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CHICAGO (CBSMiami) — Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) fired back at President Trump Friday for denying that he called Haiti and African nations “s***hole countries,” saying Trump’s denials are, quote, “not true.”
“I cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Durbin told reporters in Chicago, Friday prior to a breakfast honoring famed civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the closed-door meeting, lawmakers were discussing legal protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
Friday morning, Durbin explained what was happening when he made the controversial comments.
“When the question was raised about Haitians, for example, we have a group that have temporary protected status in the United States because they were the victims of crises and disasters and political upheaval. The largest group is El Salvadoran, the second is Honduran and the third is Haitian. And when I mentioned that fact to him, he said, ‘Haitians? Do we need more Haitians’?”
Durbin continued, “When we started to describe the immigration from Africa that was being protected in this bi-partisan major, that’s when he used his vile and vulgar comments, calling the nations they come from “s***holes.” The exact word used by the president, not just once, but repeatedly.”
Mr. Trump on Friday morning tweeted that he had used “tough language” but denied he had used the profane phrase.
He also denied he had said anything insulting about Haitians, tweeting that he “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”
Durbin’s reaction to the tweets of denial, “You’ve seen the comments in the press. I’ve not read one of them that’s inaccurate. To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning, denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hateful things and he said them repeatedly.”
Durbin also said when he tried to explain to the president why it was he shouldn’t use the phrase “chain migration,” which refers to the process by which immigrants bring their extended family into the U.S.
“When it came to the issue of ‘chain migration,’ I said to the president, ‘Do you realize how painful that term is to so many people?'” Durbin recalled. “‘African-Americans believe they migrated to America in chains and when you talk about chain migration, it hurts them personally.’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s a good line.'”
Durbin’s comments came the day after his bipartisan group of immigration negotiators found an agreement to protect hundreds of thousands of recipients of the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. In exchange for an increase in border security funding, the group had agreed to a plan that would give DACA participants a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship and even find protections for individuals with Temporary Protected Status from countries like El Salvador and Haiti.
But, while Durbin has said his group will continue trying to sell its plan to fellow members, the future of the DACA negotiations are muddied now. Trump’s comments call into question whether moderate Republicans can really pull Trump to the center on immigration at all.