HOUSTON (FOX 26) - This week's panel: Bob Price - associate Editor of Breitbart Texas,, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Marcus Davis - host of "Sunday Morning Live", Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor, and Jessica Colon - Republican strategist., join Greg Groogan in discussing President Trump's comments about immigration.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump offered a partial denial in public but privately defended his extraordinary remarks disparaging Haitians and African countries.
Trump said he was only expressing what many people think but won't say about immigrants from economically depressed countries, according to a person who spoke to the president as criticism of his comments ricocheted around the globe.
Trump spent Thursday evening calling friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction, said the confidant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose a private conversation. Trump wasn't apologetic about the inflammatory remarks and denied he was racist, instead, blaming the media for distorting his meaning, the confidant said.
Critics of the president, including some Republicans, on Friday blasted the vulgar comments made in the Oval Office. In a meeting with a group of senators, Trump had questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, according to one participant and people briefed on the remarkable conversation.
The comments revived charges that Trump is racist and roiled already tenuous immigration talks that included discussion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
"The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used," Trump insisted in early tweets Friday, pushing back on some depictions of the meeting.
But Trump and his advisers notably did not dispute the most controversial of his remarks: using "shithole" to describe African nations and saying he would prefer immigrants from countries like Norway instead.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the only Democrat in the room, said Trump had indeed said what he was reported to have said. The remarks, Durbin said, were "vile, hate-filled and clearly racial in their content." He said Trump used the most vulgar term "more than once."
"If that's not racism, I don't know how you can define it," Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told WPLG-TV in Miami.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the comments were "beneath the dignity of the presidency" and Trump's desire for more immigrants from countries like Norway was "an effort to set this country back generations by promoting a homogenous, white society."
Republican leaders were largely silent, though House Speaker Paul Ryan said the vulgar language was "very unfortunate, unhelpful."
Trump's insults - along with his rejection of the bipartisan immigration deal drafted by six senators- also threatened to further complicate efforts to extend protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, many of whom were brought to the country as children and now are here illegally.
Trump last year ended DACA, which provided young immigrants with protection from deportation along with the ability to work legally in the U.S. He gave Congress until March to come up with a legislative fix.
The three Democratic and three GOP senators who'd struck the deal Trump rejected had been working for months on how to balance those protections with Trump's demands for border security, an end to a visa lottery aimed at increasing immigrant diversity, and limits to immigrants' ability to sponsor family members to join them in America.
On Saturday, Trump sought to blame "all talk and no action" Democrats for lack of an immigration deal.
"I don't believe the Democrats really want to see a deal on DACA. They are all talk and no action. This is the time but, day by day, they are blowing the one great opportunity they have. Too bad!" Trump tweeted as he arrived at his private golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The bipartisan immigration deal that Trump rejected includes a pathway to citizenship for the young immigrants in the U.S. illegally that would take up to 12 years, according to details of the agreement obtained Saturday by The Associated Press. Another major component of the plan is the inclusion of $1.6 billion for structures including a wall for border security.
One of the six senators who crafted the deal, Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado, said Saturday that the proposal "has everything the president asked for on the border." He said if Trump can't support it, "it's difficult to see how we could get him to agree to anything that could pass in Congress."
It was unclear now how a deal might emerge, though both sides insist the clock is ticking. Failure could impact government operations.
Lawmakers have until Jan. 19 to approve a short-term government spending bill, and Republicans will need Democratic votes to push the measure through. Some Democrats have threatened to withhold support unless an immigration pact is forged.
Trump's comments came as Durbin was presenting details of the compromise plan that included providing $1.6 billion for a first installment on the president's long-sought border wall.
Trump took particular issue with the idea that people who'd fled to the U.S. after disasters in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti would be allowed to stay as part of the deal, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly describe the discussion.
When it came to talk of extending protections for Haitians, Durbin said Trump replied: "We don't need more Haitians.'"
"He said: 'Put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don't we get more people from Norway?'" Durbin told reporters in Chicago.
The administration announced last year that it would end a temporary residency permit program that allowed nearly 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the U.S. following a devastating 2010 earthquake.
Trump insisted Friday 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." Trump wrote, "I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"
Trump ignored shouted questions about his comments as he signed a proclamation Friday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Monday.
Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who attended Thursday's meeting, issued a statement saying they "do not recall the president saying these comments specifically." What Trump did do, they said, was "call out the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest."
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said by Durbin to have voiced objection to Trump's comments during the meeting, issued a statement that did not dispute the remarks.
"Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday. The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel," Graham said, adding: "I've always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals."
Associated Press writers Sara Burnett in Chicago and Jonathan Lemire, Andrew Taylor and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.
NEW YORK (AP) - Donald Trump's vulgar remarks about immigration have worsened the divide among evangelicals about his presidency.
Some of Trump's staunchest evangelical backers are defending what he said.
In an Oval Office meeting, Trump questioned why the U.S. should admit immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa. That's according to one participant and people briefed on the conversation.
Other Christian conservatives have called the remarks racist. They say evangelical leaders had a moral imperative to condemn the president's views.
Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016. But a recent Pew Research Center survey found that a lower share - 61 percent - approved of his performance.
Still, a divide has hardened between evangelicals who consistently defend the president and those who reject him as unfit and prejudiced.
DENVER (AP) - For years, a movement to limit the number of migrants into the U.S. and end a system that favors family members of legal residents has had to fend off criticism that it's as a poorly veiled attempt to produce a whiter America.
Then its most prominent supporter told members of Congress in the Oval Office this week that the U.S. needs fewer immigrants from Haiti and Africa and more from places like Norway.
President Donald Trump's use of a vulgar term to describe African countries triggered widespread condemnation, and left the small cluster of immigration hard-line groups whose agenda Trump has embraced scrambling to distance themselves from the president.
"They say it's about numbers, merit, security and control," Frank Sharry of the immigrant rights group America's Voice said of organizations that share Trump's desire to reduce both illegal and legal immigration to the U.S. "All of those are coded words that mean fewer brown, black and yellow immigrants into a white nation."
Hard-line immigration activists, who prefer the term "restrictionists," argue that the system they espouse - fewer overall migrants, an end to the family-based system that favors relatives of people already legally in the U.S. and a greater emphasis on picking immigrants with skills - is not racially motivated. They note, for example, that immigrants from some African countries have higher rates of education that the U.S.-born population and may benefit from a more skill-based approach.
"People who suggest merit-based may inherently favor white, northern Europeans - that is inherently racist," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
"Immigration is not tied to Donald Trump. This preceded Donald Trump," he added, dismissing the president as someone "whose tweets cause people to cringe."
Groups such as Mehlman's helped torpedo immigration overhauls in 2006 and 2013, but they have few overt supporters in Washington. Before Trump, the most prominent one was Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who became Trump's attorney general and whose former aide, Stephen Miller, is a top White House adviser to the president on immigration.
Sessions is a longtime critic of the country's system that allows people with relatives in the United States a chance to apply for visas. "Almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming here because they have a proven skill that will benefit us and would indicate their likely success in our society," he said on the Senate floor in 2006. "They come here because some other family member of a qualifying relation is here."
Trump has embraced Sessions' cause of trying to end "chain migration," a term opponents have long applied to the family-based system but one that got little attention until the president tweeted it in capital letters as he abruptly demanded its end amid immigration talks in September.
Trump also favors stopping the diversity lottery, a system that reserves visas for people from countries that have relatively few immigrants in the United States. It favors African countries and was part of an immigration deal Trump was negotiating with a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers Thursday when he made his explosive comments.
Trump disputes some of the accounts of the Oval Office exchange reported by others in the room but hasn't denied using an expletive to describe African countries or the overall tenor of his comments.
Roy Beck, executive director of Numbers USA, which advocates for reduced immigration, contended the president is mischaracterizing his own immigration agenda. "The president's emphasis on doing away with chain migration and the lottery is about people who are brought into the country with no regard to their skills, education or what their effect will be on the country," Beck said. "It's a mistake to focus on what country anybody comes from."
The Trump administration has announced its intention to end temporary protections for Salvadorans and Haitians who have lived in the U.S. since natural disasters in their countries more than a decade ago, as well as President Obama's deportation relief for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
The president also has backed a long-shot bill authored by two Republican senators that would sharply cut the number of immigrants allowed into the country and prioritize those who speak English, have a doctorate and have existing job offers.
Both sides of the immigration debate have long agreed that the U.S. should move toward a more skills-based program. But Andrew Selee, president of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, said recent data suggest the current system may be headed there already: Since 2011, 48 percent of all new legal immigrants have possessed college degrees, well above the 33 percent of U.S. residents with them.
"His vision seems to not only be less immigration but more high-skilled," Selee said of Trump, "and that may be the system we're already getting."