President Donald Trump may have used crude language when describing some poor nations — but his choice of words does not change the fact that immigrants from those nations often struggle in the United States, according to an immigration expert.
All of Washington, D.C., and the media were buzzing Friday after a Washington Post story alleged that Trump wondered aloud during a bipartisan meeting why the United States was expected to take so many refugees from “s***hole nations” such as El Salvador, Haiti, and some African nations.
Trump allegedly said our nation should be taking more refugees from wealthier nations such as Norway. Trump later admitted using "tough language," but he cast doubt on the report's specific quote.
Trump ended Temporary Protected Status (TPP) for about 200,000 Salvadorans on Monday. The protection had been extended to them after a 2001 earthquake in the Central American nation. The program was never meant to go on forever, according to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
But when immigration negotiators from Congress came to the White House Thursday, some asked for a permanent status for the Salvadorans and others who have had their status revoked as part of a potential deal on immigration and border security. Trump reportedly erupted, and asked why troubled nations get to send so many people to America.
Much of the debate on Friday then became about Trump's language, and his views on race — the nations he mentioned are predominantly black, while El Salvador is predominantly Hispanic. But the real issue may be that Trump is right to have concerns about accepting too many immigrants and refugees from poor nations such as Haiti and Somalia.
Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), said the poverty rate for immigrants in the U.S. from Central America is almost twice what it is for Americans in general.
The overall poverty rate is about 14 percent, Camarota said, while the rate for immigrants from Central America is 27 percent. Fifty-seven percent of Central Americans are in or near poverty.
For Haitian immigrants, immense problems also persist. Forty-three percent of U.S. households headed by a Haitian immigrant use at least one form of government welfare, Camarota said.
Education levels for immigrants from troubled nations also rarely improve, Camarota noted. Eight percent of American adults have no high school diploma, but the rate is 21 percent for Haitian immigrants.
Even taking more highly skilled laborers from Central America and Africa leads to "brain drain" in vulnerable nations, Camarota said.
Trump's rhetoric is often not helpful to his own beliefs, said Camarota, but the president is undeniably correct on the problems of taking immigrants from troubled nations. Even taking more highly skilled laborers from Central America and Africa, he explained, leads to "brain drain" in vulnerable nations.
Trump has long held similar beliefs, demanding that nations such as Mexico and El Salvador stop the flow of unskilled labor into the United States.
Trump would rather those nations fix their own problems before sending their most vulnerable to the United States, and he said so when he kicked off his 2016 presidential campaign. American Spectator writer Jeff Lord told LifeZette he believed Trump was merely repeating a version of his famous June 16, 2015, campaign kickoff speech, in which he accused Mexico of sending criminals across U.S. borders.
"No swearing, but the same point," said Lord. "Neither Haiti nor Africa were mentioned."
In that speech, Trump said that when Mexico sends its people, the country is not sending its best: "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Those are the only words the media heard that day, and for weeks after, Trump endured criticisms that he called all Mexicans "rapists." The Trump team has become used to such controversies. On Friday morning, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said she doesn't expect Trump to change his views.
"For years, people in Washington asked, 'What's fair to the illegal immigrant?'" Conway said. "This president is now saying, 'Look, what's fair to the American worker?'"
Trump even got support from a former Central American refugee, who noted some poor nations indeed have cruddy governments.
"Indecorous choice of words, but true ones," tweeted Emilio Rubi Villa, who fled the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua in the 1980s. "I can assure you that my family and I didn't escape to the U.S. as 'Reagan Refugees,' fleeing persecutions from the Central American version of Orlando's Magic Kingdom. We escaped a failed communist s***hole."
Last Modified: January 25, 2018, 9:42 am