During a meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers at the White House, Trump said of Haiti and African nations, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Later in the meeting, which was focused on immigration, he suggested the US should welcome more people from nations like Norway instead. (Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg paid him a visit on Jan. 10.)
Donald Trump’s “shithole countries” remark earlier today (Jan. 11) is being heavily criticized in many parts of the United States and around the world. But there’s one place in the US where residents are particularly vexed by it: south Florida.
South Florida is home to nation’s largest concentration of Haitians, as well as the rapidly gentrifying Little Haiti neighborhood in Miami.
Both the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times offered a roundup of comments from leading politicians in the state—including members of Trump’s own party—criticizing the remark. Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, said:
“If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this. I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment. I represent Florida, and we are an amazing melting pot where over 250 languages are spoken. I work every day to make this the most welcoming state for everyone – Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, and others from all around the world that call Florida home. I’m incredibly proud of our diversity.”
Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida who competed against Trump to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016, offered:
“I hope today’s comments were just a crass and flippant mistake, and do not reflect the hateful racism they imply… We need comprehensive immigration reform that reflects our values as a country and recognizes our economic needs. This requires a merit-based system that attracts talented, freedom-loving individuals from across the globe, whether they are from Haiti, Norway or anywhere else.”
Daphne Campbell, a Democratic member of the Florida senate, replied with:
“The president’s ongoing war against immigrants appears to be solely directed toward those immigrants of color. I am appalled and disgusted that the man who stands as the symbol of a nation once offering refuge and sanctuary to all immigrants is doing his best to say: ‘non-whites need not apply.’”
Bill Nelson, a US senator representing Florida, took to Twitter:
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a House Republican representing Florida, tweeted her disapproval:
Meanwhile news broke that Trump, amid fears of mass protests, has backed away from the idea of visiting Britain next month to open the new US embassy in London. His retweet last year of material posted by a far right extremist group, Britain First, went over in the UK about as well as his “shithole countries” comment has gone over in Florida.