Immigrants who enter the United States illegally largely lack the skills and education to assimilate, Donald Trump’s chief of staff has said.
“The vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They're not criminals”, John Kelly told NPR, but “they're also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society”.
The top Trump aide said he understood the forces that propel immigrants to the United States, saying “ I sympathise with the reason” they arrive. But he argued the backgrounds of immigrants who come from rural areas, speak little English and have received only elementary school educations limit their ability to thrive in America.
“They don't integrate well”, Mr Kelly said. “They don't have skills”.
His comments dovetail with the Trump administration’s overarching immigration philosophy. Combating illegal immigration has long been a centrepiece of Mr Trump’s political platform, and the president has frequently drawn distinctions between skilled and unskilled immigrants - sometimes using derogatory language.
After opening his campaign by saying “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best”, claiming immigrants from Mexico were often rapists and drug dealers, Mr Trump has called for dissolving a diversity visa lottery and has advocated limiting family-based legal immigration. He has instead endorsed a system more tied to employment.
“We do need people coming into our country. You know, at 3.9 per cent unemployment, we need people coming in. But I will tell you this, we want people to come into our country on the basis of merit”, Mr Trump said during a rally in Ohio last weekend.
While Mr Kelly is widely seen as a stabilising influence in a chaotic White House, he shares Mr Trump’s preference for restricting immigration - and, like the president, has generated controversy for his comments on immigration.
Last year, Mr Kelly faced criticism for citing laziness as the reason some young immigrants in the country illegally who were eligible for a programme offering legal status and work permits failed to apply. Mr Trump has moved to end the initiative.
They “were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses, but they didn't sign up”, Mr Kelly said.
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