As part of an unfortunate and misleading photo-op, Donald Trump traveled to southern California on Friday to highlight some replacement border fencing that his administration had very little to do with. During the trip, the president pushed a new talking point: the United States cannot accommodate any additional immigrants because the country is "full."
"The system is full. We can't take you anymore," Trump said at a roundtable event with law enforcement officials and local leaders at a border patrol station in Calexico. "Our country is full...Turn around."He added, "When it's full, there's nothing you can do. You have to say, 'I'm sorry, we can't take you.'"
A day later, speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Republican repeated the line, telling supporters, "We're full. Our system is full, our country is full, can't come in."
To the extent that reality has any meaning in the debate, the United States is not, in fact, "full," and we have room for a growing population. It's not as if public officials are telling American women who are pregnant, "I hate to break this to you, but our country simply can't accommodate any additional human beings, so I hope you're prepared to relocate to a different country."
But that's only a small part of the bigger picture. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said on Friday, "It's just a ridiculous statement. We have agriculture industries across the country that desperately need workers. We have construction industries in California and in other places that desperately need workers, and immigration has always been not just a question of immigration policy, but who we are as a country."
One of the things that makes Jayapal's response so compelling is that, on multiple occasions, Trump has slipped up and made similar comments.
In fact, he's done so in very high-profile venues. In his State of the Union address two months ago, for example, the president declared, "Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways. I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally."
If the country is "full," why did Trump say he wants people "to come into our country in the largest numbers ever"?
Indeed, the Trump administration is also reportedly planning to grant tens of thousands of additional H-2B visas, increasing the levels of foreign short-term workers to levels unseen in over a decade.
The problem isn't just that Trump's new talking point is wrong; it's also that even he doesn't appear to believe it.