By LISA MASCARO
Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON â€” As he rejected a bipartisan compromise to resolve the standoff over so-called Dreamers, President Donald Trump asked participants in an Oval Office meeting Thursday why the United States should accept immigrants from â€śsâ€”hole countriesâ€ť in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, according to two people briefed on the meeting.
â€śWhat do we want Hait-ians here for?â€ť the president asked, according to the people briefed. â€śWhy do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from sâ€”hole countries?â€ť
The president added: â€śWe should have people from places like Norway.â€ť
Asked about the presidentâ€™s use of the slur, the White House did not deny it, but issued a statement saying Trump would â€śalways fight for the American people.â€ť While cruder and blunter than his past public statements, the presidentâ€™s comments were in keeping with his long-standing position 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 Uni-ted States.
Itâ€™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 â€śrapists.â€ť
Trumpâ€™s statement was met with quick condemnation.
â€śImmigrants from countries across the globe â€” including and especially those from Haiti and all parts of Africa â€” have helped build this country,â€ť said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. â€śThey should be welcomed and celebrated, not demeaned and insulted.â€ť
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has frequently sparred with Trump over his negative comments about Mexico, tweeted: â€śYour mouth is the foulest sâ€”hole in the world.â€ť
Albert Saint Jean, a Haitian American organizer with the New York-based Black Alliance for Just Im-migration, called Trumpâ€™s comments appalling and insulting.
Saint Jeanâ€™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 powersâ€™ legacy of involvement there.
â€śWhen these people come here, they create very productive communities and contribute to major economies like Miami, New York and Boston,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s showing the total lack of understanding he has of global policy.â€ť
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.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.