Civil rights groups and lawmakers on Capitol Hill condemned racially hostile comments that President Donald Trump made during a recent meeting about immigration reform with Democrats and Republicans at the White House.
The New York Times reported: “President Trump on Thursday balked at an immigration deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, demanding to know at a White House meeting why he should accept immigrants from ‘sh–hole countries’ rather than from places like Norway, according to people with direct knowledge of the conversation.”
The U.S. congressmen that attended the meeting, according to The New York Times, included Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.); and Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.).
Trump’s disparaging comments received quick condemnation in the civil rights community and across the political spectrum.
Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association tweeted: “It is a glaring contradiction that as the US is preparing to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as a national holiday, President Trump utters racist statements against Africa and people of color.”
In a statement about the President’s comments posted to her Twitter account, Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), the only Republican serving in the U.S. House of Representatives of Haitian descent, said that his “behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”
“My parents came from one of those countries but proudly took the oath of allegiance to the Unites States and took on the responsibilities of everything that being a citizen comes with,” Love said. “They never took a thing from our federal government. They worked hard, paid taxes, and rose from nothing to take care of and provide opportunities for their children. They taught their children to do the same. That’s the American dream.”
Love added that Trump must apologize to “the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.”
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that President Trump’s comments are yet another confirmation of his racially insensitive and ignorant views.
“It also reinforces the concerns that we hear every day, that the president’s slogan, ‘Make America Great Again,’ is really code for ‘Make America White Again,’” Richmond said. “All of the reservations we have had about negotiating with him on immigration are well-founded. President Trump is clearly more concerned with ending the future flow of immigrants from Africa and the African diaspora than providing relief to Dreamers who came here through no fault of their own. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe that we can negotiate in good faith with a person who holds such vile and reprehensible beliefs.”
Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said Trump’s crude statement regarding immigration from Haiti and African nations is appalling for its lack of compassion, and stunning for its ignorance about the contributions of Haitian and African immigrants.
“Even more troubling was the fact that his slur was coupled with a desire for more immigration from overwhelmingly White countries like Norway,” Morial said. “Congress must reject this divisive and racially discriminatory approach to immigration policy.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, president and founder of National Action Network (NAN), said that Trump’s deplorable statements while meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House regarding an immigration deal go beyond racial insensitivity.
“For the president to make these remarks just after he was quoted as saying all Haitians have AIDS and Nigerians live in huts, demonstrates a consistent pattern of racism and bigotry,” Sharpton said. “It is further concerning that he is doing it in policy meetings that will impact laws in this country and abroad. Trump uses White nationalist rhetoric to continue to explicitly defile, disrespect, and destroy communities of color. His lack of presidential decorum is a disgrace to our country’s highest office.
“We must challenge the Senate and Congress to repudiate President Trump’s comments and every senator that was in that meeting should publicly denounce him,” he said. “They should also explain why they didn’t say anything in the meeting—and if they fail to answer they should be targeted by the civil rights community as accomplices.”
Sharpton said that Trump’s comments were the ultimate disrespect to hundreds of communities who believe in the American dream — the same dream of equality and justice that Dr. King had.
“We will not let Trump or his administration forget these words when we vote this year or in 2020,” he said.
The NAACP blasted the president’s alleged comments, calling it “a low point for our nation.”
“As our nation fights to move forward, our president falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of racism and xenophobia,” the organization said in a statement issued Thursday. “It is clear that the president wants to return America to its ugly past of white supremacy where immigration laws as well as all laws of society only favored individuals from European nations and European ancestry.
“As we head into 49th NAACP Image Awards being held on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s holiday for the first time to honor his legacy, we realize that the Bull Connor of our day is none other than the president of our nation,” the civil rights group said. “As King fought then, we fight today against those seeking to implement slicker and newer forms of racial segregation.”