President Donald Trump reportedly asked lawmakers during a meeting in the Oval Office on Thursday why so many people from "shithole countries"—referring to Haiti and countries in Africa—immigrate to the United States, The Washington Post has reported.
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump reportedly asked Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
Trump also reportedly followed up the remark by asking why "people from countries like Norway" don't migrate as much to the U.S.
In a statement released on Thursday, the White House did not deny Trump made the remarks. Instead, the statement reinforces the President's stance on ending the visa lottery program, which aims to bring more immigrants from low-represented countries around the world.
The president will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration – two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country. Like other nations 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.
Trump's disparaging remarks were swiftly criticized online and on cable news networks.
"There are no words for language like this except for one: Racist," the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted on Thursday.
According to the Post, some lawmakers in the room were taken aback by Trump's remarks.
People briefed on the meeting said that a potential deal had been reached between Republicans and Democrats present at the meeting. The reported deal included $1.5 billion in funding for a border wall and drastic reductions in the visa lottery program.
There are no words for language like this except for one: Racist. https://t.co/KHLMiiHewh— ACLU (@ACLU) January 11, 2018
The Post has also reported that the group had discussed restoring Temporary Protection Status for Salvadorans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans. The Trump administration has revoked the special legal status of over 300,000 immigrants from these nations in recent months.