WASHINGTON -- As he rejected a bipartisan compromise Thursday to resolve the standoff over so-called Dreamers, President Donald Trump asked participants in an Oval Office meeting why the U.S. should accept immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa, according to two people briefed on the meeting.
"What do we want Haitians here for?" the president asked, according to the people briefed. "Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why do we want all these people from shithole countries?"
The president added, "We should have people from places like Norway."
Asked about the president's use of the slur, the White House did not deny it, but issued a statement saying Trump would "always fight for the American people."
While cruder and blunter than his past public statements, the president's comments were in keeping with his long-standing position that the U.S. should shift its immigration policy away from poorer, developing countries, and instead focus on carefully selecting educated immigrants, especially from Europe, who can already speak English and have professional or technical skills needed in the U.S.
The exchange came during a meeting intended to present the White House with a bipartisan compromise to help resolve the standoff over immigration.
Trump's swift rejection shows how difficult it will be for Congress to develop a legislative solution to protect some 700,000 young immigrants when Trump ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in March.
The White House also made clear it does not want to include as part of the deal the DREAM Act, which would expand the existing program, according to Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who took part in meeting. Instead, the administration is seeking to protect a more narrow universe of young immigrants who already have temporary DACA protections.
"I think we still have a ways to go," White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters on Capitol Hill. "We're pleased the bipartisan members are talking."
The meeting comes after a federal judge this week issued an injunction halting Trump's plans to end DACA, providing the immigrants with temporary relief. The administration plans to appeal.