Stephen Moore, President Donald Trump’s pick for the Federal Reserve, previously called migrants “heroic” and illegal immigration “a function of job opportunities in the United States.”
“To me, it’s an incredibly heroic act that people would take the chance to come across the border and really put their life at risk to come into this country. I just think it’s an important point we remember,” the economist said during a panel on immigration held at the George W. Bush Institute in 2013. “People always ask me as an economist, ‘When will we know when America is in decline?’ And it’s when a million people want to leave here, rather than come here. The fact that people will risk their life still to come here is something we should admire about our country and the people who come.”
Moore pointed to research by The Wall Street Journal, where he previously served on the editorial board, that noted a correlation between illegal immigration and job growth in the United States. Just several months before appearing on the panel, he wrote an op-ed praising economist Milton Friedman’s philosophy of “tight welfare and generous immigration rules.”
“There’s absolutely no question that illegal immigration is a function of job opportunities here,” continued the economist. “If we get this economy growing… and our unemployment rate down to five percent… They’re going to come… What we need to do is make sure there are ways they can come here legally.”
Citing U.S. immigration policies like the Bracero program (which he called the “single most effective program in the history of this country” in reducing illegal immigration), Moore dismissed border security measures.
“We reduced illegal immigration by 90 percent by having a plan where people could come here legally,” said the economist. “By the way, the immigration bill before Congress does that and that will be much more effective than building these surveillance towers and putting triple fences on the border.”
Moore’s past remarks have recently come under fire following a CNN report from last week detailing the Fed pick’s criticism toward Trump’s immigration policies. In a 2015 radio interview with Larry Kudlow, Moore called the then-candidate’s deportation plans “a crazy policy,” “bad politics” and “even worse politics.”
“But with this very extreme nativist position that says, ‘we just don’t want people that look like you and talk like you and act like you,’ it’s going to turn those voters into permanent Democrats,” said the economist.
Moore has distanced himself from his past positions, telling CNN he previously sad “a lot of negative things about Donald Trump before I met him.” In his book Trumponomics, published last fall, Moore acknowledged the president’s calls for a border wall had hints of “demagoguery,” but said he “wanted to be part of pulling” off the deconstruction of traditional democratic norms.
“He was P.T. Barnum. What a showman! What a gifted orator. Was there some demagoguery here? Sure,” wrote Moore. “We had a sense early on that Trump was breaking all the rules and conventions and… for better or worse, was on the verge of making history. And, of course, we wanted to be part of pulling it off.”