Playing the race card on immigration

President Trump denies that he referred to certain countries as s***holes” during a meeting with Senators about DACA. He admits using “tough” language, but not that particular word.

Originally, the quote was attributed to Trump by anonymous sources not present at the meeting. However, Sen. Durbin, who was there, now says Trump did say “s***holes.”

Frankly, I don’t consider either Trump or Durbin honest. So for now, I’m agnostic as to whether the president used the particular offensive word ascribed to him. But at least Trump seems to recognize that it’s inappropriate for the president to speak this way about other countries.

Is it racist, though? Yesterday, in a brief add-on to a post by Steve, I argued that Trump likely described the countries this way because of how he views the objective conditions there, not because of the race of the residents. I would add that the very premise of the current preference for immigrants from some of these countries is the hellish nature of life there for ordinary people.

But is it racist for Trump to be unhappy with current levels of immigration from Haiti and/or certain African countries while, reportedly, saying there should be more immigration from Norway? Ramesh Ponnuru notes that American immigration policy has typically rejected the idea that we should discourage immigration from places that are poor or badly governed.

He’s right. And it my view, it would be a bad idea, though not necessarily a racist one, to stop admitting people from such places.

But almost everyone agrees that there are limits to how many people we should admit from places that are poor or badly governed. Such limitations are in place now. I don’t think it’s racist to say that the line should be redrawn to reduce the number of immigrants from these countries.

It’s true that most of the immigrants in question are Black. But that doesn’t mean Trump’s motive for wanting to cut back on this immigration is race-based. The motive may be (and probably is) the view that these immigrants, as a group, don’t bring much to the table — that, compared to immigrants from certain more advanced nations, they bring fewer skills, are less easily assimilated, and so forth.

Reasonable people can disagree about how to balance our humanitarian desire to admit people from hellholes, our pragmatic desire to admit people who are easy to assimilate, and our desire to protect American workers from pressure on their wages. It isn’t necessarily anti-Black to lean in a direction that favors less immigration than we now have from hellholes; nor is it necessarily anti-White to lean in the opposite direction.

It is cynical for Democrats and anti-Trumpers to play the race card in what is a legitimate policy dispute about immigration.

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