President Donald Trump’s vulgar comments to U.S. lawmakers explaining his opposition to Haitian and African migrants has sparked outrage and condemnation at home and abroad.
The U.N. human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, called the comments racist. “It’s about opening the door wider to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia that will potentially disrupt and destroy the lives of many people,” said Colville.
Trump reportedly said migrants from Africa come from “sh**hole countries,” a remark Democratic Senator Richard Durbin confirmed that Trump used during a meeting on immigration.
The African Union said it is “frankly alarmed” by the president’s reported statement. “Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told the Associated Press.
“This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity,” Kalondo said.
The African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, said Trump’s remarks are “extremely offensive.”
Raoul Peck, a Haitian-born director and former Haitian minister of culture, said he was “shocked, appalled and outraged” by Trump’s remark.
“The responsibility of being the president of this great country is not a game nor a reality show,” Peck tweeted. “It demands basic education, basic insight, a dose of humanity and some intelligence. Mr Trump does not and cannot pass any of these grades.”
US diplomats summoned
State Department officials said Friday American diplomats in Haiti and in Botswana had been summoned by government officials to explain the remarks. Botswana issued a formal statement, seeking clarification on whether the United States truly regards the African country in the derogatory way reported.
Haiti’s ambassador to the U.S., Paul G. Altidor, also condemned Trump’s remarks.
“In the spirit of the people of Haiti we feel in the statements, if they were made, the president was either misinformed or mis-educated about Haiti and its people,” Altidor said in a written statement.
The State Department confirmed Friday that U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley has stepped down saying his resignation had been in the works for some time. Reuters reports Feeley wrote in his resignation letter that he could no longer serve under President Trump in an apolitical fashion.
Asked about the ambassador’s letter Friday, Under Secretary Steve Goldstein told reporters, “Everyone has a line they cannot cross. If that was his line, he was right to resign.”
Goldstein said career U.S. diplomats care deeply about the people in the countries they serve. He added Foreign Service officers continue their work as usual, though he acknowledged that job might be a little harder today after the controversy surrounding Trump’s comments.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who spoke to new civil services employees on Friday, did not directly address the president’s comments.
US lawmakers speak out
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan told a forum he found the president’s remarks “unfortunate and unhelpful” and said the U.S. should support the contributions of immigrants.
U.S. Republican Rep. Mia Love, whose family came from Haiti, said the president’s comments are “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values” and she called on Trump to apologize.
Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida said it is “incomprehensible” a U.S. president would utter such remarks.
Minnesota state Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat who in 2016 became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislative office in the United States, said he is “disturbed” by the president’s words.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican, tweeted late Thursday, “My ancestors came from countries not nearly as prosperous as the one we live in today. I’m glad that they were welcomed here.”
The White House released a statement Thursday that defended the president’s views, without referencing his specific comments.
“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.”
VOA correspondents Katherine Gypson, Natalie Liu, Steve Herman, Margaret Besheer and Michael Bowman contributed to this report.
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