WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remained sharply at odds Monday on immigration policies, with Trump applauding his crackdown to deport undocumented migrants and Trudeau acclaiming the success of Syrian refugees in his country.
Trudeau welcomed 40,000 Syrians into Canada even as Trump has sought to indefinitely suspend entry of any Syrian refugees into the U.S., part of his court-blocked plan to halt travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries with histories of terrorist attacks.
Asked whether he is confident the northern U.S. border is secure with the Syrians in Canada, Trump told a White House news conference, "You can never be totally confident."
But in the wake of U.S. immigration raids in recent days aimed at deporting migrants with criminal records, the new American leader declared, "We're getting them out. I'm just doing what I said I would" during his run for the presidency.
"We're getting the criminals, the drug lords.... We're getting the bad ones ," Trump said. "People are going to be very, very happy."
Syrians 'very successful' in Canada
Trump described the government's raids against the illegal migrants as "a stance of common sense." The U.S. says that 75 percent of the 680 undocumented immigrants arrested in recent days had criminal records.
Trudeau said the Syrians who have settled in Canada are "very successful" and that "our allies understand" Canada's welcome to refugees from war-torn countries.
But the Canadian leader declined to criticize Trump's immigration policies, saying, "The last thing Canadians want" is for him "to come down to another country and lecture them."
The two leaders, meeting for the first time, reached more agreement on boosting the already high level of trade between between the countries, which Trudeau said amounted to $2 billion a day in cross-border transactions. Trump, during his lengthy presidential campaign, had vowed to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement that includes the U.S., Canada and Mexico to shape it in more favorable terms for U.S. workers.
Trade relations will be tweaked
But after meeting with Trudeau in the Oval Office and over lunch, Trump said U.S. trade problems with Canada were "much less severe than has taken place with Mexico," which he called "very unfair."
Trump said the U.S. and Canada would be "tweaking" their trade relations. "We're going to make it even better," Trump said.
Trudeau said his country's economic fortunes are "very dependent on trade with the U.S.," with 75 percent of its exports heading to America, even as U.S. corporations send 18 percent of their products to Canada. He said that Canada is the biggest trading partner for 35 of the 50 U.S. states.
The two leaders announced a new task force to promote female business leaders and entrepreneurs in the two countries.
Trudeau's schedule for the one-day visit also included talks with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trudeau is the third foreign leader Trump has met with since taking office last month, following a visit last weekend with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and earlier with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Trudeau responds on Twitter
Trump's move to block immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days is on hold.
The U.S. leader signed an executive order suspending the country's refugee program for 120 days and indefinitely suspended it for Syrian refugees. Trump says the moves were necessary to protect national security.
A federal court ordered that the ban not be enforced while it is being challenged by several states, and an appeals court upheld the freeze last week. The White House has been mulling whether to appeal the decision blocking Trump's order or to rewrite it and issue a new ban. The issue could ultimately end up being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Trudeau's government responded to Trump's order by offering those who would normally be allowed into the U.S. the opportunity to apply for temporary status in Canada.
A day after Trump signed the ban, Trudeau wrote on Twitter: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada."
Source: Voice of America