WH Chief of Staff John Kelly, asked about separating migrant families at the border, tells @NPR, “They don’t integrate well. They don’t have skills.” Interview airs on tomorrow’s @MorningEdition pic.twitter.com/1AA99Hjgjo— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) May 11, 2018
Whoever believed John Kelly was the sole moderate voice of reason in the Trump administration was clearly mistaken.
NPR recently interviewed the White House chief of staff and asked him about separating migrant families at the border. The question came in the wake of a recent controversial statement by Attorney-General Jeff Sessions who warned parents trying to cross the U.S. border illegally could be separated from their children.
Kelly began answering the question by, essentially, refuting President Donald Trump, saying not all people trying to enter the United States illegally are gang members. However, he added a majority of people crossing the border are "rural."
"In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth- sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm," Kelly stated. "They don't speak English; obviously that's a big thing. ... They don't integrate well; they don't have skills."
Assuming a majority of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. don't have any skills is a baseless argument that has long been used by bigots.
Quite contrary to what Kelly said, experts say immigrants, legal and undocumented, have been an asset to the U.S. economy and workforce.
"Immigrants are overrepresented in a lot of occupations in both low- and high-skilled jobs," Daniel Costa, former director of immigration law and policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based economic research think tank, explained ABC News. "You'd feel an impact and loss in many, many different occupations and industries, from construction and landscape to finance and IT."
Also, undocumented immigrants contribute billions of dollars to the American economy each year in the form of taxes, paying for Social Security services they can't even access.
There are nearly 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, 8 million of whom are in the workforce, according to Pew Research.
As per 2015 IRS data, 4.4 million income tax returns came from workers who don't have Social Security numbers, many of whom were undocumented people. All in all, they paid around $23.6 billion that year.
As far as English speaking skills are concerned, granted, understanding and speaking the language facilitates integration, but does not necessarily ensure it.
Also, the point about English speaking skills was particularly ironic coming from Kelly, whose mother Josephine “Honey” Pedalino, was the descendant of Italian immigrants. "Her father never spoke a word of English and made his living peddling a fruit cart in East Boston," Politico reported.
And if Kelly still has doubts if undocumented immigrants are not skilled or should speak English, here's what he should know:
WH COS John Kelly says that immigrants from rural areas without English skills don’t integrate into the U.S.— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) May 11, 2018
My dad came from rural China and spoke little English. He raised a son who held the same rank in the Obama WH (Asst. to the Pres.) that Kelly holds. I’d say we did okay. pic.twitter.com/m1fW3oqmRz
Dear John Kelly, My mother had a 4th grade education, spoke no English and had no skills when she came from Cuba to the US where I, a @Wharton MBA and executive running a nonprofit, was born. #WellIntegrated https://t.co/e4yIMayfcY— Lucy M. Sullivan (@lucymsullivan) May 11, 2018
My ancestors came over not speaking English.— Jeremy Konyndyk (@JeremyKonyndyk) May 11, 2018
My ancestors came over poor and uneducated.
My ancestors came over as rural laborers without special skills.
Mr. Kelly, are these only disqualifying factors for people who aren't white Europeans? https://t.co/oEelyRGFUX
Dear John Kelly, my grandfather was an immigrant house-painter from Poland, my great-grandfather on my dad's side a farmer, WHO DO YOU THINK CAME HERE & WHO DO YOU THINK THEY WERE? #WellIntegrated https://t.co/hUK6voGnr9— Grossed Out by Nazis & White Supremacists (@NotAcquiescing) May 11, 2018
John Kelly clearly does not understand undocumented immigrants, their ambition, work skills, support networks, and economic contributions. And the growth is mostly happening with Asian visa overstayers, not border crossers https://t.co/VmcOVNBPP9 #immigration #1in7 https://t.co/TwINkiI0BZ— KarthickRamakrishnan (@karthickr) May 11, 2018