Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, a key negotiator in immigration talks, rebuked President Donald Trump on Friday morning for referring to African nations as “shithole” countries.
In a news conference, Durbin, who had been in the White House meeting where the comments were made, described Trump’s words as “hate filled, vile and racist” and told reporters.
Durbin described his shock when hearing Trump’s words.
“I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in the Oval Office, any president has ever spoken words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday,” Durbin said.
“He said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly,” said Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate.
Amid the fallout from the comments, Trump tweeted Friday morning, “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
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.
According to one source familiar, Trump spent Thursday night calling supporters and doing a kind of victory lap over his comments. And Republicans conservative on immigration applauded Trump Friday morning.
“Hang in there Mr. President @realDonaldTrump. If those countries aren’t as you described, Democrats should be happy to deport criminal aliens back to them. & End #AnchorBabies, too,” Rep. Steve King tweeted.
Still, congressional negotiators who have worked for several months and even years trying to find a resolution to DACA say they can’t let Trump’s comments be a distraction for the work ahead.
“For months, I have been involved in numerous high level bipartisan meetings negotiating DACA, including Thursday’s meeting at the White House,” said Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, a Republican from Florida, who was also in the White House meeting Thursday.
“There are almost 800,000 young DACA beneficiaries who will face imminent deportation in March if we do not reach a deal. I will not be diverted from all possible efforts to continue negotiating to stop the deportations. Nothing will divert my focus to stop the deportation of these innocent people whose futures are at stake.”