A poster of U.S. President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request, America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, stands on display at the Government Printing Office (GPO) library in Washington, D.C., U.S.. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Judge Asks If ‘America First’ Is Code for Racial Hostility

(Bloomberg) -- The same day President Donald Trump spoke to the United Nations in New York about “America First,” a federal judge in San Francisco wondered aloud whether the slogan was being used by the president’s lieutenants to camouflage discriminatory immigration policies.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen heard arguments for more than two hours over whether he should block the Trump administration from overturning portions of a George H.W. Bush-era humanitarian policy that offers U.S. residency to nationals from countries in perilous conditions. At stake are protections for about 300,000 people from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan who could be deported en masse if those countries’ Temporary Protected Status is scrapped by the Department of Homeland Security.

While Chen didn’t make a decision at the end of the hearing, he did flag a memo written by former DHS Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke. In it, she posited that TPS “must end for these countries soon” in order for U.S. immigration policy to be compliant with Trump’s “America first” agenda.

Chen asked a Justice Department attorney at the hearing if the phrase was code for Trump’s racial animus, referring to a January Twitter rant in which the president dubbed the African continent and Haiti “shithole countries.”

“The inference plaintiffs make is that this is code for ending immigration status for those who are non-white. What do you make of that?” Chen asked.

Adam Kirschner, the lawyer for the U.S., responded by pointing out that the TPS rescission policy came from Duke and her former boss, John Kelly, neither of whom are accused of racial discrimination.

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