(Editor’s Note: Beware of vulgar language in fourth paragraph.)
On the eighth anniversary of the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti, President Donald Trump went on social media Friday and denied making any incendiary comments the day prior about the country or Haitian immigrants with protected status.
“Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country,” Trump tweeted..
The inflammatory comments were made at a DACA meeting in the White House Thursday meant to foster a compromise on immigration policy to extend Dreamers’ stay in the country, along with their parents, and increase funds for border security, according to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the lone Democrat in the bipartisan meeting.
During the meeting Trump referred to people under temporary protected status from Haiti and some African nations as coming from “shithole” countries and asked why they should be accepted in the United States after he realized that an extension to Dreamers and their parents would also benefit them, according to Durbin to CBS this morning.
The recently elected Councilwoman Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) was not pleased by Trump’s contentious remarks.
“The president’s divisive and racially charged remarks about Haiti and African Nations are deplorable,” said Adams. “As a country we are better than this. I stand with our immigrant communities as immigrants of all nations are part of the fabric of America and should never be verbally or otherwise abused by Donald Trump.”
State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) reiterated the same sentiments.
“The president’s comments are reprehensible and blatantly bigoted,” Comrie said. “Haitian and African immigrants and their descendants have made immeasurable contributions to our city and state, and it’s ridiculous to have to reiterate this because our president continues to disappoint our nation and the world with his disparaging rhetoric. These comments are particularly insensitive considering Jan. 12 marks eight years since Haiti was devastated by the earthquake.”
Elsie Saint-Louis, the executive director of Haitian-Americans United for Progress, the oldest Haitian social service agency in New York, had a few choice words for Trump.
“President Donald Trump deployed his basic stock in trade, bigotry and xenophobia, to shut down discussions on immigration with members of Congress at a White House meeting yesterday,” Saint-Louis said. “According to many participants, he used Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as the punching bag of the moment, denigrating them and their people in one of the most vulgar terms a white supremacist could have used towards immigrants and refugees of color.”
The people from the 10 nations under TPS are here in the United States because they were displaced from their countries due to natural disasters, they were asylum seekers from war-torn countries or they were escaping political strife from their home countries, according U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Trump also went on social media to say that he “never said to take them out.”
However, the president’s administration terminated TPS for Haitians in November of last year, despite the country suffering a setback to its recovery from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, according to reliefweb.int, a site that follows humanitarian efforts on a global scale.
After the 2010 earthquake, there was a cholera outbreak that produced 21,000 cases, but there are currently still over 7,000 people with the disease, according to UNICEF.
Trump’s administration has also terminated TPS for over 200,000 Salvadorans who came to the United States after El Salvador was rocked by two earthquakes in January and February in 2001, according to the Dept. of Homeland Security.
Despite the infrastructure recovering, 3.5 million people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, another country that already had its status terminated, are suffering from food shortages because of a drought in those Central American countries, according to Oxfam International, an organization dedicated to combatting poverty.
Trump’s Thursday statements did not shock Gerald Michaud, a Haitian TPS recipient who works as a wheelchair attendant at LaGuardia Airport in East Elmhurst.
“I am very, very angry at the president’s words, but not surprised,” Michaud said. “He is clearly showing the racism he feels, and that he’s been carrying out through many of his policies.”
“We immigrants make extraordinary sacrifices for our families and for this country,” Michaud added. “I want him to know that attacking nations with powerful spirits to protect them is a big mistake.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose
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