Donald Trump is taking heat from his right flank over his labor secretary pick, a CEO known for pro-immigration views that run in direct contradiction with a key policy of the president-elect.
Breitbart News on Thursday excoriated Trump for tasking fast food CEO Andy Puzder to run the Department of Labor, accusing the president-elect of putting foreign labor ahead of American workers. Trump's senior adviser, Steve Bannon, was CEO of the conservative news website before leading the Republican's campaign operation.
"Trump Expected to Tap Labor Secretary Who Prefers Foreign Labor to American Workers," the article's headline read.
“It remains to be seen whether Puzder will abandon his former open borders positions on these issues and will take up Trump’s pro-American worker platform on trade and immigration, which won him the election,” the article added.
Numbers USA, a group that has taken a hard stance against undocumented immigrants, also expressed disappointment over Trump's pick.
“President-elect Trump campaigned — and won the election — on promises of boosting American workers wages and job opportunities by reducing excessive immigration,” Roy Beck, the group's president, said in a statement.
“It is disconcerting to see that someone with a history of public statements in favor of immigration expansionism, including Gang-of-Eight-style legislation, has been appointed to head the department that is supposed to protect American workers from unfair foreign labor competition.”
Trump allies had hoped the labor appointee would be a fierce partner in clamping down on undocumented workers.
Instead Puzder, corporate chief of the Hardee’s and Carl's Jr. fast-food chains, represents a prominent and powerful wing of the Republican Party that has in the past championed comprehensive immigration reform for bringing low-wage undocumented workers into the fold.
The early backlash from the right over Trump's pick marks a test for the president-elect to show the lengths of his commitment to his campaign promises.
Puzder has been a vocal advocate of providing certain undocumented immigrants with a pathway to legal status, though not full citizenship, mirroring proposals elevated by former Florida governor and 2016 candidate Jeb Bush.
While Trump has repeatedly mocked Bush for viewing immigration as an “act of love,” Puzder has embraced the outlook, going as far as praising undocumented immigrants for their strong work ethic compared to American employees.
His views stand in direct contrast with Trump, who has accused undocumented immigrants of siphoning jobs from hard-working Americans.
In fact, Puzder outlined his disagreements with Trump’s immigration plan in an op-ed penned over the summer with prominent conservative writer Stephen Moore.
“In our opinion, legal immigrants are an asset to the country,” they wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “We believe that deporting 11 people is unworkable, and we hope in the end Mr. Trump comes to this same conclusion.”
If confirmed to lead the Department of Labor, Puzder would have the power to work alongside federal immigration enforcement agencies by cracking down those contributing to the workforce illegally.
The department also carries significant weight in regulating visas and work permits for non-citizens. And for right-wing groups that favor limitations on even legal immigration, Puzder’s appointment is raising alarms that priorities for Trump's future administration are not in line.