On Thursday (May 24), President Donald Trump nominated an immigration extremist associated with a hate group to be the assistant secretary of state for refugees and migration.
Ronald Mortensen, Trump’s pick to run the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration think tank that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated a hate group for its association with racist writers and White nationalists. Mortensen is also the founder of Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration, which works to enact legislation that “addresses the negative impacts of illegal immigration.”
For years, Mortensen has falsely equated undocumented immigration with criminality. “Dreamers often are portrayed as sympathetic young people trying to go to school, but that portrayal is often erroneous…many have committed serious felonies that impact American men, women and children,” he wrote for The Hill last year, referring to young immigrants brought to the United States as children.
“Even the strongest supporters of illegal aliens acknowledge that 75 percent of illegal aliens routinely commit felonies,” he added.
“Putting Mortensen in charge of refugee aid would be a big middle finger to the State Department, its goals and mission, and the whole concept of international assistance,” immigration advocacy group America’s Voice said in a statement.
In announcing Mortensen’s nomination, the White House touted the Air Force veteran’s diplomatic missions to France and Australia and his humanitarian work in West African countries.
But members of Congress were not swayed.
“Mr. Mortensen’s racist, vile and disparaging comments against immigrants and refugees disqualifies him from serving our government in any capacity,” Representative Joe Crowley, (D-N.Y.), said in a statement. “This appointment is yet another clear demonstration from President Trump that he is intent on advancing an agenda completely contrary to America’s values.”
Reaction in the Senate, where Mortensen’s nomination has to be approved, mirrored those concerns.
“I am deeply concerned with Mr. Mortensen’s deep involvement with some of our nation’s most anti-immigrant organizations, and I find some of his past statements not only offensive and inaccurate but fundamentally in contradiction of American values and history,” Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) told press.