- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2018

President Trump told lawmakers meeting on immigration at the White House Thursday that the U.S. should stop accepting immigrants from “sh—hole countries” like Haiti and El Salvador, according to a report.

“Why are we having all these people from sh—hole countries coming here?” Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office meeting, the Washington Post reported.

Among those present at the meeting were Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. The report said Mr. Trump was arguing against restoring protections for people who arrived in the U.S. from El Salvador, Haiti, and African countries.

The president also reportedly said that the U.S. should “bring more people from countries like Norway.” Mr. Trump ended protective status for 250,000 Salvadorans this week.

White House spokesman Raj Shah didn’t refute the report but said in a statement that “certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”

“The president will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration — two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country,” Mr. 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. He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”

Mr. Trump wants to end the diversity visa lottery system, which allocates 50,000 immigrant visas annually to people from countries with low immigration rates to the U.S.

“They call it ‘visa lottery,’ I just call it ‘lottery,’ ” Mr. Trump said at a meeting Wednesday with lawmakers. “But countries come in and they put names in a hopper. They’re not giving you their best names; common sense means they’re not giving you their best names. They’re giving you people that they don’t want. And then we take them out of the lottery. And when they do it by hand — where they put the hand in a bowl — they’re probably — what’s in their hand are the worst of the worst.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who lost to Mr. Trump in the GOP presidential primary, said on Twitter, “For every one step forward @POTUS takes when it comes to judgment and good, coherent policy decisions, he inexplicably and without fail takes ten steps back.”

“I hope today’s comments were just a crass and flippant mistake, and do not reflect the hateful racism they imply,” said Mr. Bush, whose wife Columba is Mexican-American. “We need comprehensive immigration reform that reflects our values as a country and recognizes our economic needs. This requires a merit-based system that attracts talented, freedom-loving individuals from across the globe, whether they are from Haiti, Norway or anywhere else.”

Rep. Louis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who champions illegal immigrants, said the comments confirmed that the president was a racist.

“As an American, I am ashamed of the president,” he said. “His comments are disappointing, unbelievable, but not surprising. We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colors. We can now we say with 100 percent confidence that the President is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence.”

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, Louisiana Democrat and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the president’s reported comments “racist” and urged lawmakers to reject Mr. Trump’s efforts to end the visa diversity lottery program.

“President Trump’s comments are yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views,” Mr. Richmond said. “It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan Make America Great Again is really code for Make America White Again.”

He said lawmakers’ “reservations we have had about negotiating with him on immigration are well-founded.”

“President Trump is clearly more concerned with ending the future flow of immigrants from Africa and the African diaspora than providing relief to ‘Dreamers’ who came here through no fault of their own,” the lawmaker said. “Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that we can negotiate in good faith with a person who holds such vile and reprehensible beliefs.”

Mr. Richmond said the president “has injected his racist policies into these negotiations, mainly his unreasonable demands to completely end the Diversity Visa Program.”

Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino said Mr. Trump’s reported comments about people from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries were “disgusting and disgraceful.”

“That the president of the United States would talk this way about people who are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries is shameful,” Ms. Massimino said. “Congress must not give in to this hateful, racist, and divisive narrative coming out of the White House. America is counting on you to defend human dignity by standing firm for our commitment to protect the persecuted.”

Others stuck up for Mr. Trump.

Fox News host Jesse Watters defended the president’s reported remark on “The Five,” saying the “forgotten men and women” of the president’s base wouldn’t object to the comments.

“This is how the forgotten men and women of America talk at the bar,” Mr. Watters said. “If you’re at a bar, and you’re in Wisconsin, and you think they’re bringing in a bunch of Haiti people, or El Salvadorans, or people from Niger, this is how some people talk.”

He added, “Is it graceful? No. Is it polite, or delicate? Absolutely not. Is it a little offensive? Of course it is. But you know what? This doesn’t move the needle at all.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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