Donald Trump didn’t hold back when he referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as “shithole countries” during an immigration meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office on Thursday
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump asked, according to the Washington Post.
Shortly after the president’s choice of words flooded the news websites, local lawmakers didn’t hold back from reacting either.
“The president calling #Haiti a ‘shithole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians have made to our #SoFla community and nation,” Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen posted on Twitter. “Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House.”
South Florida is home to the nation’s largest concentration of Haitians. According to Steven Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, “50,000 Haitians with TPS contribute to our economy and Haiti’s and have 27,000 U.S.-born kids.”
“Instead of a racist insult, he should protect our interests and these families. Returning them is insane given the 2010 earthquake, an unchecked U.N.-introduced cholera epidemic that has killed 10,000 and sickened over 800,000, and Hurricane Matthew — the most devastating in 52 years,” he told the Miami Herald in an email.
Friday marks the eighth anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake, which killed more than 250,000 people.
Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo also chimed in, tweeting that “under no circumstances is it acceptable to degrade, denigrate, or dehumanize #TPS immigrants. The White House must immediately explain the situation and leave no doubt regarding what was said and in what context,” he said.
Trump, who was meeting with lawmakers to try to get bipartisan support on an immigration deal, later suggested the U.S. should welcome more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met with on Wednesday. During the meeting in the Oval Office, Trump wasn’t happy with the idea pitched by senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who proposed cutting the visa lottery program in half and giving first dibs to countries already in the system, a White House official told the Post.
The possible bipartisan deal would aim to bring back protections for countries that have been removed from the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program. Just this week, the Trump administration said it was removing TPS for about 200,0000 Salvadorans who were allowed to live and work legally in the United States since the 2001 earthquakes that killed 1,100 people and displaced more than 1 million. Homeland Security officials said conditions had improved in the Central American country and TPS is no longer applicable.
According to The New York Times, when Trump heard that Haitians were among those who would benefit from the proposed deal, he asked if they could be exempt from the plan: “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”
Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents Little Haiti, was more brief in her reaction on social media.
“Sigh,” she posted on Twitter.
Jean Monestime, the first Haitian-American elected to the Miami-Dade County Commission, issued a statement Thursday condemning Trump’s alleged remark.
“Mr. Trump surely does not understand what makes America Great,” Monestime wrote.
House Republican Mia Love — the daughter of Haitian immigrants and the first Haitian-American elected to Congress as a representative from Utah — said “the president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned,” according to BuzzFeed News.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted “In a skills based economy,we can no longer decide who we allow to immigrate here primarily based on what country they are coming from.”