WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump questioned Thursday why the U.S. should permit more immigrants from “shithole countries” after senators discussed revamping rules affecting entrants from Africa and Haiti, according to three people briefed on the conversation. Trump made the remark in the Oval Office as two lawmakers described details to him of a bipartisan compromise among six senators that would extend protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and strengthen border protections.
The senators had hoped Trump would back their accord, ending a months-long, bitter dispute over protecting “Dreamers.” But the White House later rejected their proposed agreement, plunging the issue back into uncertainty just eight days before a deadline that threatens a government shutdown.
During their conversation, Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Senate Democratic leader, was explaining that as part of that deal, a lottery for visas that has benefited people from Africa and other nations would be ended, the sources said, though there could be some other way for them to apply. Durbin said people would be allowed to stay in the U.S. who fled here after disasters hit their homes in places including El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti.
Trump specifically questioned why the U.S. would want to admit more people from Haiti. He also mentioned Africa and asked why more people from “shithole countries” should be allowed into the U.S., the sources said.
The president suggested that instead, the U.S. should allow more entrants from countries like Norway. Trump met this week with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Asked about the remarks, 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.
Trump’s remarks were remarkable even by the standards of a president who has been accused by his foes of racist attitudes and has routinely smashed through public decorum that his modern predecessors have generally embraced.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly describe the conversation.
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.
Trump has spoken positively about Haitians in public. During a 2016 campaign event in Miami, he said “the Haitian people deserve better” and told the audience of Haitian-Americans he wanted to “be your greatest champion, and I will be your champion.”
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