African en­voys de­cry Trump re­marks

U.N. am­bas­sadors de­mand re­trac­tion and apol­ogy

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - Fre­dreka Schouten

WASH­ING­TON – Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­marks about African coun­tries and Haiti drew con­dem­na­tion from a group of African am­bas­sadors to the United Na­tions who called them “out­ra­geous, racist and xeno­pho­bic” and de­manded a re­trac­tion and apol­ogy.

Saman­tha Power, who was U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, shared the am­bas­sadors’ state­ment on Twit­ter. “Whoa. I’ve never seen a state­ment like this by African coun­tries di­rected at the United States,” she wrote.

The state­ment, is­sued late Fri­day af­ter the African am­bas­sadors held an emer­gency meeting, comes amid an in­ter­na­tional out­cry over Trump re­port­edly say­ing he’d rather have more im­mi­grants from Nor­way and fewer from Haiti and “shit­hole coun­tries” in Africa.

Trump has seemed to deny us­ing those words but ac­knowl­edged on Twit­ter that he used “tough” lan­guage dur­ing White House ne­go­ti­a­tions this past week with law­mak­ers on an im­mi­gra­tion bill.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the only Demo­crat at the meeting with Trump, con­firmed the vul­gar com­ments, telling re­porters the pres­i­dent said “things that were hate-filled, vile and racist.”

Two Trump al­lies in at­ten­dance, Sens. Tom Cot­ton of Arkansas and David Pur­due of Georgia, is­sued a state­ment say­ing they did “not re­call the pres­i­dent say­ing those com­ments specif­i­cally.”

But Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham, R-S.C., is­sued a state­ment that did not dis­pute the re­marks: “Fol­low­ing com­ments by the pres­i­dent, I said my piece di­rectly to him yes­ter­day. The pres­i­dent and all those at­tend­ing the meeting know what I said and how I feel.”

In their state­ment, the African am­bas­sadors said they were con­cerned “about the con­tin­u­ing and grow­ing trend from the US ad­min­is­tra­tion to­ward Africa and peo­ple of African de­scent to den­i­grate the con­ti­nent and peo­ple of color.”

The con­tro­versy, stem­ming from dis­cus­sions about whether to in­clude im­mi­grants from El Sal­vador, Haiti and African coun­tries in an im­mi­gra­tion bill, ap­pears to have dimmed chances of reach­ing a deal on im­mi­gra­tion in the com­ing weeks.

Law­mak­ers are un­der a March 5 dead­line to write leg­is­la­tion to change the Obama-era De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals pro­gram, also known as DACA.

The pro­gram ex­tends le­gal pro­tec­tions to 800,000 im­mi­grants who en­tered the United States il­le­gally as chil­dren. Trump ended the pro­gram, and find­ing a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion is a key is­sue in ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the White House and con­gres­sional Democrats on im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

On Satur­day morn­ing, Trump took to Twit­ter to slam the Democrats as “all talk and no ac­tion. They are do­ing noth­ing to fix DACA. Great op­por­tu­nity missed. Too bad!”

Trump’s al­lies have ar­gued that the con­tro­versy over his re­marks is overblown.

An­thony Scara­mucci, whose brief ten­ure as White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor ended shortly af­ter his ex­ple­tive-filled com­ments about his ad­min­is­tra­tion col­leagues ap­peared in The New Yorker, said Trump “is not a racist.”

And other Trump back­ers said the pres­i­dent’s re­marks show he’s aligned with a long-stand­ing con­ser­va­tive push to re­shape im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy into a merit-based sys­tem rather than one based on fam­ily ties or ad­mit­ting those from coun­tries be­set by poverty.

“The point is, if you have a Ph.D., I don’t care what coun­try you’re from, we want you,” Barry Ben­nett, a for­mer Trump ad­viser, told The Hill newspaper.

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