The latest all-consuming Trump controversy is over his remarks in an Oval Office meeting that he doesn’t want people coming here from “sh**hole” countries (although he may have really said “sh**house” countries, for those who are sticklers for accuracy when it comes to presidential vulgarity).
There are many reasons a president shouldn’t say such a thing. It is disparaging to people in the United States who are from these countries. It is insulting to the leaders of those countries, for no good reason. And, inevitably, it will serve to make it even harder to pass a serious restrictionist agenda.
Trump’s statement came in the context of a discussion of the fate of the visa lottery in a proposed DACA deal. The lottery is one of our worst immigration programs, randomly selecting people to come here who have no connection to the country and then opening up a continuing stream of immigrants behind them through chain migration. The program should simply be abolished. The Gang of Six’s idea, to the contrary, is to re-allocate visas to keep beneficiaries of TPS here and to sprinkle visas among various Third World countries.
This is what set Trump off. He wondered why we instead can’t bring in immigrants from a place like Norway, presumably having that country on his mind after the visit this week by the country’s prime minister. This has been taken as Trump’s admission that he wants white immigrants instead of dark-skinned ones. What he was almost certainly trying to get at, in his typically confused way, is that we’d be better off with immigrants with higher skills.
This wouldn’t mean blocking people from sh**hole countries. Obviously, even dysfunctional places have their talented people who could pass muster under a merit-based system, and we should always have a refugee program for people facing persecution in their home countries. We have a long history of people thriving here who’ve come from dirt-poor countries or hideous dictatorships. President Trump would do himself — and the cause of a more rational immigration system — a favor by cleaning up his remarks and straightening out his thinking.
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