Immigration policy is at the front of the national political conversation this week. It was credibly alleged that during an immigration policy reform meeting at the White House last week, the president referred to nations including El Salvador, Haiti, and some African countries as “shithole countries.”
The context for that reported remark was a Thursday meeting about the way forward on immigration policy in light of the administration’s announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, would be ending. Leaders are attempting to craft a new immigration policy in the face of this.
That meeting came in the midst of ongoing negotiations over how to keep the government open past this coming Friday, when it is set to shut down after existing spending provisions expire.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen appeared for questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was pressed over why the administration is throwing a stick in negotiations via the president’s racism.
One of the Senators to question her was Illinois’ Senator Richard Durbin, who was one of those in the recent contentious immigration policy meeting and has backed up press reports about the president’s remarks.
After Durbin’s first question for Nielsen about what she remembered the president to have said during last week’s meeting, she said:
‘What I heard him saying is that he’d like to move away from a country-based quota system to a merit-based system. So it shouldn’t matter where you’re from, it should matter what you can contribute to the United States.’
Trump has, in fact, expressed this sentiment numerous times, including on Twitter.
Durbin wasn’t impressed, continuing to press Nielsen on the question of what she had heard at last week’s immigration policy meeting.
‘I don’t specifically remember a categorization of countries in Africa… As you know, there were about a dozen people in the room, there were a lot of cross conversations, there was a lot of rough talk by a lot of people in the room — but what I understood him to be saying is, “Let’s move away from the countries and let’s look at the individual and make sure that those we bring here can contribute to our society.”‘
Sens. Durbin and Lindsay Graham presented an immigration plan that favored prospective immigrants from the places Trump allegedly disparaged before his reported comments. Graham has been less forthcoming than Durbin in his public statements about the president’s language during the meeting, but he hasn’t denied the reports of what was said.
After the above questioning, Durbin still wasn’t impressed, and asked Nielsen yet again what she remembered was said.
She replied by saying:
‘Let’s see — strong language, there was — [my] apologies, I don’t remember a specific word. What I was struck with, frankly, as I’m sure you were as well, was just the general profanity that was used in the room by almost everyone.’
Nielsen went on to get more specific, and after being pressed, said that she had not heard Durbin use foul language but that she had heard Graham do so, at which point Durbin made it clear that Graham did so only in repeating what the president had at the time just said as a part of his argument against using such language.
Check out video of this point during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing below.
In the face of this, the government remains stuck in the stalemate as the nation gets closer and closer to a government shutdown without a decision about how to move forward.
Featured Image via Screenshot from the Video