Ben Carson faces backlash after referring to slaves as 'immigrants'

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Ben Carson, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is facing backlash for referring to slaves as "immigrants," reports USA Today.

The retired neurosurgeon made the controversial comment during a speech to agency employees on Monday.

In a video of the talk, which was posted to HUD's Facebook page, he starts off by saying, "One of the things that you will notice in this department under my leadership is that there will be a very big emphasis on fairness for everybody."

Ben Carson through the years

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Ben Carson through the years
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Ben Carson through the years
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 12: (JAPAN OUT) (VIDEO CAPTURE) In this image from video Dr. Ben Carson talks about his life and education August 12, 2001 in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Carson was profiled for a CNN program called 'America's Best: Science and Medicine,' for his preeminence in the field of neurosurgery. (Photo by CNN via Getty Images)
Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, Ben Carson, Ralph Abernathy and Levy Watkins at Johns Hopkins University during a celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, Baltimore, Maryland, 1980. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Darius Rucker, Candy Carson and Dr. Ben Carson M.D., president and co-founder of Carson Scholars Fund (Photo by Louis Myrie/WireImage)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson is interviewed during a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson speaks as the keynote speaker at the Wake Up America gala Event September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson (C) chats with guests after a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson is surrounded by supporters as he waits to be interviewed at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington,DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon, addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Carson is the author of 'One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save Americas Future' and 'America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great'. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson addresses the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Ben Carson attends the National Action Network (NAN) national convention at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel on April 8, 2015 in New York City. The network, founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991 is hosting various politicians, organizers and religious leaders to talk about the nation's most pressing issues. The conservative Carson is widely rumored to be considering a GOP presidential run in 2016. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - MAY 4: Republican Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, speaks as he officially announces his candidacy for President of the United States at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts May 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Carson was scheduled to travel today to Iowa, but changed his plans when his mother became critically ill. He now will be traveling to Dallas instead to be with his mother Sonya. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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He eventually talks about immigrants to the U.S., saying, "They worked not for themselves, but for their sons and their daughters, their grandsons and their granddaughters, that they might have an opportunity in this land. That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity."

Carson then tells the audience, "There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day, their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters...might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land."

He adds, "This is our opportunity to enhance that dream."

In response to a tweet about the story, one person wrote back, "Maybe it's just me but I don't think people who were kidnapped, chained & shipped halfway across the world are immigrants."

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect also condemned the comparison, saying in a statement, "No, Secretary Carson. Slaves didn't immigrate to America. They were brought here violently, against their own will, and lived here without freedom. You do not get a pass because you are African-American..."

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