Trump under fire for alleged comments on immigration

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (January 12, 2018) — President Donald Trump on Friday denied using certain "language" during a private meeting with lawmakers as fury spread over his alleged comments about certain countries and whether the U.S. needs more immigrants from those nations.

Southern Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress defended President Trump's reported remark referring to Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations, saying in a statement that the president got the "sentiment" right.
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Trump's comments came during an Oval Office meeting where he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and certain African nations as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, according to people briefed on the extraordinary Oval Office conversation.

"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,

Durbin added, "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. The Washington Post reported that, during the meeting, Trump said immigrants from Haiti should be left out of any new agreement approved by Congress.

"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!"

Trump's contemptuous blanket description of African countries startled lawmakers in the meeting and immediately revived charges that the president is racist.

"The words used by the President, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not 'tough,' they were abhorrent and repulsive," tweeted Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.

"I think it was stupid and irresponsible and childish," said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. "He's president of the United States. That's not how a president behaves."

Trump's comments came as two senators presented details of a bipartisan compromise that would protect DACA immigrants — and also strengthen border protections, as Trump has insisted, providing $1.6 billion for a first installment on his long-sought border wall,

The lawmakers had hoped Trump would back their accord, an agreement among six senators evenly split among Republicans and Democrats, ending a monthslong, bitter dispute over protecting the "dreamers."

But Trump rejected the deal, plunging the issue back into uncertainty just eight days before a deadline that threatens a government shutdown.

Trump took particular issue with the idea, explained by Durbin of Illinois, the Senate' s No. 2 Democrat, that, as part of the deal, people who fled to the U.S. after disasters hit their homes in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti, would be allowed to stay.

The administration announced last year that it would end a temporary residency permit program that allowed nearly 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the U.S. in the wake of a devastating 2010 earthquake.

Trump also took issue with the idea that, while a lottery that benefits people from Africa and other nations would be ended, there could be another way for them to apply.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly describe the conversation.

Asked about the remarks Thursday, White House spokesman Raj Shah did not deny them.

"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people," he said in a lengthy statement, adding that Trump supports immigration policies that welcome "those who can contribute to our society."

 

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