President Donald Trump indicated that talks on creating a legislative fix for a program that helps undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children stay in the country have fallen apart after Democrats accused the president of saying a vulgar word about Haiti and other countries during a closed-door meeting, suggesting the country wants particular types of immigrants and not others.
Trump is under the gun again because of his mouth after The Washington Post reported, based on testimony from anonymous sources, that the president became frustrated over the idea of protecting immigrants from countries from whom his administration recently revoked temporary protected status during a meeting with lawmakers to discuss the comprehensive immigration reform bill on which Congress has been working.
“Why are we having all these people from sh**hole countries come here?” Trump allegedly said, according to The Post. The anonymous sources also accused Trump of favoring certain immigrants including those from Norway and certain Asian countries.
After the report hit, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who said he was at the meeting, came forward and confirmed the report.
“President Trump’s comments regarding Haiti and Africa are wrong and deeply offensive,” said U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19. “This type of language is counterproductive and undermines the U.S. and our relations around the world.”
Democrats also condemned Trump’s alleged comments.
“A repulsive, unacceptable remark, far beneath the dignity of the presidency,” said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “Our country is better than this.”
In November then Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke revoked temporary protected status for Haitians who came to the U.S. after an earthquake destroyed the island country in 2010.
That same month the Trump administration also revoked protected status from Nicaraguans and suggested it would gather more information on Honduras to determine if they will also take away protected status from that Central American country.
The TPS program, which was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 provides temporary residency for people in the U.S. from countries that cannot receive them either because those countries refuse to take their people back, or because war prevents them from going back to their home countries.
The protected status for Haitians was extended several times while President Barack Obama was in office, but was revoked with an 18 month extender to ensure a smooth transition.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen then revoked temporary protected status from Salvadorans on Monday, the largest group benefitting from the TPS program, who were given the status after two earthquakes hit the South American country in 2001. That decision stings in a special way for Salvadorans who faced oppression in the 1980s by a military government supported by the U.S. at that time.
In September the administration also revoked temporary status for people from Sudan.
Other countries that have temporary protected status include South Sudan through May 2019, Somalia through September 2018, Syria through May 2018, Yemen through September 2018 and Nepal through June 2018. At those dates the department will decide whether to extend the status or revoke it.
“Anyone who believes that this country is about keeping people out doesn’t understand what this country is all about. They have a short, short memory and they never really understood what made America great in the first place,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday. “Come here, poor, uneducated, but with a desire to work and improve and you can do it, and we will work with you to do it. That’s America.”
After the accusations against Trump spread the president used his Twitter megaphone to deny the accusations while also suggesting that talks surrounding a legislative fix to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals were falling apart. The program provides immigrants brought illegally into the U.S. as children with time and resources to resolve their immigration status.
The president has flip-flopped on the legislation Congress has been trying to craft with bipartisan support at first suggesting he would sign any bill that has bipartisan support and then imposing an ultimatum that he would not look at any bill that lacks money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. I never said, ‘take them out.’ This was made up by Democrats. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians,” Trump said on Twitter Friday. “The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican Senators and Congressmen was a big step backwards. The Wall was not properly funded, Chain and Lottery were made worse and the U.S. would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries.”
The president called for a merit-based system for accepting immigrants and the elimination of the current Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which was enacted 27 years ago, when Sayfullo Saipov of Uzbekistan ran down and killed eight people on a bike path in New York City in November.
“I want a merit-based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level. I want safety and security for our people. I want to stop the massive inflow of drugs,” Trump said Friday. “Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards.”
Faso is still hopeful about the talks to create bipartisan immigration reform and wants a solution despite Trump’s comments, according to Faso spokesman Joe Gierut.
An agreement on immigration reform seemed hopeful when Trump and members of Congress met at the White House to discuss the issue Tuesday.
“We must settle the fate of Dreamers and as the meeting at the White House showed, passing DACA protections into law is within reach,” said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “But if House Speaker Paul Ryan and the hard right in the House of Representatives coalesce behind U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposal on DACA, then we’ll have no deal.”
Goodlatte’s bill, which he and other hardline conservatives revealed Wednesday, would allow DACA recipients temporary legal status that they can renew every three years indefinitely, but does not allow those immigrants to become citizens. The bill also includes many of the border security measures on Trump’s wish list.
The bill has yet to win the support of most House Republicans, who constitute the majority party, while moderate Republicans and other conservatives back a different bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who is a member of a conservative group called the Freedom Caucus.