Brooklyn Pols Respond To Trump “Shithole” Comments

Hurricane Trump Hits Again

President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador, and various African nations as “shithole countries” during immigration reform talks with Congressional lawmakers on Thursday, January 11, triggering disgust and outrage from dozens of elected officials — many of them in Brooklyn and New York City.

President Donald Trump

Trump allegedly asked “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” in response to a suggestion to renew Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants who moved here after their home countries were devastated by natural disasters and/or war.

The reported comment came on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti and its residents. 

According to the Washington Post, which spoke to several people in attendance at the meeting, Trump then singled out Haitians for ire, asking “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out [of any deal],” and expressed a desire to increase immigration from Western European and Asian countries instead.

Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte

“I condemn @realDonaldTrump disparaging remarks referring to #Haiti and #African Nations as #shithole countries. We demand an apology for his insensitive & ignorant racist remarks,” wrote Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush, Ditmas Park) on Twitter. Bichotte, a Brooklyn native, is the first Haitian-American woman elected into office in New York City.

Fellow Haitian American elected official, Republican Congressmember Mia Love of Utah, also spoke out, noting that people like her parents sought the American Dream and that “The president’[s] comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”

Over 60,000 Haitians have TPS status, many of whom have lived, worked, and raised families in the United States for decades. Around 5,400 of these individuals live in New York City, many of them in Brooklyn’s Flatbush, Canarsie, Crown Heights, and East Flatbush neighborhoods, as well as Queens’ Cambria Heights, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens, Jamaica and Rosedale.

The issue of TPS protections came up seven weeks ago when Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke announced that it would not be renewed and Haitians had 18 months to leave.

It then came up again on December 23 when the New York Times reported that back in June of 2017, Trump said Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS” and that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts” once allowed entry in to the United States.  

Back then, the White House flatly denied that account was true.

However, White House spokesperson Raj Shah did not dispute this latest account, instead defending Trump as championing “those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy, and assimilate into our great nation.”

Shah continued, adding that, “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people.”

That did little to curb criticisms of Trump as “racist” by world leaders and U.S. officials alike.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke

“Dear @realDonaldTrump, your bigotry is showing,” tweeted Congressmember Yvette D. Clarke (D-Crown Heights, Flatbush, East Flatbush, Brownsville, Midwood, Sheepshead Bay).

“During the campaign then-candidate Trump vowed to be a champion of the Haitian people,” Clarke noted at a Flatbush community meeting in December. “Is this what he meant?”

Clarke had also previously responded to Trump’s alleged “AIDS” comment by stating that “If true, this serves as yet another example of Donald Trump’s ignorance. These comments, and the racism that inspires them, are reprehensible.”

City Council Member Mathieu Eugene

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council Member Mathieu Eugene (D-Flatbush, East Flatbush, Ditmas Park, Prospect Lefferts Garden), who is a Haitain-American, released a joing statement calling Trump’s racist and incendiary comments about Haiti and Africa an affront to the very values of the nation and of the American dream.

“The country is deeply divided, and the President should be focused on bringing unity by creating the spirit of trust and respect and putting an end to the cruel and senseless immigration raids that are tearing families apart. The United States is and always will be an immigrant nation, and even as President Trump continues to dehumanize the very people who make our country great, New York City will continue to stand strong and defend our status as a sanctuary city,” they said in their statement.

City Councilman Mark Treyger

City Council Member Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Gravesend) sadi Trump’s remarks about Haiti and Africa were hateful, disgusting, bigoted, and downright racist.

“His repugnant and divisive remarks demonstrate an embarrassing ignorance of the incredible contributions made throughout world history by Haiti, and African nations and cultures. Our city’s history has been forged by immigrants, and the vibrant diversity of our immigrant communities is part of what makes New York so singular,” said Treyger.

“As a child of immigrants, I’m disgusted by these remarks. I stand in solidarity with our many immigrant communities, including the Haitian community and the diverse African communities, and unequivocally condemn the President’s remarks and targeting of immigrant communities. Our city and our nation are made stronger by immigrants from across the globe,” headded.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

Both Clarke and Congressmember Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn, Queens, Lower Manhattan) have sponsored a bipartisan bill to not just renew TPS every six years, but to create a path to Lawful Permanent Resident Status for any TPS recipient in the U.S. for five years or more as of January 1, 2017, who can “demonstrate extreme hardship.”

Called the ASPIRE-TPS Act of 2017, the bill (H.R.4384) is has 14 co-sponsors, including Republicans from Florida and Utah, and Democrats from Washington, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Illinois, and Georgia.

Florida is home to the largest population of Haitian immigrants. New York has the second-largest population of Haiti-born residents.

“We have until July 2018 to renew TPS,” Clarke said. “We’re all family and to see them torn apart flies in the face of what the U.S. stands for, this is inhumane. We are a team and we are making voices heard from the ground up. We will not let TPS lapse and we should not let them divide us.”

According to the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, about 15,000 New Yorkers have TPS, and the vast majority are from Haiti (around 5,400 people), El Salvador (around 4,200 people), and Honduras (around 3,000 people) — most of whom have lived and worked in the country for an average of 15 years and care for over 8,000 U.S.-born children.