WASHINGTON (AP) — In bluntly vulgar language, President Donald Trump questioned Thursday why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “s***hole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway, as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, according to people briefed on the extraordinary Oval Office conversation. Trump on Friday denied using that language.
Trump’s contemptuous description of an entire continent startled lawmakers in the meeting and immediately revived charges that the president is racist. The White House did not deny his remark but issued a statement saying Trump supports immigration policies that welcome “those who can contribute to our society.”
Yet Trump himself tweeted Friday: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.” He went on to criticize the immigration deal, saying: “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the president’s tweet.
Trump’s comments Thursday came as two senators presented details of a bipartisan compromise that would extend protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants — and also strengthen border protections, as Trump has insisted.
The lawmakers had hoped Trump would back their accord, an agreement among six senators evenly split among Republicans and Democrats, ending a months-long, bitter dispute over protecting the “dreamers.” But the White House later rejected it, plunging the issue back into uncertainty just eight days before a deadline that threatens a government shutdown.
Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’ s No. 2 Democrat, explained 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 another way for them to apply. Durbin said people who would be allowed to stay in the U.S. included those who had fled here after disasters hit their homes in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti.