“What do we want Haitians here for?” the president asked, according to the people briefed. “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?”
The president added: “We should have people from places like Norway.”
Asked about the president’s use of the slur, the White House did not deny it, but issued a statement saying Trump would “always fight for the American people.”
While cruder and blunter than his past public statements, the president’s comments were in keeping with his long-standing position that the United States should shift its immigration policy away from poorer, developing countries, and instead focus on carefully selecting educated immigrants, especially from Europe, who can already speak English and have professional or technical skills needed in the United States.
It’s not the first time Trump has made disparaging comments about foreigners and members of minority groups. He has frequently characterized Muslims as terrorists and opened his presidential campaign calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.”
Trump’s statement was met with quick condemnation.
“Immigrants from countries across the globe — including and especially those from Haiti and all parts of Africa — have helped build this country,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. “They should be welcomed and celebrated, not demeaned and insulted.”
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has frequently sparred with Trump over his negative comments about Mexico, tweeted: “Your mouth is the foulest shithole in the world.”
Albert Saint Jean, a Haitian American organizer with the New York-based Black Alliance for Just Immigration, called Trump’s comments appalling and insulting.
Saint Jean’s group advocates on behalf of immigrants from countries across Africa and the Caribbean, including many Haitians. If Trump was referring to those countries as impoverished, he said, that impoverishment is a result of the U.S. and European powers’ legacy of involvement there.
“When these people come here, they create very productive communities and contribute to major economies like Miami, New York and Boston,” he said. “It’s showing the total lack of understanding he has of global policy.”
The Oval Office exchange came during a meeting intended to present the White House with a bipartisan compromise to help resolve the standoff over immigration.
Trump’s swift rejection shows how difficult it will be for Congress to develop a legislative solution to protect some 700,000 young immigrants when Trump ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in March.
The White House also made clear it does not want to include as part of the deal the DREAM Act, which would expand the existing program, according to Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who took part in meeting. Instead, the administration is seeking to protect a more narrow universe of young immigrants who already have temporary DACA protections.
“I think we still have a ways to go,” White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We’re pleased the bipartisan members are talking.”
The meeting came after a federal judge this week issued an injunction halting Trump’s plans to end DACA, providing the immigrants with temporary relief. The administration plans to appeal.
More than 1,000 DACA recipients daily will face deportation in March, advocates say. They are young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, but have temporary permits under DACA to work, attend school or serve in the military.
Only one Democrat, Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois — a leader of the bipartisan Senate group — was among the seven lawmakers at the noontime meeting. It included Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another leader of the bipartisan group, and five other House and Senate lawmakers.
Cotton, who has emerged as one of the strongest proponents of White House plans to limit legal immigration, called the bipartisan senators’ proposal a “joke.”
“It’s not even a fig leaf. It’s a pine needle,” Cotton told reporters after the meeting.
When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Trump that a separate group of congressional leaders was planning to continue its own discussions later Thursday, the president told them, “Go do that,” according to Cotton.
The Senate group’s proposal focused on four elements that had been agreed to during a meeting Trump convened with lawmakers earlier this week at the White House.
Their proposal centered on a deal that would offer DREAM Act-like deportation protections for the young immigrants in exchange for border security measures and new limits on legal immigration through family unification visas and the diversity lottery.
Cotton said the border security measures were insufficient and included only one year of funding for development of Trump’s proposed border wall, far short of the $18 billion the White House has requested from Congress. The proposal would have provided $1.6 billion for border security.
The group’s proposal also did not fully end family unification, also known as “chain migration,” and only delayed the ability of Dreamers to bring in some other family members, including their adult siblings.
Similarly, the diversity lottery was not eliminated, as some are seeking, but instead shifted its 50,000 annual visas to other immigrant groups, namely Salvadorans and others who must leave the country as Trump ends their temporary protected status.
It was the discussion about this provision that led to Trump’s comments. As Durbin listed the countries that would benefit, Trump questioned why they should.
Earlier Thursday, Durbin and Graham had reached out to the White House to update the president on their emerging deal. The president spoke “very positively” of the effort, according to one of the sources briefed on the meeting. Trump invited them to the White House to talk about it.
But when the senators arrived, so did other lawmakers, all Republicans, including some of the more strident opponents of their approach. “All of a sudden these other hard-line guys showed up,” the source said.
Republican leaders also distanced themselves from the bipartisan group’s plan.
McCarthy’s group includes the four No. 2 leaders in the House and Senate, which includes Durbin, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the GOP whip.
Cornyn told reporters that any deal needed support from more than the six senators who comprised the bipartisan group.
“It’s not going to be done by just a subgroup,” he said.
(Times staff writer Nina Agrawal in New York contributed to this report.)
©2018 Los Angeles Times
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* * *
Immigration hard-liners on DACA deal: Trump betrayed us
By Andrea Drusch - McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — The Republican Party’s toughest anti-immigration voices say they’ve been abandoned in the debate over the fate of the 800,000 young people living in the country under Obama-era protections.
There’s little they can do in Congress to stop what appears to be a looming deal between Republicans, Democrats and the White House, despite repeated assurances from then-candidate Donald Trump throughout his 2016 campaign that he would be immigration hard-liners’ champion.
With few voices left at the negotiating table, anti-immigration voices on Capitol Hill and around the country are scrambling to find what if any leverage they have left in the debate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“It looks to me like it’s shaping up to be a disaster, a calamity that the Democrats have dreamed of and engineered,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, long one of the GOP’s most outspoken hard-liners.
“Republicans have no motivation to do this,” King added. “They’re watching as Democrats are shifting the electorate in America, demographically speaking.”
Immigration hard-liners, who don’t want to see a path to legal status for DACA recipients, say they have few options to influence a pending deal.
A group of three Republicans and three Democrats offered a tentative deal Thursday, but it’s unclear that Trump and House Republicans will go along. The agreement would reportedly help DACA beneficiaries stay in this country, though details were unclear.
Hard-liners quickly rejected the Senate plan.
“It is almost astonishing to me that the same group of people that tried to pass a Senate bill under President Obama are now pushing for the same kind of response to the immigration crisis we have in the United States,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho.
Trump announced in September that he planned to end DACA March 5, making good on a campaign promise viewed as crucial by the conservatives who fueled his victory. He also asked Congress to come up with a solution that would codify the program without deporting its beneficiaries, who he called “good, educated and accomplished young people.”
The no-compromise contingent says Trump won the presidency, in part, by promising to be an ally on their issues. They watched in horror on Tuesday as he met at the White House with members of Congress from both parties to negotiate a deal to protect Dreamers from deportation.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘betrayal’ yet, because we haven’t reached the end of the line here. … But I think it’s really important for the president to hear from all of us,” conservative radio host Laura Ingraham said of the meeting. “Trump won this election in large part by having a different attitude than the rest of the GOP establishment on the issue of immigration.”
“I would call upon the president to go back to his campaign promise, the one that lived and existed January 20 of last year, which was to end DACA,” said King, who met with Trump to discuss the issue in December.
King said many immigration hard-liners, who were excluded from the White House meeting, are still weighing their options for leverage. He said next moves could include a news conference, legislation or collaboration with an outside group.
But even the toughest anti-immigration voices concede: Congress is negotiating on Trump’s terms.
“We certainly don’t think any amnesty ever is a good idea, but you also have to live in the real world where you see the administration signaling that they’re willing to do some trading in order to resolve the situation,” said Eric Ruark, director of research at NumbersUSA.
The prevailing view of congressional conservatives is that they must meet Trumps’ demands, even if an eventual deal could cost the president part of his base.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R- N.C., who chairs the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he would support a deal that allows protections for DACA recipients, as long as it met Trump’s requirements from securing the border, ending family-based or “chain” migration, and ending the diversity visa lottery.
“As long as (a deal) includes the four foundational principles … in exchange for relief for DACA recipients, I can certainly support that,” said Meadows.
Meadows acknowledged the divide Trump could cause in pushing for that kind of deal.
“It’s probably one of the few issues where there can be space between president and conservative members,” said Meadows. “It could create some daylight between the president and the grass roots.”
Labrador a leading voice on immigration control, was among four House Republicans who Thursday introduced their own DACA solution, the Securing America’s Future Act.
That plan, which allows DACA recipients to reapply for their protections every three years, is designed to appeal to conservatives.
Conservative media hosts were livid over Trump’s meeting with lawmakers Tuesday, saying he’d sold them out on a top priority.
“Two parties are united against the people today,” radio host Mark Levin said of the meeting on his show Tuesday.
Conservative radio host Michael Savage said Wednesday, “I realize that (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi has dreamers and Trump has dreamers, and the church has dreamers, but what happened to we, the American people, who dreamed about making America great again?”
©2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau
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