President Donald Trump has questioned why the US should allow more immigrants from “s***hole countries” during a meeting with legislators about a proposed bipartisan deal on immigration.
Mr Trump made the profane remark after Democratic senator Richard Durbin told him a lottery for visas would be ended under the proposal, according to several sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In exchange, Mr Durbin said people fleeing from countries suffering from natural disasters or civil strife, including Haiti and El Salvador, would be allowed to stay in the US.
Mr Trump specifically questioned why the US would want to admit more people from Haiti, and also mentioned Africa, the sources said.
One of the sources who was briefed on the conversation quoted Mr Trump as saying: “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re s***hole countries… We should have more people from Norway.”
The White House did not deny the account of Mr Trump’s use of language, but instead suggested the President was “fighting for permanent solutions” that strengthen the nation, in part through the use of a merit-based immigration system.
“Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.
“He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway.”
Some Democrats seized on Mr Trump’s comment to suggest he is anti-immigrant.
“We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colours,” congressman Luis Gutierrez said.
“We can now we say with 100% confidence that the president is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution.”