Updated Jul 25, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Between the lines: The countries Trump likes on immigration

A hand holding open a foreign passport with a stamp in Korean

Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump likes China's immigration policies a lot better than Germany's. That was clear in a post-Putin meeting interview with Tucker Carlson of Fox News, where Trump gave a nod to China's isolationist immigration policies and slammed Germany, which has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Why it matters: Yet again, Trump is praising authoritarian governments over U.S. allies to justify his own actions — in this case, restrictive policies toward both legal and illegal immigrants.

Trump's good list

  • China: When Carlson asked how many refugees and immigrants China takes in, Trump replied, "I'd say probably none."  
  • South Korea: When asked why that was, Trump said, "How about asking me about South Korea?  How about asking me about a lot of other countries that are very successful?"
  • Japan: "Check out Japan, ask them, how many have you taken in the last 20 years?  You can count them on your fingers." 

The other side: All three of these countries have extremely low shares of foreign-born citizens, but they are also facing a demographic future of aging populations, dropping fertility rates and slow economic growth.

While immigration is still fairly unpopular in these nations, there have been some policy efforts by all three governments in the past several years to allow more immigration. China, for example, had a 163% increase in green cards in 2016 compared to the year before, according to the New York Times.

  • Hungary: Trump contrasted the Eastern European country with Germany's generous acceptance of Syrians, saying "Hungary would not take any." Hungary's far-right government has taken an increasingly anti-migrant stance. Last month, the White House released a statement saying Trump had congratulated Hungary’s Viktor Orbán on his new government, noting that “both leaders agreed on the need for strong national borders.”
  • Mexico: "Mexico has very strong immigration laws," Trump told Carlson. In a tweet in April, Trump praised Mexico for having “very strong border laws — ours are pathetic.”

Trump's bad list

  • Germany: Referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump told Carlson, "Angela was a superstar until she allowed millions of people to come into Germany." And this isn't the first time Trump has publicly criticized Merkel for her immigration platform.
  • Sweden: Immigration has boomed in Sweden over the past several years, but there has been no accompanying crime wave, according to the Telegraph. Last year at a rally, Trump wrongly claimed that there had been an immigrant-related incident in Sweden. After the blowback, he tweeted:
  • Europe in general: "I said the immigration policies in Europe are a disaster.  You're destroying Europe. You're destroying the culture of Europe. The crime is up in those areas and you better do something," Trump told Carlson.
    • Reality check: There was one study earlier this year that linked some of the rise in violent crime in Germany to migrants, according to the BBC. But there's no consensus that immigration leads to higher crime rates in all cases. The Marshall Project even found that most areas in the U.S. whose immigrant population has increased have seen fewer violent crimes.
Go deeper