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Backlash of Trump disparaging Africa, Haiti

ALAN FRAM and JONATHAN LEMIRE | 1/19/2018, 5 a.m.
In bluntly vulgar language, President Donald Trump questioned Jan. 11 why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and ...
Children stand next to United States and Haitian flags as they hold signs in support of renewing Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from Central America and Haiti now living in the United States, during a news conference Nov. 6, 2017, in Miami. The Department of Homeland Security is expected to rule soon on whether or not to renew the protected status. Lynne Sladky

WASHINGTON (AP) – In bluntly vulgar language, President Donald Trump questioned Jan. 11 why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “sh--hole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway, as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, according to people briefed on the extraordinary Oval Office conversation.

Trump’s contemptuous description of an entire continent startled lawmakers and immediately revived charges that the president is racist.

Republican Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, when asked if she thought the president was a racist said, “Yes.” She went on to say Trump’s comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation’s values.” She said, “This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation” and called on Trump to apologize to the American people “and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”

Trump on Friday denied using certain “language” as fury spread over his comments about immigration during a private meeting with lawmakers. But neither he nor the White House denied the most controversial of his comments: using the word “shithole” to describe countries in Africa and saying he would prefer immigrants from countries like Norway instead.

The White House issued a statement saying Trump supports immigration policies that welcome “those who can contribute to our society.”

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump insisted in a series of Friday morning tweets. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA.”

But Sen. Dick Durbin, the only Democrat in the room, disputed the president’s account.

“He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly,” Durbin said,

“When the question was asked about Haitians ... he said, ‘Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?”’

Trump took particular issue with the characterization of his comments on Haiti.

“Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems,” Trump wrote. “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

The Trump administration announced late last year that it would end a temporary residency permit program that allowed nearly 60,000 citizens from Haiti to live and work in the United States following a devastating 2010 earthquake. The Washington Post said that during the meeting he said immigrants from Haiti should be left out of any new agreement approved by Congress.

Trump’s contemptuous blanket description of African countries startled lawmakers in the meeting and immediately revived charges that the president is racist. The White House on Jan. 11 did not deny his remark but issued a statement saying Trump supports immigration policies that welcome “those who can contribute to our society.”

Trump’s comments came as two senators presented details of a bipartisan compromise that would extend protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and strengthen border protections, as Trump has insisted.

The lawmakers had hoped Trump would back their accord, an agreement among six senators evenly split among Republicans and Democrats, ending a months-long, bitter dispute over protecting the “dreamers.” But Trump later rejected it, plunging the issue back into uncertainty just eight days before a deadline that threatens a government shutdown.