WASHINGTON — In shockingly candid form even for him, President Donald Trump on Thursday asked in an Oval Office meeting why the United States would continue to admit immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa. The statement came as Trump turned down a bipartisan immigration agreement, while simultaneously declaring that he would prefer to accept immigrants from countries like Norway.
The White House offered no denial and even doubled down on the remarks, issuing a statement that the president is in favor only of immigration policies that welcome “those who can contribute to our society.”
Of course, in the typical right-hand-left-hand confusion that has come to characterize this administration, Trump promptly tweeted at cross-purposes to the White House’s message, stating that: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used.”
Trump’s advertisement of his preferred immigrants has renewed accusations of racism that have dogged the president since his inflammatory remarks about Mexicans close to the launch of his campaign.
With Trump serving as the first president to take up part-time residence in Florida (with his “Winter White House” at Palm Beach‘s Mar-a-Lago), it’s perhaps fitting that Florida lawmakers should be among the first to weigh in on the “shithole” comment, as they were.
Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, tweeted, “The president calling #Haiti a ‘shithole country’ ignores the contributions thousands of Haitians made to our #SoFla community and nation.”
She also said to CBS Miami that Trump “needs to understand that lives are at stake when he makes such reckless comments.”
Another Republican Rep. from the sunshine state—Carlos Curbelo—went a bit easier in his condemnation of the president’s words, at least offering him a chance to explain. “Under no circumstances is it acceptable to degrade, denigrate, or dehumanize #TPS immigrants,” Curbelo tweeted. “The White House must immediately explain the situation and leave no doubt regarding what was said and in what context.”
Interestingly, Trump made statements about Haitians at a 2016 Miami event during the campaign that seem to contradict his recent explosive statement, declaring that “the Haitian people deserve better” and that he would “be [Haitian-Americans’] greatest champion.”
Clearly, the president appears to have since adjusted his views on Haitians.
Among Trump’s other racist highlights are his lengthy campaign to promote the idea that President Barack Obama was not really born in America, his early presidential campaign assertions that Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” and were “rapists” and his declaration that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a disastrous Charlottesville event where one side was made of white supremacists.
Trump’s stark rejection of the deal presented to him means that the battle over immigration wages on in Washington. If nothing else, though, the president has made it undeniably clear where he stands on the issue.