Haiti react with outrage to Trump ‘shithole’ remarks
Haitians reacted with outrage to reports that US President Donald Trump questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa.
He spoke during an Oval Office meeting with members of Congress to discuss immigration on Thursday, the eve of the anniversary of the 2010 earthquake, one of the deadliest disasters in modern history.
President Jovenel Moise’s government issued a strongly worded statement denouncing what it called a “racist” view of Haitian immigrants and people from African countries.
“The Haitian government condemns in the strongest terms these abhorrent and obnoxious remarks which, if proven, reflect a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States.”
At first the White House did not deny that the remark was made. Yesterday, the president tweeted that his language was “tough” but insisted he did not say anything derogatory about Haitians aside from noting it is a poor country.
Haitians at home and abroad were stunned, and internet message boards and radio stations were flooded with angry and anguished comments.
“It’s shocking he would say it on the anniversary,” said 28-year-old Natacha Joseph, who was selling rice and beans from a basket near the general hospital in downtown Port-au-Prince. “I will ask Jesus to protect Haiti from the devil, and Trump is the devil.”
Mr Trump’s comments 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 Mr Trump has insisted.
The lawmakers had hoped Mr Trump would back their accord, an agreement among six senators evenly split among Republicans and Democrats, ending a monthslong, 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.
Mr Durbin said people who would be allowed to stay in the US included those who had fled there after disasters hit their homes in places such as El Salvador, Haiti, and Guatemala.
Mr Trump specifically questioned why the US would want to admit more people from Haiti. As for Africa, he asked why more people from “shithole countries” should be allowed into the US, the sources said. The president suggested that instead, the US should
allow more entrants from countries like Norway. Mr Trump met this week with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
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.
But Mr Durbin rejected Mr Trump’s effort to distance himself from claims that he used vulgar language to describe African countries. He said “shitholes” was “the exact word used by the president not just once but repeatedly”.
He added: “When the question was asked about Haitians ... he said, ‘Haitians? Do we need more Hatians?’”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said, “President Trump’s comments are racist and a disgrace”.
Republican Mia Love of Utah, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, said Mr Trump’s comments were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.” She said: “This behaviour is unacceptable from the leader of our nation” and called on Mr Trump to apologise to the American people “and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”
Mr Trump has called himself the “least racist person that you’ve ever met.”
The UN human rights office rejected as “racist” and inciting xenophobia the reported remarks.
“These are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a Geneva news briefing.
“You can not dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome,” he added.
The issue was more than “vulgar language”, he said. “It’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy lives of many people.”
New York Daily News tweeted its response to Mr Trump’s comments.