Washington • Rep. Mia Love, the first and only Haitian-American in Congress, met with President Donald Trump on Tuesday, days after the president reportedly called Haiti, El Salvador and African nations “s---hole countries,” but did not directly ask him to apologize as she said it was more productive to discuss overall immigration reform.
Love, who has asked for Trump to apologize and called his comments racist, said she focused her comments in the Oval Office meeting on overhauling the immigration system, securing the border and finding a solution for immigrants who were brought to the United States as children without documentation.
“I did not talk about my statement,” Love said in an interview Tuesday, referring to a news release by her office calling for Trump to apologize. “The statement that I made was very clear.”
She said it was more important during her 30-minute sit-down with the president to urge him to find a fix for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who had protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that Trump has sought to end, as well as increasing border security.
In a prepared statement, Love expressed optimism that “Congress can solve the vast majority of the immigration issues the nation faces. … We need to fight against those who have a vested interest in keeping immigration a wedge issue. This has gone unaddressed for far too long.”
During a discussion with lawmakers last week, Trump disparaged several largely nonwhite nations while saying he preferred to have immigrants coming from Norway, a largely white country with whose prime minister he had met with earlier.
“Why do we want all these people from s---hole countries coming here?” Trump reportedly said.
The president has denied he used that word.
Love, who believes she got the Oval Office meeting because she had made such a strong rebuke of that comment, said the meeting was pleasant and she was glad to be part of the conversation. She is the first black female Republican in Congress.
“So many people are just sitting here in limbo trying to figure out what’s going to happen. In these conversations we need to … remember who we’re talking about,” Love said. “Any generalization is not good. We need to remember that we’re talking about individuals and families.”
Love said she told the president that immigration is an important issue to her — her parents, Mary and Jean Maxine Bourdeau, emigrated from Haiti — and that any group working on the issue should be diverse. Trump had been meeting with a group of white male senators when he reportedly used the vulgar phrase.
“It was important to have a group of diverse members on both sides of the aisle to talk about these things,” Love said.
She said she stressed to the president that there needs to be protection for young immigrants in the DACA program, more border security and a fix for non-Americans entering and exiting the country.
Love said Thursday in a statement that Trump’s remarks were “unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values.”
On Sunday, she told CNN that she believed the president’s comment was racist.
“I can’t defend the indefensible,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “You have to understand that there are countries that struggle out there. But their people, their people are good people and they’re part of us. We’re Americans.”