AU alarmed by Trump’s comments on Africa, Haiti

Donald Trump made the crude comment while questioning why the United States would want to have immigrants from Haiti and African nations.

FILE: US President Donald Trump. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The African Union (AU) says its alarmed by US President Donald Trump's statement in which he used vulgar language to question why the US would accept more immigrants from African countries and Haiti.

Trump made the crude comment, referring to some as “shithole countries,” according to two sources familiar with the comments.

In an interview with the Associated Press, AU spokesperson Ebba Kalondo says given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the US as slaves, Trump's statement flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice.

She says its particularly surprising as America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.

Trump’s remarks, 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.”

Many Democrats and some Republican lawmakers slammed the president for his remarks.

Republican US 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 apologise 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.”

In an apparent response to his critics, Trump took to Twitter late on Thursday night.

“The Democrats seem intent on having people and drugs pour into our country from the Southern Border, risking thousands of lives in the process,” he tweeted.

“It is my duty to protect the lives and safety of all Americans. We must build a Great Wall, think Merit and end Lottery & Chain. USA!”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)