Trump blasted for ‘racist’ remark
WASHINGTON: Donald Trump was under fire from several quarters last night after he questioned why the US should permit more immigrants from “shithole countries” under revamped immigration rules.
African nations and the UN human rights agency blasted the US President’s comment as shameful and racist.
Mr Trump made the remark in the Oval Office as two senators described details to him of a bipartisan compromise among six senators that would extend protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants and strengthen border protections.
The senators had hoped the President would back their accord, ending a months-long, bitter dispute over protecting so-called Dreamers. The White House later rejected their proposed agreement, plunging the issue back into uncertainty just a week before a deadline that threatens a government shutdown.
During their conversation, Dick Durbin, the No 2 Democrat in the Senate, was explaining 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 some other way for them to apply.
Senator Durbin said people would be allowed to stay in the US who fled there after disasters hit their homes in places including El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti.
Mr Trump specifically questioned why the US would want to admit more people from Haiti. He also mentioned Africa and asked why more people from “shithole countries” should be allowed into the US, White House sources said.
The President suggested that instead, the US should allow more entrants from countries like Norway, whose Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, he met this week.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Mr Trump’s remark could “potentially damage and disrupt the lives of many people”.
Repeating the term attributed to Mr Trump, Mr Colville said: “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’.’’
He said the comments, if confirmed, were “shocking and shameful” and “I’m sorry, but there’s no other word one can use but racist”.
Mr Colville said the comment could endanger lives by potentially fanning xenophobia.
“It legitimises the targeting of people based on who they are,’’ he said. “This isn’t just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side.’’
South Africa’s ruling party called the comment “extremely offensive”. Deputy secretary-general Jesse Duarte of the African National Congress said developing countries did have difficulties but the US had millions of people out of work or without healthcare.
“We would not deign to make comments as derogatory” as Mr Trump’s, she said.
The African Union said it was “frankly alarmed” at the statement. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said.
“This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”
South African media outlet Daily Maverick said: “Casual Friday at the White House is soon to include hoods and tiki torches at this rate.”
Asked about the remarks, White House spokesman Raj Shah did not deny them. “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” he said.
The Trump administration announced late last year that it would end a temporary residency permit program that allowed nearly 60,000 citizens from Haiti to live and work in the US following a devastating 2010 earthquake.
The agreement that Senator Durbin and Republican Lindsey Graham described to Mr Trump also includes his $US1.6 billion ($2bn) request for a first instalment on his long-sought border wall, aides familiar with the agreement said. Mr Trump’s request covers 120km of border wall as part of a 10-year, $US18bn proposal.
Democrats including Senator Durbin had long vowed they would not fund the wall but are accepting the opening request as part of a broader plan that protects from deportation about 800,000 younger immigrants brought to the country as children and now here illegally, the Dreamers.
The deal also includes restrictions on rules allowing immigrants to bring some relatives to the US.
Maria Hunken was one of 18 people arrested in New York yesterday protesting against the detention of immigration rights activist Ravi Ragbir, a citizen of Trinidad who has been fighting deportation after a fraud conviction