White House Chief of Staff John Kelly just went full nativist by saying that most immigrants who come to the United States illegally “don’t integrate well” with Americans.
“[T]he vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13,” Kelly told NPR. “But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people. In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing. … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws.”
Perry Bacon Jr. of FiveThirty Eight wrote earlier this year that Kelly is not as moderate as some to the left of Trump would have hoped. “Kelly seems to have deeply held views, particularly on immigration, that he has asserted — and they are not those of the McCain-like GOP establishment,” Bacon Jr. wrote. “Kelly suggested that undocumented immigrants who had not yet signed up for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program were ‘lazy.’ He has also praised Confederate general Robert E. Lee. You might even call Kelly’s rhetoric Trumpian.”
Some of the language from the NPR interview is extremely similar to Trump’s most controversial statements. Kelly’s graceless allowance that immigrants are “not bad people” sounds a lot like the way Trump capped his statement about Mexican “racists” by saying, “And some, I assume, are good people.”