Trump vulgarity alarms lawmakers

President's remarks left fate of the broader immigration debate in limbo

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and THOMAS KAPLAN in Washington
  • Published 13.01.18
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Donald Trump

Washington: President Trump on Thursday baulked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from "shithole countries" rather than from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.

Trump's remarks, the latest example of his penchant for racially tinged remarks denigrating immigrants, left members of Congress from both parties attending the meeting in the Cabinet Room alarmed and mystified.

He made them during a discussion of an emerging bipartisan deal to give legal status to immigrants illegally brought to the US as children, those with knowledge of the conversation said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the meeting.

When Trump heard that Haitians were among those who would benefit from the proposed deal, he asked whether they could be left out of the plan, asking, "Why do we want people from Haiti here?"

However, in a tweet today, Trump said he used tough language at immigration meeting with lawmakers, "but this was not the language used".

He denied having said anything derogatory about Haitians.

The comments were reminiscent of ones the President made last year in an Oval Office meeting with cabinet officials and administration aides, during which he complained about admitting Haitians to the country.

He said that they all had AIDS, as well as Nigerians, who he said would never go back to their "huts", according to officials who heard the statements in person or were briefed on the remarks by people who had.

The White House vehemently denied last month that Trump made those remarks.

In a written statement, Raj Shah, the White House deputy press secretary, did not deny the account of the meeting on Thursday or directly address Trump's comments.

"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," Shah said. "Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation."

But the President's vulgar language on a delicate issue left the fate of the broader immigration debate in limbo and had the potential to torpedo the chances of achieving the deal being sought to protect about 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

And they drew a backlash from Republican and Democratic lawmakers, many of whom called Trump's utterances unacceptable at best and plainly racist at worst.

New York Times News Service