DENVER – Several members of the bipartisan group of senators who reached an immigration deal Thursday confirmed Friday President Donald Trump made vulgar comments in reference to African nations as more details of the plan came to light.
The Washington Post and Associated Press were among the news outlets to report the president questioned why the U.S. should continue accepting immigrants from Haiti and many African countries, and that he referred to them as “s---hole countries.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was the first among the six-person bipartisan group to fully confirm the president’s comments, which Trump denied making in a Friday morning tweet: “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,” Trump tweeted. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA.” He said comments about Haiti were “made up by Dems.”
But shortly after the tweets, Durbin told reporters Trump “said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly,” specifically noting that the word “s---hole” was “the exact word used by the president not just once, but repeatedly.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is also part of the group, said what was reported about Trump’s comments was “basically accurate,” according to Sen. Tim Scott, as reported by the Post and Courier.
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on Friday morning tweeted words from “The New Colossus,” which is etched into the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
“.@POTUS must apologize for his abhorrent comments. We are a nation of immigrants; it’s what makes us strong,” Bennet further tweeted.
Bennet and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., are both part of the six-person group working on the DACA-border security deal, as well as Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Durbin and Graham.
Requests for clarification on Trump’s comments made to Gardner were not immediately returned Thursday or Friday.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called Trump’s comments “very unfortunate” and “unhelpful” Friday. Reps. Diana DeGette, Mike Coffman and Jared Polis all denounced Trump's comments as well.
Details emerge about bipartisan immigration deal
“President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge,” said a joint press release from the six senators issued Thursday. “We have been working for four months and have reached an agreement in principle that addresses border security, the diversity visa lottery, chain migration/family reunification, and the Dream Act—the areas outlined by the President. We are now working to build support for that deal in Congress.”
However, the president rejected the senators’ proposal. He tweeted Friday: “The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday…was a big step backwards.”
Several people with knowledge of the deal elaborated Friday on some of its parameters, agreeing to speak on the condition they not be named since negotiations were still ongoing.
The agreement includes the parameters of the Dream Act, which will provide a 12-year pathway for citizenship for Dreamers, young immigrants brought to the country by family members without their choice.
For people who have already been approved for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permits, two years would be knocked off for DACA credits, effectively giving those people a 10-year path to citizenship.
Another parameter contained in the latest version of the Dream Act requires Dreamers to graduate from high school or earn a GED, pursue higher education, work lawfully for three-plus years or serve in the military, pass background checks and show proficiency in English.
The bipartisan group of senators also put together a $2.7 billion border security package in the deal. They included the $1.6 billion for border wall planning and construction the White House has sought in any immigration deal, and the remaining $1.1 billion will go toward surveillance, technology, and infrastructure improvements, among other security needs.
Regarding family-based or “chain” migration, parents of Dreamers will no longer be able to be sponsored by their children for permanent residency, but would be allowed to receive renewable legal status for three years.
Politico additionally reported that people with green cards would also be delayed in being able to sponsor their adult children for permanent residency until they themselves obtained citizenship.
Durbin told The Associated Press that part of the deal would be allowing people who fled natural disasters in their home countries to remain in the U.S.
The diversity lottery would also be eliminated under the deal, freeing up about 50,000 visas offered by the State Department each year to immigrants from places that have not been sending as many immigrants over the past five years. Many of the visas typically go to people from African nations.
Half the 50,000 visas will go to people with TPS, and the other half would go to immigrants from countries under-represented in recent immigration, the sources told Denver7. It’s still unclear which countries would receive those visas, however.
The “Gang of Eight” bill that passed the Senate in 2013, but was never brought up in the House, also did away with the diversity lottery. Durbin, Graham, Bennet, Flake and Menendez were all part of that group.
There is another group of Senate Republicans to try and get a DACA deal done before the Jan. 19 government funding shutdown, though the agreement made Thursday is widely seen as the only bipartisan measure in the Senate. Any agreement would likely be put into a spending bill that would need 60 votes to pass the Senate and would also need bipartisan support in the House, where there have also been different ideas floated as to how to address DACA and border security.
But getting the president, who has waffled over the past week about what he wanted in a bipartisan deal but has said he would sign one if it were sent to his desk, on-board remains the largest obstacle.
“Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large number of people from high crime countries which are doing badly,” Trump tweeted Friday regarding the bipartisan agreement before placing blame on Democrats. “Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards.”