U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t repeat his remarks about Mexicans from early in his presidential campaign at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. on Thursday night, but he didn’t exactly walk them back either.
Speaking to a crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Trump said the U.S. has to rid itself of “visa lotteries.” One such program, the Diversity Visa Lottery, serves as the first step toward obtaining a visa for a person from a country that has “historically low rates of immigration to the United States.”
“Do you know what a lottery is? You pick it out of a hat,” Trump said.
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But before he explained further, Trump made a segue into a moment from June 16, 2015 — the day he announced he was running for president.
That was the day he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.
“They’re sending people who have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.”
Trump recounted his campaign announcement to the crowd on Thursday.
“Coming down the escalator, and you remember what I said, they’re sending, you remember that, they’re sending, and I mentioned words, I won’t even mention them tonight,” he said.
“I mentioned words, and everybody thought it was wonderful, but then about two days later, did he say this? Did he say that?
“Guess what? What I said is peanuts compared to what turns out to be the truth. It’s peanuts.”
This wasn’t the first time that Trump reiterated his comments about Mexicans.
In April, as Trump addressed a town hall on taxes in West Virginia, he said, “Remember my opening remarks at Trump Tower when I opened. Everybody said, oh, he was so tough, I used the word rape.”
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After raising his comments about Mexicans at Thursday’s rally, Trump went on to talk about the visa lottery, a program that the president has proposed to eliminate.
In his 2018 State of the Union address, Trump called it a program that “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or the safety of American people.”
He expanded on this in Wilkes-Barre.
“So we’re going to have a lottery where you pick it out, ladies and gentlemen, our first lottery winner, you know, they think we’re playing like a game show,” Trump said.
“Our first lottery winner, he has seven convictions for theft, he’s killed nine people, and we’re getting him the hell out of our country and giving them to the stupid politicians that have been running the United States for many years, and we’re going to send him up there because he has just won the lottery. Congratulations.”
Kelly McEvers, the host of NPR’s All Things Considered, noted in January that the visa lottery program had its origins in the 1980s, and that it was intended to benefit a “growing population of undocumented Irish immigrants in New York and Massachusetts.”
The program was later expanded to take in people from countries that don’t send many people to the U.S., NPR added.
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Muzaffar Chishti, a lawyer and director of the U.S. Migration Policy Institute, told NPR that “security concerns are equally valid for all admission categories,” and that “there’s nothing peculiar about the diversity visas that make them more vulnerable to admission of terrorists.”
“If there are concerns about security, they should be addressed,” he said.
“But they should be addressed with respect to all categories of immigrants.”