President Donald Trump loves to throw in little ad libs in his speeches, often throwing out superlatives. He once claimed he’d be “the greatest jobs producer that God ever created” and often calls his 2016 election “one of the greatest of all time.”
But when he did that Tuesday night at the State of the Union, he said something at odds with his own Administration’s restrictive immigration policies.
In his prepared remarks, Trump was supposed to endorse legal immigration, as opposed to the illegal immigration he hopes a border wall will help reduce.
“Legal immigrants enrich our Nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally,” his original prepared remarks read.
But when he spoke, he added to the statement.
“Legal immigrants enrich our nation in countless ways. I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever,” he told lawmakers, “but they have to come in legally.”
To be clear, Trump does not endorse boosting legal immigration. In fact, he’s sought to restrict it even as he’s proposed new ways to limit illegal border crossings.
Last year, he promised to end the diversity visa lottery system and slash family-sponsored immigration, which he dubbed “chain migration.” The visa lottery “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people,” he said during his 2018 State of the Union speech.
Data shows legal immigration in 2018 was way beneath historical norms.
Analyzing data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, libertarian think-tank CATO found that documented immigrants were more likely to be denied travel documents, work permits and green cards in Fiscal Year 2018 than they were the prior year. The denial rate, according to the analysis, was up 37% since 2016.
As President, Trump also limited the number of refugees to be permitted during Fiscal Year 2019 to 30,000 — the lowest cap in decades. Seeking refugee status is a legal protection status intended to protect people fleeing persecution in pre-specified areas of danger.
According to a July 2018 analysis of State Department data, the Washington Post predicted the number of hopeful-migrants receiving visas enabling their permanent moves to the United States was on pace to drop 12% since he took office.
Trump supports legal immigration, but his rhetorical flourish aside, he has not sought to bring in the “largest numbers ever” as president.