Michael D. Shear & Julie Hirschfield Davis report for the NY Times:
“WASHINGTON — Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged.
Five months before, Mr. Trump had dispatched federal officers to the nation’s airports to stop travelers from several Muslim countries from entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would deliver on his campaign promise to fortify the nation’s borders.
But so many foreigners had flooded into the country since January, he vented to his national security team, that it was making a mockery of his pledge. Friends were calling to say he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.
According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.
More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.
Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.
Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.
As the meeting continued, John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, and Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, tried to interject, explaining that many were short-term travelers making one-time visits. But as the president continued, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller turned their ire on Mr. Tillerson, blaming him for the influx of foreigners and prompting the secretary of state to throw up his arms in frustration. If he was so bad at his job, maybe he should stop issuing visas altogether, Mr. Tillerson fired back.
Tempers flared and Mr. Kelly asked that the room be cleared of staff members. But even after the door to the Oval Office was closed, aides could still hear the president berating his most senior advisers.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied on Saturday morning that Mr. Trump had made derogatory statements about immigrants during the meeting.
“General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims,” she said, referring to the current White House chief of staff, the national security adviser and the secretaries of state and homeland security. “It’s both sad and telling The New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway.”
While the White House did not deny the overall description of the meeting, officials strenuously insisted that Mr. Trump never used the words “AIDS” or “huts” to describe people from any country. Several participants in the meeting told Times reporters that they did not recall the president using those words and did not think he had, but the two officials who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time.
The meeting in June reflects Mr. Trump’s visceral approach to an issue that defined his campaign and has indelibly shaped the first year of his presidency.
Like many of his initiatives, his effort to change American immigration policy has been executed through a disorderly and dysfunctional process that sought from the start to defy the bureaucracy charged with enforcing it, according to interviews with three dozen current and former administration officials, lawmakers and others close to the process, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private interactions.
But while Mr. Trump has been repeatedly frustrated by the limits of his power, his efforts to remake decades of immigration policy have gained increasing momentum as the White House became more disciplined and adept at either ignoring or undercutting the entrenched opposition of many parts of the government. The resulting changes have had far-reaching consequences, not only for the immigrants who have sought to make a new home in this country, but also for the United States’ image in the world.
“We have taken a giant steamliner barreling full speed,” Mr. Miller said in a recent interview. “Slowed it, stopped it, begun to turn it around and started sailing in the other direction.”
It is an assessment shared ruefully by Mr. Trump’s harshest critics, who see a darker view of the past year. Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group, argues that the president’s immigration agenda is motivated by racism.
“He’s basically saying, ‘You people of color coming to America seeking the American dream are a threat to the white people,’” said Mr. Sharry, an outspoken critic of the president. “He’s come into office with an aggressive strategy of trying to reverse the demographic changes underway in America.”
. . . .
Even as the administration was engaged in a court battle over the travel ban, it began to turn its attention to another way of tightening the border — by limiting the number of refugees admitted each year to the United States. And if there was one “deep state” stronghold of Obama holdovers that Mr. Trump and his allies suspected of undermining them on immigration, it was the State Department, which administers the refugee program.
At the department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, there was a sense of foreboding about a president who had once warned that any refugee might be a “Trojan horse” or part of a “terrorist army.”
Mr. Trump had already used the travel ban to cut the number of allowable refugees admitted to the United States in 2017 to 50,000, a fraction of the 110,000 set by Mr. Obama. Now, Mr. Trump would have to decide the level for 2018.
At an April meeting with top officials from the bureau in the West Wing’s Roosevelt Room, Mr. Miller cited statistics from the restrictionist Center for Immigration Studies that indicated that resettling refugees in the United States was far costlier than helping them in their own region.
Mr. Miller was visibly displeased, according to people present, when State Department officials pushed back, citing another study that found refugees to be a net benefit to the economy. He called the contention absurd and said it was exactly the wrong kind of thinking.
But the travel ban had been a lesson for Mr. Trump and his aides on the dangers of dictating a major policy change without involving the people who enforce it. This time, instead of shutting out those officials, they worked to tightly control the process.
In previous years, State Department officials had recommended a refugee level to the president. Now, Mr. Miller told officials the number would be determined by the Department of Homeland Security under a new policy that treated the issue as a security matter, not a diplomatic one.
When he got word that the Office of Refugee Resettlement had drafted a 55-page report showing that refugees were a net positive to the economy, Mr. Miller swiftly intervened, requesting a meeting to discuss it. The study never made it to the White House; it was shelved in favor of a three-page list of all the federal assistance programs that refugees used.
At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Mr. Trump cited the Center for Immigration Studies report, arguing that it was more cost-effective to keep refugees out than to bring them into the United States.
“Uncontrolled migration,” Mr. Trump declared, “is deeply unfair to both the sending and receiving countries.”
. . . .
As the new year approached, officials began considering a plan to separate parents from their children when families are caught entering the country illegally, a move that immigrant groups called draconian.
At times, though, Mr. Trump has shown an openness to a different approach. In private discussions, he returns periodically to the idea of a “comprehensive immigration” compromise, though aides have warned him against using the phrase because it is seen by his core supporters as code for amnesty. During a fall dinner with Democratic leaders, Mr. Trump explored the possibility of a bargain to legalize Dreamers in exchange for border security.
Mr. Trump even told Republicans recently that he wanted to think bigger, envisioning a deal early next year that would include a wall, protection for Dreamers, work permits for their parents, a shift to merit-based immigration with tougher work site enforcement, and ultimately, legal status for some undocumented immigrants.
The idea would prevent Dreamers from sponsoring the parents who brought them illegally for citizenship, limiting what Mr. Trump refers to as “chain migration.”
“He wants to make a deal,” said Mr. Graham, who spoke with Mr. Trump about the issue last week. “He wants to fix the entire system.”
Yet publicly, Mr. Trump has only employed the absolutist language that defined his campaign and has dominated his presidency.
After an Uzbek immigrant was arrested on suspicion of plowing a truck into a bicycle path in Lower Manhattan in October, killing eight people, the president seized on the episode.
Privately, in the Oval Office, the president expressed disbelief about the visa program that had admitted the suspect, confiding to a group of visiting senators that it was yet another piece of evidence that the United States’ immigration policies were “a joke.”
Even after a year of progress toward a country sealed off from foreign threats, the president still viewed the immigration system as plagued by complacency.
“We’re so politically correct,” he complained to reporters in the cabinet room, “that we’re afraid to do anything.”
Read the full, much more comprehensive and detailed, article at the link.
Disturbing for sure, but unfortunately not particularly surprising for those of us who have watched the Administration roll out its toxic, ill-informed immigration policies. Perhaps ironically, while the immigration issue has certainly allowed Trump to capture and control the GOP, polls show that his extreme restrictionist, xenophobic views on immigration are generally out of line with the majority of Americans (although not necessarily the majority of GOP voters).