White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was caught on tape admitting that, despite President Donald Trump's policy preferences, the United States is "desperate" for more immigrants, according to a recording obtained by the Washington Post.
He further undermined the administration's claims of its economic prowess, admitting that immigration is necessary for sustained economic growth.
"We are desperate — desperate — for more people," Mulvaney said, according to the post, stressing that it should be legal. "We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we've had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants."
These claims are not really contentious from an economic perspective, but they run counter to dominant narratives in the Trump administration. The president himself has repeatedly talked about immigration as a substantial burden on the country, rather than a benefit, and his administration has acted accordingly to reduce the number of immigrants coming in. Trump and his defenders have also cheered his economic stewardship of the country — on highly dubious grounds — and even predicted 5 or 6 percent growth, which hasn't come to pass and was never even in the realm of possibility. They've argued that the GOP tax cuts and Trump's deregulatory agenda have reinvigorated American economic growth, but the reality is far less impressive than the rhetoric.
While some critics of immigration insist that Trump and his allies are only opposed to illegal immigration, the policy choices tell a different story. Trump has, for instance, dramatically slashed the number of refugees the United States accepts, a form of legal immigration, and tried to restrict access to legal asylum-seeking processes.
Forbes writer Stuart Anderson argued that the Trump administration's "public charge" rule, which seeks to limit immigration from people who might need government services, could have a massive negative economic effect.
"Admitting fewer immigrants generally means less economic growth, since labor force growth is an important element of economic growth," he wrote. "It is economic growth that improves the standard of living in a nation. Using the public charge rule to reduce legal immigration means lower long-term economic growth may be Donald Trump's most lasting legacy."
And the data indicates that Trump's policies are having the expected negative effect on immigration rates. In a separate piece, Anderson found that between 2016 and 2018, legal immigration to the United States fell by 7 percent.
Before Trump's election in 2016, it was clear Mulvaney was not on board with the Republican nominee's agenda and disliked him personally.
"Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump, but I'm doing so despite the fact that I think he's a terrible human being," Mulvaney said.
In 2015, he was critical of Trump's remarks about immigration specifically.
"The fence doesn't solve the problem," Mulvaney said, as CNN reported. "Is it necessary to have one, sure? Would it help? Sure. But to just say build the darn fence and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president to take that simplistic of [a] view."