President Donald Trump used the occasion of his first address to the United Nations General Assembly to warn about the harmful consequences of mass migration, repeating a theme that he has frequently visited during domestic policy speeches.
In remarks replete with references to national sovereignty, Trump said that policies encouraging unchecked flows of immigrants and refugees were “deeply unfair” to both sending and receiving countries.
Mass immigration allows certain countries to avoid reforms that would better serve their people because it “drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms,” Trump said. On the receiving end, too much immigration exerts pressure on low-income natives, whose “concerns are ignored by media and government.”
Trump’s comments on immigration were in keeping with the nationalist sentiment running through his entire address to U.N. delegates. In an obvious reference to his “America First” outlook, Trump said U.S. foreign policy is motivated by a “principled realism” that upholds respect for “respect for law, borders and culture.”
Despite worries among the foreign policy cognoscenti that Trump’s nationalist-tinged speech would not go over well in a multinational forum, his remarks about the importance of national sovereignty were well-received by the assembled world leaders. The first applause line in a 40-minute address touched on foreign governments putting their nations’ interests first.
“I will always put America first, just like you, as leaders of your countries, should always put your countries first,” the president said.
However, Trump’s nationalist approach to immigration is likely to draw criticism from world leaders who say the U.S. isn’t doing enough to resettle refugees. Trump said the U.S. is a “compassionate nation” that would work with the U.N. to address the global refugee crisis fueled by conflict in Syria, Sudan and Yemen, among other places. But he also said resettlement should take place closer to refugees’ countries of origin, which could save money and make it easier for migrants to return home after peace is restored.
“We seek an approach to refugee resettlement that is designed to help these horribly treated people and which enable their eventual return to their home countries to be part of the rebuilding process,” Trump said.
“The United States is a compassionate nation”: Pres. Trump discusses refugee resettlement in United Nations speech https://t.co/URDAbjE1gk
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 19, 2017
Based on concerns about security screening of refugees from countries known for terrorist activity, Trump is reportedly considering reducing the annual cap for refugee admissions to the U.S. to its lowest level in decades. White House aides have suggested a limit of 50,000, or possibly lower, for Fiscal Year 2018. (RELATED: Trump Might Cap Refugee Admissions At Lowest Level In Decades)
The Obama administration approved the resettlement of 110,000 refugees amid a global surge in displaced populations in 2016. There are about 65 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 22.5 million designated refugees, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
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