President Trump at the White House in July. His visceral approach to immigration defined his campaign and shaped the first year of his presidency Credit Gabriella Demczuk for the New York Times ]
WASHINGTON – Late at his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed the Oval Office one day in June, obviously enraged.
Five months before Mr. Trump had sent federal officers to the country's airports to prevent travelers from several Muslim countries entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would respect his Electoral promise to fortify the borders of the nation
So many aliens had invaded the country since January, he told his national security team that he was making fun of his commitment. Friends were calling to say that he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.
According to six officials who attended or were informed of the meeting, Mr. Trump then began to read aloud from the document, which his domestic policy advisor, Stephen Miller, had given him just prior to the meeting . The document listed how many immigrants had received a visa to enter the United States in 2017.
More than 2,500 of them came from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the President complained
Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They "all have AIDS," he grumbled, according to a person who attended the meeting and another person who was informed by another person who was there.
Forty thousand came from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they've seen the United States, they will never "go back to their huts" in Africa, remember the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the United States. the Oval Office
John F. Kelly, then Secretary of Homeland Security, and Rex W. Tillerson, the Secretary of State, attempted to intervene, explaining that many were travelers to in the short term who made punctual visits. But as the President continued, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller turned their anger on Mr. Tillerson, blaming him for the influx of foreigners and prompting the Secretary of State to raise his arms in sign of frustration. If he was so bad at his job, maybe he should stop issuing visas, Mr. Tillerson retaliated.
Tempers erupted and Mr. Kelly requested that the room be cleared of staff members. But even after the oval office door was closed, the assistants could still hear the president reprimanding his highest councilors.
White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied Saturday morning that Mr. Trump had [traduction] "General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all the other senior executives present at the meeting deny these outrageous allegations, "she said, referring to the current White House. Chief of Staff, National Security Advisor and Secretaries of State and Homeland Security. "It is both sad and revealing that the New York Times is printing the lies of their anonymous" sources. "
While the White House does not deny the general description of the meeting, officials vigorously insist that Mr. Trump never used the words "AIDS" or "huts" to describe people's n & # 39; any country. Several attendees at the meeting told Times reporters that they did not remember the president using these words and did not think they did, but the two officials who described them found them so outstanding that They reported them to others at the time.
The June meeting reflects Mr. Trump's visceral approach to an issue that defined his campaign and indelibly shaped the first year of his presidency
Grasping immigration as the cause of countless social and economic problems, Mr. Trump came into office with a program of symbolic but incompletely conceived objectives, the product not of a debate rigorous politics but emotionally charged personal interactions and instinct to tap into the nativist views of white Americans of the working class
Like many of his initiatives, his effort to changing the US immigration policy was executed by a disordered and dysfunctional process that sought from the outset to challenge the bureaucracy charged with implementing it, according to interviews with three dozen officials and former government officials, legislators, and others close to the process, many of whom spoke under cover of anonymity to detail private interactions
Trump was repeatedly frustrated by the limits of his power, his efforts to redo decades of immigration policy gained momentum as the White House became more disciplined and adept at noting. Ignore or undermine the opposition of many parts of the government. The resulting changes have had far-reaching consequences, not only for immigrants who have sought to make a new homeland in this country, but also for the image of the United States in the world.
"said Miller in a recent interview. "He slowed it down, stopped it, started to turn it around and started navigating in the other direction."
This is a shared assessment with sadness by the harshest critics of Mr. Trump. Frank Sharry, executive director of America & # 39; s Voice, a pro-immigration group, contends that the president's immigration program is motivated by racism.
"He basically says," You, people of color, come to America are a threat to the whites, "said Mr. Sharry, a outspoken critic of the president. "He came into office with an aggressive strategy of trying to reverse the demographic changes underway in America."
A Promise of Appeal
Those who know Mr. Trump say that his attitude towards immigrants is prior to his entry into politics
"He is He has always been frightened by other cultures and has always been worried about food and safety during his travels, "said Michael D & # 39; Antonio, who interviewed him for the biography of" The Truth About Trump ".
Friends say that Mr. Trump, a developer turned reality-TV star, saw immigration as a zero-sum question: what's good for immigrants, c & # 39; is bad for America. In 2014, well before becoming a candidate, he tweeted, "Our government is now importing illegal immigrants and deadly diseases. Our leaders are inept.
But he remained in conflict, considering himself benevolent and wanting to be loved by the many immigrants he was employing.
Over time, anti-immigrant tendencies have hardened. two of his first advisers, Roger J. Stone Jr. and Sam Nunberg, fueled this sentiment. But it's Mr. Trump who added an anti-immigrant rule to his announcement of the Trump Tower campaign in June 2015 in New York without notifying his aides
"When do we beat Mexico to the border – they make fun of us, of our stupidity, "says Mr. Trump. "They send people who have a lot of problems, and they bring these problems," he continued. "They bring drugs, they bring crime, they are rapists."
During his campaign, he pushed a fake story about celebrating Muslims in Jersey City as they watched the towers fall after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York. He said illegal immigrants were like "vomit" crossing the border. And he made promises that he obviously could not accomplish.
"We will start moving them, Day 1", he said at a rally in August 2016, adding, "My first hour at the office, these people are parties. "
Democrats and some Republicans backed away, calling Mr. Trump's messenger messenger and source of divisions. But for the candidate, the idea of securing the country against aliens with a wall had an intoxicating, though private, appeal, he acknowledged that it was a rhetorical way to stoke the crowds when they became apathetic
Republican of Arkansas, whom Mr. Trump consults regularly on the issue, said that it was not an exaggeration to attribute Mr. Trump's victory to problems where Mr. Trump broke with a republican orthodoxy that had disappointed anti-immigrant conservatives for decades.
"There is no subject on which he was more orthodox than on immigration," said Mr. Cotton.
Ban Restarts the Application
]. Trump came into office with a long list of election promises that included not only the construction of the wall (and the payment by Mexico), but the creation of a "deportation force" preventing Muslims from entering the country. 39, enter the country and immediately expel millions of immigrants.
Miller and other aides had the task of turning those promises into a political agenda that would also include an aggression against a pro-immigration bureaucracy that they viewed with suspicion and disdain. Working in secret, they wrote half a dozen decrees. There would be riots against so-called sanctuaries. Another proposed to change the definition of a criminal alien so that it includes arrested persons – not just convicted persons.
But aware of his campaign promise to quickly impose "extreme control", Mr. Trump decided that his first symbolic action was an executive order banning travel to countries that the White House considered compromised by Terrorism
Without experts in politics, and deeply suspicious of career officials, they considered them spies on President Barack Obama, Mr. Miller, and a small group of assistants began with an Obama era law that identified seven "countries of concern" subject to terror. And then they practically jumped into the White House standard book to create and implement a major policy.
The National Security Council has never met to consider the proposed ban on traveling. Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman at the time, did not see him in advance. Lawyers and political experts from the White House, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security were not asked to intervene. There were no discussion points for friendly substitutes, no detailed briefings for journalists or legislators. The announcement of the ban on traveling on a Friday night, seven days after the inauguration of Mr. Trump, has created chaotic scenes at the country's largest airports, while hundreds of people were arrested, and trigger widespread confusion and loud protests. Government lawyers ran to defend the president's actions against court challenges, while assistants struggled to explain the policy to perplexed lawmakers the following night at a tie dinner
But for the president, chaos was the first evidence that he could exercise power over the bureaucracy he criticized during the election campaign.
"It works very well," Trump told reporters in the oval office the next day.
At an early meeting on Saturday night in the Situation Room, Mr. Miller told senior officials that
Sitting at the head of the table, in front of Mr. Kelly, Mr. Miller repeated what he said to the President: This is what we wanted – to redirect the crackdown on immigration.
Kelly, who shared Trump's views on threats from abroad, was no less blasphemous that his homeland security employees had been mobilized without any hesitation. direction or preparation. He told angry lawmakers that the responsibility for the deployment was "all about me". In private, he told the White House, "This will not happen again."
In the middle of the first turbulent weeks, Mr. Trump's attempt to bend the government's immigration apparatus to his Will began to take shape
The message of the ban to "stand apart" Immigration agents collected 41 318 undocumented migrants for the first 100 days of the president, an increase of almost 40%. The Department of Justice has begun hiring more immigration judges to speed up evictions. Officials threatened to withhold funds for sanctuary towns. The flow of refugees to the United States slowed down
. Trump "has removed the handcuffs," said Steven A. Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies, a rights advocacy group that advocates more limits to immigration.
Obama was criticized by immigrant rights groups for excessive deportations, particularly in his first term. But Mr Camarota said that Mr Trump 's approach was "a distinct change, to look at what immigration does to us, rather than what is the advantage for the immigrant. "
The President, however, remained frustrated that the change was not working
At the beginning of March, judges across the country had blocked his travel ban. Immigrant rights activists sang that they thwarted the new president. Even Mr. Trump's lawyers told him that he had to give up defending the ban.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House and Justice lawyers decided to wage a legal battle to defend the directive. the Supreme Court would fail. Instead, they wanted to design a narrower one that could have been adopted by Justice
The President, however, was furious at what he saw as a step back to politically correct opponents . He did not want a watered down version of the travel ban, he shouted to Donald F. McGahn II, the White House lawyer, as the question arose. Friday, March 3 at the Oval Office.
This was a familiar moment for Mr. Trump's advisers. The president did not see any inconvenience to being told "no" in private, and would sometimes give way. But he could not stand a public reversal, a retreat. At these times, he often exploded to who was nearby.
While Marine One was waiting on the South Lawn for Mr. Trump to begin his weekend trip to Palm Beach, Florida, Mr. McGahn insisted that already promised in court that Mr. Trump issue a new order. There was no alternative, he said.
"It's bullshit," the president responded.
With nothing resolved, Mr. Trump, furious, left the White House. A senior official has sent a warning to a colleague who is waiting on board Air Force One at Andrews Common Base in Maryland: "It's getting hot."
Already angry at Mr. Sessions, who had challenged the day before the investigation of Russia, Mr. Trump refused to take his appeals. Helps told Mr. Sessions that he should be going to Mar-a-Lago to plead with the president in person to sign the new order.
Dinner that evening with Mr. Sessions and Mr. McGahn, Mr. Trump gave in. When he was back in Washington, he signed the new order. It was an indication that he had begun to understand – or at least, to reluctantly accept – the need to follow a process
Yet, a senior adviser later remembered no one. to have never seen an angry president signing anything.
Softcover for & # 39; Dreamers & # 39;
a candidate, Mr. Trump repeatedly contradicted himself about the deportations he would pursue, and he opposed any kind of path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But he also wooed conservative voters by describing an Obama era policy as an illegal amnesty for immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children.
During the transition, his assistants wrote a decree to end the program, known as deferred action for child arrivals. But the executive order was held back as the new president struggled with conflicting feelings about young immigrants, known as Dreamers.
"We will take care of these children," promised Mr. Trump Richard J. Durbin during a private exchange at his inauguration luncheon
Commentary was a glimpse of the president's tendency to seek the approval of anyone who could be sitting in front of him, and the power that personal interactions have in
In 2013, Mr. Trump met a small Dreamers group at Trump Tower, hoping to improve its position with the Hispanic community. José Machado told Mr. Trump to wake up at the age of 15 to find that his mother was missing – expelled, later he learned, in Nicaragua
" Honestly, "Mr. Machado told Mr. Trump," He had no idea. "
Trump seemed to be touched by personal stories, and insisted that Dreamers accompany him to his gift shop for watches, books and ties to take home as souvenirs. In the elevator going down, he nodded slowly and said, "You convinced me."
Aware that the President was torn by the Dreamers, Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, held quietly hand. March to Mr. Durbin, who had promoted a law called the dream law to legalize immigrants, to test the waters for a possible deal.
After weeks of private meetings on Capitol Hill and telephone conversations with Mr. Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina favorable to the legalization of Dreamers, invited them to dine in the field of six rooms that he shares with his wife, Ivanka Trump.
But the hope of Mr. Durbin He fainted when he arrived home and saw who would be one of the guests
"The Stephen Miller's presence made the experience very different from what I expected, "said Mr. Durbin later
Confronting the Deep State
While l  administration was engaged in a legal battle over the ban on traveling, she began to be interested in another way to tighten the border – by limiting the shadow of refugees admitted every year to the United States. And if there was a "deep" bastion of Obama that holds Mr. Trump and his allies suspected of undermining them on immigration, it was the State Department, who administers the refugee program.
Population, Refugees and Migrations, there was a feeling of apprehension about a president who had once warned that a refugee could be a "Trojan Horse" or be part of a "terrorist army".
Mr. Trump had already used the travel ban to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States to 50,000 in 2017, a fraction of Obama's 110,000 refugees. Now, Mr. Trump should decide the level for 2018.
At a meeting in April with senior office officials in the Roosevelt Hall of the West Wing, Mr. Miller cited Statistics from the Restrictiveist Center for Immigration Studies which indicated that resettlement of refugees in the United States was much more expensive than helping them in their own area
. Miller was visibly displeased, according to those present, when State Department officials rebuffed, citing another study that found that refugees were a net benefit to the economy. He described the claim as absurd and said it was exactly the wrong way of thinking
But the travel ban had been a lesson for Mr. Trump and his aides about the dangers of dictating a major political change without involving the people who apply it. This time, instead of excluding these officials, they worked to tightly control the process.
In previous years, State Department officials had recommended a refugee level to the president. Now, Miller told officials that the number would be determined by the Department of Homeland Security under a new policy that dealt with the issue as a security issue, not diplomatic.
When he learned that Refugee Resettlement's office had written a 55-page report showing that the refugees were a net positive for the economy, Miller quickly stepped in, asking for a meeting for discuss. The study has never been done at the White House; it was set aside in favor of a three-page list of all federal assistance programs used by refugees.
At the United Nations General Assembly in September, Trump cited the report of the Center for Immigration Studies. It was more profitable to keep refugees than to bring them into the United States
"Uncontrolled migration," said Trump, "are deeply unfair to countries of origin and countries d & # 39; home. "
More disciplined approach
Cecilia Muñoz, who was Obama's chief adviser on domestic politics, said that she was alarmed by the speed with which Mr. Trump and his team learned to implement their immigration program.
"The ban on traveling was a case of bureaucratic incompetence," she said. "They made beginner mistakes, but they clearly learned from this experience, for the moment the whole movement is in the direction of very ugly, very extreme, very damaging policies."
In the end Throughout the year, the chaos and disorganization that marked Trump's early immigration actions had given way to a more disciplined approach that yielded tangible results, led largely by Mr. Kelly, a A four-star retired naval general, as secretary of internal security, he helped immigration officers who felt compelled under Obama to arrest 143,000 people in 2017, a sharp rise , and deported more than 225,000.
Later, as White House chief of staff, Mr. Kelly quietly persuaded the president to drop the wall, but he pleaded for restrictive vision of the meadow ident, defying his reputation as a moderator of Mr. Trump's uncompromising instincts.
In September, a third version of the president's travel ban was issued with little fanfare. new legal justifications. Then Trump overturned diplomats' objections, capping refugee admissions to 45,000 for 2018, the lowest since 1986. In November, the president ended a humanitarian program that granted residence to 59,000 Haitians since the earthquake of 2010.
As the New Year approached, authorities began to consider a plan to separate parents from their children when families entered the country illegally, which groups of immigrants described as draconian
. Trump showed an openness to a different approach. In private discussions, he periodically returns to the idea of a "global immigration" compromise, although aides warned him against the use of this phrase. because it is considered by its main supporters as an amnesty code. During an autumn dinner with Democratic leaders, Mr Trump explored the possibility of a market to legalize Dreamers in exchange for border security.
Trump a même dit aux républicains récemment qu'il voulait penser plus grand, envisageant un accord au début de l'année qui inclurait un mur, une protection pour les Rêveurs, des permis de travail pour leurs parents, un transfert vers l'immigration basée sur le mérite.
L'idée empêcherait les Rêveurs de parrainer les parents qui les ont amenés illégalement à la citoyenneté, limitant ce que M. Trump appelle «la migration en chaîne».
veut conclure un marché », a déclaré M. Graham, qui a discuté avec M. Trump de la question la semaine dernière. "Il veut réparer tout le système."
Pourtant publiquement, M. Trump n'a employé que le langage absolutiste qui a défini sa campagne et a dominé sa présidence.
Après l'arrestation d'un immigrant ouzbek soupçonné de labourer un camion dans une piste cyclable dans le Lower Manhattan en octobre, tuant huit personnes, le président a saisi l'épisode.
En privé, dans le bureau ovale, le président a exprimé son incrédulité au sujet du programme de visa. a admis le suspect, confiant à un groupe de sénateurs en visite que c'était encore une preuve supplémentaire que la politique d'immigration des Etats-Unis était "une blague."
Même après une année de progrès vers un pays isolé Pour les menaces étrangères, le président considérait toujours le système d'immigration comme une source de complaisance.
«Nous sommes si politiquement corrects», se plaignait-il aux journalistes dans le cabinet, «que nous avions peur de faire quoi que ce soit».
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