President-elect Donald Trump veered off his anti-immigration message Tuesday night and told a crowd in North Carolina that hundreds of thousands of immigrants will come in during his administration.
“We are going to stop people coming into this country illegally but we are going to be having people come into our country — and they are going to come in by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands — but they are going to come in, they are going to come in, legally,” Trump said. “But by the hundreds of thousands. We want people to come in but they have to come in legally.”
While most of Trump’s campaign immigration rhetoric was focused on Muslim and illegal immigration, he did say that legal immigration harmed American workers. Trump’s plan for immigration reform during the campaign said that the “influx of foreign workers” keeps salaries down for working class Americans and immigrants alike.
The plan went on to say that the “admission of new low-earning workers” would need to be reduced in order to: “help wages grow, get teenagers back to work, aid minorities’ rise into the middle class, help schools and communities falling behind, and to ensure our immigrant members of the national family become part of the American dream.”
Department of Homeland Security figures shows that just over one million legal immigrants entered the U.S. in 2014. Trump’s call for hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants was unclear in its time frame for when these immigrants would be let in and whether that number would be greater than recent years.
Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, has voiced his concerns with legal immigration before. He wrote in 2015 that “legal immigration is the primary source of low-wage immigration into the United States.”
“What we need now is immigration moderation: slowing the pace of new arrivals so that wages can rise, welfare rolls can shrink and the forces of assimilation can knit us all more closely together,” Sessions added.
Recent polling showed that 54 percent of Americans want immigration reduced to zero or halved. (RELATED: New Data: Foreign-Born Population Explodes To All-Time High)
The rest of Trump’s North Carolina speech stayed on message and called for a reform to America’s visa program, halting immigration from countries with a history of Islamic extremism and building a border wall.