According to recent reports, President Donald Trump has lashed out at immigrants in a foul-mouthed Oval Office outburst that a UN spokesman later condemned as “shocking”, “shameful” and “racist”.
President Trump reportedly asked lawmakers during talks on an immigration deal: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
According to reports, the president was apparently referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
However, the White House made no attempt to deny the comment.
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has been trying to limit the number of family members of immigrants who can enter the United States, and has moved to end the protected status of thousands of immigrants already in the US.
President Trump’s reported remark came as lawmakers from both parties visited him on January 11 to propose a bipartisan immigration deal.
According to media, Democratic Senator Richard Durbin had just been discussing US temporary residency permits granted to citizens of countries hit by natural disasters, war or epidemics.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that President Trump told lawmakers the US should instead be taking in migrants from countries like Norway, whose prime minister visited him a day earlier.
The newspaper quoted the president as saying: “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was in January 11 meeting at the White House, but would not comment on the president’s reported slur.
A statement from White House spokesman Raj Shah said: “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.
“Like other countries that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation.
“He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”
In response, UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said: “If confirmed these are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the United States, I’m sorry but there is no other word for this but racist.”
The UN official spoke of a 2016 presidential campaign speech in which Donald Trump called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists, and to his response last year to a white supremacist march that ended in violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the president said “both sides” were to blame.
Rupert Colville said such comments went against “universal values the world has been striving for” since the end of World War Two, and opened “the door to humanity’s worst side”.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) accused President Trump of falling “deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of racism and xenophobia”.
Mia Love, a Utah Republican and the only Haitian-American in Congress, demanded President Trump apologize for the “unkind, divisive, elitist” comments.
The Washington Post broke the story with the word “shithole” in its headline and in the alert that the newspaper sent out to followers’ smartphones.
Fox News used asterisks to obscure the offensive word along the bottom of the screen, but CNN and MSNBC carried it in full.
Lawmakers reportedly proposed restoring so-called Temporary Protected Status (TPS) permits for certain countries, allowing their residents leave to remain in the United States because their home countries are temporarily unsafe for them.
In return, they were said to have offered $1.5 billion for a wall that President Trump wants built on the US border with Mexico.
This week the Trump administration announced it was withdrawing TPS for more than 200,000 people from El Salvador.
The decision gives Salvadoreans who have been living in the US for nearly three decades until next year to leave, seek lawful residency or face possible deportation.
People from El Salvador were granted provisional US residency after an earthquake devastated the Central American country in 2001.