The Washington Post reported Thursday that President Donald Trump, during a bi-partisan meeting regarding immigration law, wondered why the U.S. was allowing immigrants from “shithole countries” into the nation.
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday.
The comments left lawmakers taken aback, according to people familiar with their reactions. Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) proposed cutting the visa lottery program by 50 percent and prioritizing countries already in the system, a White House official said.
The Post says the White House declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.
Three Republican and three Democratic senators said Thursday they’d reached an election-year accord to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation and to bolster border security. But the White House and several GOP lawmakers said they’d not accepted the proposal, plunging the issue back into uncertainty just eight days before a deadline that threatens a government shutdown.
Two of the bargainers — No. 2 Senate Democrat Richard Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — traveled to the White House early Thursday to shop their framework to President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. The pact also includes restrictions on immigrants’ abilities to bring relatives to the U.S. and termination of a visa lottery system that has helped gain entry for people from African and other diverse countries.
“I’m hopeful it will lead to a breakthrough,” Graham, who has forged a close relationship with Trump despite their prior political rivalry, told reporters afterward.
But in an afternoon of drama and confusing developments, three other GOP lawmakers — including two hardliners on immigration — were also in Trump’s office for Thursday’s meeting and said it did not produce the results Graham and Durbin were hoping for.
“There has not been a deal reached yet,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But she added, “We haven’t quite gotten there, but we feel like we’re close.”
Also in Thursday’s Oval Office meeting were House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and two conservative lawmakers who’ve taken a hard line on immigration: Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
One person with direct knowledge of that meeting said Durbin and Graham hadn’t expected the three GOP lawmakers to be there. It was unclear why the three other Republicans attended.
–Staff reports, with AP reports