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“I don’t know if merit counted for when his wife’s family came into the country,” Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday of Melania Trump

By Matt McNulty
May 31, 2019 05:10 PM
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Nancy Pelosi Melania Trump
Credit: Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix/REX/Shutterstock; Ethan Miller/Getty

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated her criticism of President Donald Trump‘s proposed immigration reforms on Wednesday — and pointed to First Lady Melania Trump to help make her case.

Pelosi, 79, was in San Francisco for a Commonwealth Club of California event when she commented on the president’s suggested reforms, which are unlikely to gain traction in Congress. As part of a sweeping set of proposals earlier this month, Trump called for limiting family-based immigrants in favor of “merit-based” admittance for highly educated or skilled workers.

Speaking Wednesday, Pelosi argued Trump’s plan was merely a mask for racial prejudice — and she implied he was a hypocrite, given the first lady’s background.

“I don’t know if merit counted for when his wife’s family came into the country,” she said of Mrs. Trump, who was born in Slovenia and who helped her parents immigrate to America.

“I don’t know. Maybe it did. God bless them if it did,” Pelosi continued. “But he calls that ‘chain migration,’ which he wants to get rid of.”

“Should we attach a green card to the diploma of so many scientists and engineers and all the rest and graduate students who train in the U.S. so that they can stay here? Of course. But that’s not the point,” she said. “The point is that the president does not share the view of even Ronald Reagan and two Bushes in recent history.”

Mrs. Trump, 49, became a permanent U.S. resident in 2001 and became a citizen after marrying the president in 2005.

Last year, her parents became citizens via family-based immigration — the same program the president is trying to stop, according to the New York Times. Mrs. Trump had sponsored her parents’ green cards, the Times reported.

Trump, 72, detailed his immigration policy last week, including the goal of curbing family-based migration, bringing in more money for border enforcement and increasing the amount of visas for skilled workers.

We discriminate against genius,” he said at the White House earlier this month. “We discriminate against brilliance. We won’t anymore, once we get this passed.”

Speaking Wednesday, Pelosi described it differently.

“When the president says ‘merit,’ turn it upside down — that means ‘make America white again,’ [and] have people leave, just go back, and we’ll just let in who we like,” she said.

Melania Trump Be Best
From left: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump
| Credit: Evan Vucci/Shutterstock

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Pelosi and Trump have sparred repeatedly since before she was returned to power in the House in last year’s midterm elections.

Trump, however, has rarely attacked her in the kind of vulgar and personal terms he uses with other opponents.

“I think the president respects Nancy Pelosi and understands that she represents voters that would never vote for him but also that if she’s serious about getting things done, he’s willing to really negotiate in good faith with her,” Rep. Mark Meadows told Politico in January.

Echoed former Trump aide Marc Short, who worked as a liaison with Congress: “I think the president admires people he views as strong, and he does view her as strong. She’s not only the first woman speaker but she hung around and fought to get back to that place. She’s a historic figure, you can’t deny that.”