Lawmakers slam Trump for referring to Haiti, African allies as 'shithole countries'

WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Thursday questioned why the United States would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations, referring to some as "shithole countries," according to two sources familiar with the comments.

Trump's comments, made in the White House, came as Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham briefed the president on a newly drafted immigration bill being touted by a bipartisan group of senators, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified.

Other government officials were present during the conversation, the sources said.

The lawmakers were describing how certain immigration programs operate, including one to give safe haven in the United States to people from countries suffering from natural disasters or civil strife.

One of the sources who was briefed on the conversation said that Trump said, "Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They're shithole countries ... We should have more people from Norway."

The second source familiar with the conversation, said Trump also questioned the need for Haitians in the United States.

Many Democrats and some Republican lawmakers slammed Trump for his remarks.

Republican U.S. Representative Mia Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, said the comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values" and called on Trump to apologize to the American people and to the countries he denigrated.

Another Republican Representative, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Cuba and whose south Florida district includes many Haitian immigrants, said: "Language like that shouldn't be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn't be heard in the White House."

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, a frequent Trump critic, said the president's comment "smacks of blatant racism, the most odious and insidious racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy."

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Faces of Trump's immigration crackdown
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Faces of Trump's immigration crackdown
Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, waits to be processed after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, has his fingerprints taken after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (R), 53, arrests Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, waits to be processed after being taken into custody by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (R), 53, arrests Mexican national Adalberto Magana-Gonzalez, 44, in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team takes immigration fugitives into custody in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Handcuffs lie in a box at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Fugitive Operations office in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (L), 53, arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field (R), 53, and Field Office Director David Marin arrest an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Field Office Director Jorge Field, 53, arrests an Iranian immigrant in San Clemente, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Fugitive Operations team member arrests an Iranian immigrant in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "NICHOLSON ARREST" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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TPS PROGRAM

The program that was being discussed at the White House meeting is called Temporary Protection Status. Trump has moved to end the status for immigrants from El Salvador, which could result in 200,000 Salvadorans legally in the United States being deported, and other countries.

The bipartisan Senate plan would attempt to maintain TPS in return for ending or changing a "diversity" lottery program that has been aimed at allowing up to 50,000 people a year from countries with few emigres to the United States.

Asked about Trump's quips, White House spokesman Raj Shah said: "Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people."

"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," Shah said.

Another source familiar with the meeting said Trump was questioning why the United States should take in unskilled laborers from the countries under discussion and should instead welcome immigrants from nations that can offer skilled workers.

The source said Trump did not intend any slur.

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Reunions, greetings and goodbyes amid immigration ban
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Reunions, greetings and goodbyes amid immigration ban

International travelers are greeted as they arrive at John F. Kennedy international airport in New York City, U.S., February 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Kiki Rahmati, from Iran, cries as lead attorney Susan Church greets her at Logan International Airport in Boston on Feb. 3, 2017. She was initially not allowed to enter the US after President Donald Trump's travel ban.

(Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

A relative of Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi with an immigration visa who was prevented with his family from boarding a flight to New York a week ago, hugs his daughter goodbye in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq February 4, 2017, before going to the airport to fly, on Turkish Airlines, to Nashville, Tennessee, their new home.

(REUTERS/Ahmed Saad)

Behnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student from Iran, is greeted by friends at Logan Airport after he cleared U.S. customs and immigration on an F1 student visa in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. February 3, 2017. Partopour was originally turned away from a flight to the U.S. following U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi with an immigration visa who was prevented with his family from boarding a flight to New York a week ago, kisses his relatives goodbye at his home in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq February 4, 2017, before going to the airport to fly, on Turkish Airlines, to Nashville, Tennessee, his new home.

(REUTERS/Ahmed Saad)

Fuad Sharef, an Iraqi with an immigration visa who was prevented with his family from boarding a flight to New York a week ago, hug his relatives goodbye at Erbil International Airport, Iraq February 4, 2017, to fly, on Turkish Airlines, to Nashville, Tennessee, their new home.

(REUTERS/Ahmed Saad)

Behnam Partopour, a Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student from Iran, is greeted by his sister Bahar (L) at Logan Airport after he cleared U.S. customs and immigration on an F1 student visa in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. February 3, 2017. Partopour was originally turned away from a flight to the U.S. following U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Samira Asgari is greeted by a friend after she cleared U.S. customs and immigration in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. February 3, 2017. Asgari is an Iranian scientist who had obtained a visa to conduct research at Brigham and Women's Hospital and was twice prevented from entering the United States under President Trump's executive order travel ban.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Banah Alhanfy, from Ira, is hugged and handed a rose after arriving at Logan International Airport in Boston on Feb. 3, 2017. Banah was initially not allowed to enter the US after President Donald Trump's travel ban.

(Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Kiki Rahmati, from Iran, hugs someone that met her at Logan International Airport in Boston on Feb. 3, 2017. She was initially not allowed to enter the US after President Donald Trump's travel ban.

(Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Dr. Muhamad Alhaj Moustafa, a Syrian citizen, embraces his wife Nabil Alhaffar, also a Syrian citizen, after she returned from a trip to Doha but was denied re-entry in January, at the international arrivals hall at Washington Dulles International Airport February 6, 2017 in Dulles, Virginia. A US appeals court has rejected a government request to immediately reinstate US President Donald Trump's controversial immigration ban -- the latest twist in what could be a long, high-stakes legal battle.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Salwa Tabiedi greets her son Hussamedin Agabani, a Sudanese citizen who was arriving in the United States for the first time, at the international arrivals hall at Washington Dulles International Airport February 6, 2017 in Dulles, Virginia.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Nazanin Zinouri, an Iranian engineer, is received by supporters at the Greenville Spartanburg Airport February 6, 2017 in Greenville, South Carolina. Zinouri, a Clemson graduate, works for a technology firm in Greenville, South Carolina and has lived in the United States for the last seven years. While attempting to return to South Carolina after a recent trip visiting family in Iran, she had been taken off her flight in Dubai as a result of the recent travel and immigration ban ordered by President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Shanez Tabarsi (L) is greeted by her daughter Negin after traveling to the U.S. from Iran following a federal court's temporary stay of U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. February 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

Ali Alghazali, 13, a Yemeni who was previously prevented from boarding a plane to the U.S. following U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order on travel ban, hugs his uncle Saleh Alghazali, upon Ali's arrival at Terminal 4 at JFK airport in Queens, New York City, New York, U.S. February 5, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joe Penney)

Najmia Abdishakur (R), a Somali national who was delayed entry to the U.S. because of the recent travel ban, is greeted by her mother Zahra Warsma (L) at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, U.S. February 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Mustafa Aidid (center R), a Somali national who was delayed entry into the U.S. because of the recent travel ban, is reunited with his brother Taha Aidid (center L) at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, U.S. February 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Ammar Aquel Mohammed Aziz (R), hugs his father Aquel (2nd R), as his brother Tareq (L) hugs his uncle Jamil Assa (2nd L) after the brothers arrived from Yemen at Dulles International airport on February 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. The brothers were prohibited from entering the U.S. a week ago due to tightened immigration policies established by the Trump administration, but were able to travel freely this week following a court injunction halting the implementation of the immigration policy.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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