Haiti re­act with out­rage to Trump ‘shit­hole’ re­marks

Irish Examiner - - World News - Evens Sanon and Alan Fram

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.

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