Editor's note: Some language in this story may not be appropriate for the faint of heart. Consider yourself warned.
In a meeting with lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump allegedly asked why immigrants from “shithole” countries were getting protections as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.
The question, first reported by the Washington Post, prompted nearly immediate outrage among many Texas lawmakers, especially Democrats. One longtime Texan in the U.S. House, Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, even said he'd push for Trump's impeachment.
According to lawmakers at Thursday’s White House meeting, Trump’s comment was in reference to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa. A White House official told the Post that the president said he was open to accepting immigrants from Norway and Asian countries because he believed they would help bolster the U.S. economy.
The Post reported that the president singled out Haiti during the meeting, questioning why the United States needed more Haitians and telling lawmakers to “take them out” of a bipartisan immigration deal. Many lawmakers hope such a deal will resolve the standoff between Republicans and Democrats over recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
In a tweet Friday morning, Trump denied that he had said anything derogatory about Haitians, though he said that “Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Green, the Houston congressman, tweeted Friday that “congressional condemnation of racist bigotry is not enough. In Congress, talk is cheap-it’s how we vote that counts.”
Green said he planned to bring a resolution to impeach Trump to the House floor next week. That resolution is unlikely to go far, however. Green has tried — and failed — to impeach Trump before. His attempt in December died after a 364-58 vote to "table" the resolution.
Congressional condemnation of racist bigotry is not enough. In Congress, talk is cheap-it’s how we vote that counts. Next week, I will again bring a resolution to impeach @realDonaldTrump. I will put my vote where my mouth is. #RepealandReplaceTrumpJanuary 12, 2018
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who is challenging Republican Ted Cruz in the 2018 election to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, said he would fight for Haitians and El Salvadorans to stay in the country.
The way that Trump talks about Mexicans, Haitians and Central Americans is not too different from how racists and “America first” proponents were talking about Irish, Italians and Polish not too long ago. We will once again overcome this anti-immigrant nativism.— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) January 11, 2018
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said she was the granddaughter of Caribbean immigrants.
“I go high as [Trump] stoops lower,” she tweeted. “Americans must not be silent as he undermines our values.”
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, tweeted that “Trump’s comments about immigrants from Haiti, African nations and other nations were vile, racist and damaging to American society.”
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, tweeted that “each day [Trump] embarrasses and endangers us.”
“In continuing to impair civic dialogue, Trump has added expletives inappropriate for public debate or family conversation,” Doggett said. “His latest comments about African and Haitian immigrants once again reflect his vulgarity, intolerance and prejudice.”
Some Texas Republicans, meanwhile, have been more measured in their responses. U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, said in an interview on Fox News that he would not defend Trump’s language, but backed the president’s frustration with the U.S. immigration system.
“Here we've got people, the only people they want to talk about — ‘Dreamers’ — are people that came into the country illegally," Gohmert said. “We’re seeing statistics that a huge percentage don’t speak English though they’re getting free education and all kinds of free things.”
“The economy should be taking off after the great tax bill we got done, and yet, when you keep overwhelming America with people coming in illegally, it is difficult to get things done,” he added.
Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, condemned the president's comment. In a statement Friday, Straus said "the vast diversity of our population makes America a better place."
"I wish President Trump would show the same respect for other people, no matter their background, that Texans show one another," Straus said. "Unfortunately, when the President talks so derisively of other countries and their people, it is our country that suffers the most."
Texas evangelical megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress told CBN News that Trump got the "sentiment" right.
JUST IN to @TheBrodyFile : Pastor Robert Jeffress on President Trump’s immigration comments: “Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment.”Full statement here. @robertjeffress @realDonaldTrump @WhiteHouse @POTUS pic.twitter.com/tmSOyBrZRl— David Brody (@TheBrodyFile) January 12, 2018
“Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment," said Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas. "As commander-in-chief, President Trump has a responsibility to place the interests of our nation above the needs of other countries."
How do you feel about Trump’s alleged comments on Haiti, El Salvador and African countries? Tweet us your thoughts using the hashtag #MyTexasTake.
Read related Tribune coverage: