For years, a movement to limit the number of migrants into the U.S. and end a system that favors family members of legal residents has had to fend off criticism that it’s as a poorly veiled attempt to produce a whiter America.
Then its most prominent supporter told members of Congress in the Oval Office this week that the U.S. needs fewer immigrants from Haiti and Africa and more from places like Norway.
President Donald Trump’s use of a vulgar term to describe African countries triggered widespread condemnation, and left the small cluster of immigration hard-line groups whose agenda Trump has embraced scrambling to distance themselves from the president.
“They say it’s about numbers, merit, security and control,” Frank Sharry of the immigrant rights group America’s Voice said of organizations that share Trump’s desire to reduce both illegal and legal immigration to the U.S. “All of those are coded words that mean fewer brown, black and yellow immigrants into a white nation.”
Hard-line immigration activists, who prefer the term “restrictionists,” argue that the system they espouse — fewer overall migrants, an end to the family-based system that favors relatives of people already legally in the U.S. and a greater emphasis on picking immigrants with skills — is not racially motivated. They note, for example, that immigrants from some African countries have higher rates of education that the U.S.-born population and may benefit from a more skill-based approach.