and illegal. And Trump made building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico his pet project in his first campaign in 2016. He's still working on that same wall.
The White House has stressed that the steady stream of immigrants depresses wages for blue-collar workers in the U.S. whose votes were behind Trump's 2016 win. This looks to completely contradict Mulvaney's position.
With a record surge of Central American migrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border last year, Trump said at the time the country could not keep taking in newcomers. "Our country is full," he said. "Can't take you anymore ... so turn around."
Mulvaney's comments were more along the lines of traditional Republican views on immigration: that it spurs the economy. He also told the audience at Oxford Union that despite Trump's "anti-immigrant" reputation, his administration wants to take on more foreign workers.
He lavished high praise on the Canadian and Australian immigration systems and said the current administration wants the U.S. to follow the model of those countries closely. "We are very interested in expanding that," he said.
Another of Trump's senior advisers, Jared Kushner, who is also his son-in-law, had said similar things in the past, advocating taking in more highly skilled immigrants and giving them a higher priority rather than those who arrive in the country looking to reunite with family members who are already in the U.S. His plan for legal immigration has not received congressional approval.
Miller and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon are of the stance that the U.S. needs less legal and illegal new arrivals, believing that immigrants increase wage competition against U.S. workers. They maintain this was a key to Trump's electoral strategy in the Rust Belt states that have gone through job loss and stagnant wages.
Trump has expressed both opinions, for more legal immigrants and less altogether, though he's definitely stuck more to wanting to take on fewer newcomers.
"If everyone from Bangladesh moved here, the economy would get bigger. Would the economic condition of people already here get better? Is it necessary to increase immigration to improve the condition of Americans who are already here? The answer is no," said Mark Krikorian, the Center for Immigration Studies director. His beliefs have influenced Miller and other similar-minded people in the administration.
"A tight labor market is the best policy," added Krikorian. "We're seeing an uptick in wages for less-skilled workers, as well as incentives for employers to recruit ex-cons, disabled people, in general workers they would not consider if the job market were looser."
Alex Nowrasteh, the immigration studies director at the libertarian Cato Institute, explained that Mulvaney's statements in England this week were very much along the lines of his views when he was a Republican congressman from South Carolina.
"Mulvaney in Congress was hugely supportive of expanding immigration, and the great thing about having him in this position is that he's been a voice of sanity, reason, and support for the mainstream economic consensus on immigration, which is that it's good for economy," Nowrasteh said, adding that there are many in the Republican Party and the administration who support liberalizing immigration for economic reasons.
"They have been overshadowed by the Stephen Millers in the administration," he added, "but the evidence is overwhelming that if you want to expand the economy, having more people who are consumers, workers, and investors is the way to go."
"Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways," said Trump in his 2019 State of the Union address. "I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally."
However, this year's State of the Union address didn't carry the same message. He focused on sanctuary cities and crimes that are committed by immigrants. At a rally earlier this month, he performed a routine he refers to as "The Snake" about a kind woman who nurses a frozen snake back to health, who then bites her with fatal venom. The president has said the story is a parable about immigration.
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