Rand Paul:  Trump Name-Callers Are Killing Immigration Deal

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2018/01/14/rand-paul-trump-name-callers-are-killing-immigration-deal/

Attacks by Democrats and many in the mainstream media on President Donald Trump’s vulgar comment about Haiti and West African countries are killing the chance for a deal on immigration, U.S. Senator Rand Paul said.

Rand criticized the president but defended him against charges of racism.

“You know, I don’t think the comments were constructive at all, but I also think to be fair we shouldn’t draw conclusions that he didn’t intend,” Paul said Sunday on Meet the Press on NBC.

Paul, an opthalmologist, cited a mission trip Paul made a few years ago to Haiti and Central America as evidence of where Trump’s heart is when it comes to Haiti. Paul said Trump was a major financial backer of the trip, which Paul used to perform cataract surgeries for about 200 poor people.

Paul said some in the mainstream media have gone “completely bonkers with, you know, just ad hominem [attacks] on the president.”

“But what I regret is I do want to see an immigration compromise, and you can’t have an immigration compromise if everyone’s out there calling the president a racist. They’re actually destroying the setting – and he was a little bit of it – but both sides are destroying the setting in which anything meaningful can happen,” Paul said.

On Thursday, Trump reportedly referred to Haiti and West African nations as “[expletive]-hole countries” during a closed-door meeting with prominent Democrats and Republicans while arguing that the United States shouldn’t be encouraging more immigration from such countries, and should instead encourage immigration from countries like Norway.

The comment, which was relayed by several politicians in the room to reporters, lit a firestorm.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), who is sponsoring a bill that would provide so-called DREAMers (people brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children) with a path to citizenship but also provide funds for border security, stopped short of calling Trump a racist during an appearance on Meet the Press on Sunday.

“But there’s no question what he said was racist. There’s no question what he said was un-American, and completely unmoored from the facts,” Bennett said.

Trump has acknowledged using “tough language” during the meeting but denied using the term attributed to him, without specifying what he actually said. Two Republican senators who attended the meeting said they didn’t recall Trump using the term attributed to him, but other senators who were there have said he did.

Defenders of the president have argued his comments referred to the poor economic conditions and social and political instability of Haiti and West Africa, and not their racial composition.

As for his reference to Norway, which is predominately white, Trump defenders point out that Trump had met with the prime minister of Norway the day before so that country was on his mind, and that Norway is the richest country per capita in the world. By all accounts, Trump was arguing that the United States should stop encouraging immigration from certain countries and start encouraging immigration from others that he considers more desirable.

Paul said Trump was making a valid point. He cited a poll showing that 700 million people around the world would come to the United States if they could, and he said the United States can’t take all of them.

“People are driven here by poverty. But we can’t have an open border with everyone who wants to come. We have to have rules on our border. We have to be somewhat selective on who comes. So I think there was a valid argument in there, but you got sort of a Queens saltiness coming out, and then I think people have misinterpreted it that he’s a racist,” Paul said. “But I can tell you, that when I went to Haiti, and was doing a medical mission trip, he was very concerned about those in Haiti and wanted to help them, to restore their vision.”

White House officials have outlined a deal where people who were brought here illegally as children would be given legal status in return for a wall on the Mexico border and an end to so-called “chain migration,” where family members of immigrants already in the United States use their family connection to come here as well.

Democrats and some Republicans are in favor of legalizing the so-called DREAMers, but many Democrats have resisted a border wall and resisted restricting entry by family members of immigrants.

Paul told NBC interviewer Chuck Todd on Sunday that prospective immigrants should be judged on “merit,” leading Todd to ask him to define what he meant.

Paul cited a software engineer and an agricultural worker as examples.

“If you come here and you’re not going to work, you have no merit,” Paul said. “So really, what I would do is I would combine not only being selective, but I would have a very significant work and sponsorship. In the old days, maybe 100 years ago, like when my wife’s grandmother came here, you had to work. If you didn’t work, you were in fear of being sent home. There needs to be a little bit of that tough love.”

The U.S. Congress has one Haitian-American, U.S. Representative Mia Love, a Republican from Utah.

Love, who was not at the meeting with Trump on Thursday, in a written statement late last week called on Trump to apologize. She called Trump’s comment “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. The President must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”