In the first few months of his administration, President Donald Trump asked then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke why he could not ban refugees from “f*****g Somalia” in a bout of rage at his Bedminster golf club.
The episode, detailed in the new book titled “Border Wars,” reveals the President’s belief that people from Somalia posed a danger to the US. Months earlier, Trump targeted foreign nationals coming to the US from eight countries, including Somalia, in his “travel ban” executive order.
“Both he and [Stephen] Miller seemed to have a particular dislike for Somalia, often citing it or its nationals when they spoke of the potential dangers of refugees and other immigrants,” the book states.
CNN purchased a copy of “Border Wars,” by The New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear, ahead of its official release.
In October 2017, weeks after Trump complained to Elaine Duke, the then-acting Homeland Security secretary received a call from White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller who insisted that Duke “shut off refugee flows from 11 countries the administration had identified as high-risk,” particularly Somalia, according to the book. Duke refused.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.
Over the course of Trump’s presidency, the administration has chipped away at the refugee ceiling – the number of refugees who may be admitted to the United States. The administration set – and met – a cap of 30,000 for fiscal year 2019, a historic low. Last month, the State Department told Congress it intends to lower the cap further to 18,000.
“Border Wars” dives into the back and forth between career officials and Miller, who’s been an active proponent of lowering the number of refugees admitted to the US. Davis and Shear describe Miller’s campaign within the administration to undercut the program, including inserting unfounded claims about the dangers and costs of refugees into documents.
Last week, an excerpt from the book revealed that Trump suggested shooting migrants in the legs and fortifying the US-Mexico border wall with a water-filled trench with snakes and alligators, during an Oval Office meeting.
During the partial government shutdown earlier this year, senior officials gave Jared Kushner, senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, a tutorial on immigration policy and politics. “Man,” Kushner is quoted as saying in the book. “This thing has more landmines than Afghanistan.”
Democrats and Republicans were at an impasse over immigration, especially the President’s border wall. Kushner pulled together a negotiating team, asking questions about funding for the wall and closing legal loopholes.
Then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan – now the acting Homeland Security secretary – made clear that the wall along the southern border would do far less to cut illegal immigration than would closing loopholes.
“Kushner nodded, his jaw tight and his eyes wide,” according to the book. “‘OK,’ he said, quietly. ‘So we’ve wasted the last two years.’”