Illinois members of Congress from both parties Friday decried disparaging language President Donald Trump used in describing Haiti and nonspecific African nations in regard to U.S. immigration policy toward them.
"Hate-filled" and "disgraceful" were among the reactions to Trump's profane comments Thursday in the Oval Office when he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from those countries rather than places like Norway as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal.
Criticism from the suburban delegation came even after Trump denied using the objectionable language.
"I strongly disagree with President Trump's reported choice of words," Republican congressman Randy Hultgren of Plano said in a statement Friday. "Words like these diminish and undermine our standing in the world as a trusted partner and beacon of hope."
Hultgren serves as co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and commented on the nations that have received Temporary Protected Status after a natural disaster.
"The difficult humanitarian, economic and political situations in certain countries following natural disasters is exactly why I support a program for Temporary Protected Status which provides safe harbor following these unavoidable calamities," Hultgren said. "We must set good policy for our country while remaining a refuge to displaced people facing humanitarian crisis."
On Twitter, Trump pushed back and denied using the language.
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
"Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country," one tweet read. "Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings -- unfortunately, no trust!"
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
In an earlier tweet, Trump wrote, "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used."
But Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who said he was at Thursday's White House discussion of a proposed bipartisan immigration deal, released a statement Friday on that meeting.
"In the course of his comments, President Trump said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist," Durbin said. "He used those words, and he used them repeatedly. I cannot believe that in the history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates posted a statement on Twitter and Facebook.
"Donald Trump's ability to degrade the office of the presidency never ceases to shock me," Duckworth wrote. "Disgraceful. What makes this country strong is the diversity of its people. Nothing can change that, no matter what the president says."
Democratic congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg issued a statement saying: "The president's comments about other countries neither comport with the dignity of the presidency, nor do they comport with the goodness of America and the majority of Americans in their positive views toward immigrants and other countries. In short, the president's comments are un-American. In a time when we need to come together as a country, these comments drive people further apart."
Republican congressman Peter Roskam of Wheaton released a statement emphasizing his support for immigrant communities. He is chairman of the House Democracy Partnership, a bipartisan commission that works directly with countries around the world to support development of effective and independent legislative institutions. Haiti is one of the commission's partner countries.
"If true, the reported comments made by the president are disappointing and I urge him to reiterate his commitment to continuing America's legacy as a welcoming country for those seeking a better life and those willing to play by the rules," Roskam said. "Our country has opened its arms to legal immigrants from around the world and we should never disparage anyone from any country."
Democrats Brad Schneider of Deerfield and Jan Schakowsky of Evanston also condemned Trump's comments as racist. Schneider said they show Trump is "clueless about what it means to be an American," while Schakowsky said they are "unacceptable and unbecoming of the presidency."