Somehow in the Trump era, immigration has never had more popular support

Somehow in the Trump era, immigration has never had more popular support


Originally published by The Washington Post

According to, the last time President Trump talked about immigrants outside of the context of illegal immigration or allowing only high-skilled immigrants into the country was about two months after he was inaugurated.

“We’re here today to celebrate America’s commitment to Ireland and the tremendous contributions,” Trump said during a luncheon before St. Patrick’s Day, “and I know it well, the Irish immigrants and their descendants have made right here in the United States and throughout the world.”

His usual rhetoric on immigrants is more along the lines of what he proclaimed to boos at a campaign rally in Indiana last month.

“Now you have places where they want to give college tuition to illegal immigrants and your own kids can’t get it,” he told the crowd. “Your own kids can’t get it.” The location of this place where immigrants in the country illegally were offered college tuition to the exclusion of American kids was left unnamed.

Immigrants, in Trump’s estimation, are mostly worth considering to the extent that they are a scourge to be addressed. New polling from Gallup, though, shows that Americans broadly disagree. A lot.

Since 2001, Gallup has asked Americans about their views of immigration in general. In 2002, views were about split; slightly more Americans said that immigration was a good thing for the United States than said it was bad. Since then, though, those saying it’s a good thing have steadily increased while the number opposing immigration has fallen.

In its most recent poll, 75 percent of Americans said that immigration was a good thing, the highest level recorded.

When Gallup asked some respondents a variation on that question — is legal immigration good or bad — the pool saying it was good rose to 84 percent, 17 out of every 20 Americans.

That new high in support for immigration is perhaps not the most remarkable finding in the new poll. Gallup also asked if immigration should be increased or decreased. For the first time since 1965, about as many people said that immigration should be increased as said it should be decreased. A plurality said it should remain the same — but as recently as 2014 more said that immigration should be decreased than kept the same.

Two-thirds of Americans think that immigration should either be kept at current levels or increased.

Asked if legal immigration should be increased or decreased — again adding that qualifier — support again shifted toward immigrants: More than a third of Americans think legal immigration should be increased. Only a quarter think it should be decreased.

Trump’s administration has advocated the latter position, reducing the number of people who immigrate to the United States using the established mechanisms. Trump has proposed establishing a skill-based entry system, ending the visa lottery and reducing the number of people who can be sponsored for citizenship by other citizens.

On Wednesday morning, he even disparaged those hoping to immigrate by seeking asylum in the United States, saying that the country should “not let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password.” That legal phrase is some variant of “I am seeking asylum in the United States.”

In mid-October 1885, a 16-year-old boy from Germany came into New York harbor on a ship called the Eider. He had briefly apprenticed as a barber, but was relying on his sister, who had been living in the United States with her husband, to help him navigate life in a new country. He disembarked at Castle Garden in Lower Manhattan, where his sister met him. In short order, he found a job as a barber in a predominantly German-speaking neighborhood.

One hundred and thirty years later, his grandson Donald would be elected president on the strength of his opposition to immigration.

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