The comments, first reported by The Washington Post, sparked anger among Democrats, and revived questions about Trump’s tendency to make racially charged remarks.
Trump sat down with senators and congressmen at the White House to discuss a proposed bipartisan deal that would limit immigrants from bringing family members into the country and restrict the green card visa lottery in exchange for shielding hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to people briefed on the meeting who spoke with The Washington Post.
The New York Times later reported the same comment, citing unnamed people with direct knowledge of the meeting.
The president was referring to African countries and Haiti, both newspapers said, with the Post including El Salvador on its list.
Trump then suggested the United States should welcome immigrants from places like Norway, whose prime minister met with Trump on Jan. 10.
“Why do we need more Haitians?” he added, according to the Post account. “Take them out.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin came to the White House to outline their bipartisan
compromise, but found themselves in the room with several Republican immigration hardliners.
Graham and Durbin are leading efforts to codify protections for so-called “dreamers,” immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children.
In exchange, the deal would end extended family “chain migration.”
Last year, Trump scrapped the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protected the immigrants, and set a deadline of March 5 for Congress to legislate a fix.
The White House did not deny the account of Trump’s use of language, but instead suggested the president was “fighting for permanent solutions” that strengthen the nation, in part through the use of a merit-based immigration system.
Democrats seized on Trump’s slur against Haitians and Africans to suggest he is anti-immigrant.
“We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colors,” congressman Luis Gutierrez said.