Local immigrants decry the president’s comments about African countries and Haiti
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
President Donald Trump is under fire for comments that he made during a bipartisan meeting on Jan. 11 with members of Congress last week while trying to hammer out an immigration deal.
Trump is said to have referred to nations in Haiti and Africa as “shithole’’ countries. In a June 2017 meeting, he is alleged to have said that Haitians “all have AIDS.’’
Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, has confirmed the Jan. 11 remarks, but Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, both Republicans, said they don’t recall the president using the word.
The president has declared that he is not a racist and has denied using racist comments to describe Haiti and Africa.
Trump also is said to have stated, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”
A day after the White House meeting on immigration, he tweeted: “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!’’
Nevertheless, Americans are voicing their displeasure and concerns with his remarks that many are calling racist.
‘Use wisdom’During the Dr. Martin Luther King weekend, local residents also sounded off about the president’s vulgar language.
One of those is the Rev. Nathan Mugala, senior pastor of Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church in Daytona Beach. Mugala is from the Central African nation of Zambia.
“I am disappointed by the comments of the leader of the civilized world for putting these comments out about Haiti and African nations,” he told the Daytona Times this week.
“I believe a leader must be able to use wisdom and be able to speak words that will unite and not divide a nation. I think it’s out of ignorance for a leader to say those things.’’
Haitians also have been targeted in the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Late last year, the administration decided to lift protections under the Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for more than 50,000 Haitians living in America, which could soon send them back. Many of them live in Florida.
Markly Cesar told The Times, “If these comments are true, it is very disappointing. I am a Haitian immigrant myself. It’s sad to hear the president of the U.S. which I am now a citizen of come for us like that, especially since we have worked so hard.
“I don’t think it’s fair for them to send so many people back. Many came here because of economic and disastrous situations to better their lives. To be faced with going back and dealing with the uncertainty is really sad,” Cesar added.
‘We are regressing’
Even those from other Caribbean nations are taking notice of the president’s remarks and policies.
“It’s very disappointing. I just became a U.S. citizen about a month ago. When I look at this country…this country is built on immigration and people coming from all over the world uniting,” Steven Mullings, who came to the U.S. from Jamaica, said on Monday.
“If you look at how this nation was built, everyone is an immigrant. To see certain people being isolated because of where they are from – it’s a big difference to see that we aren’t united to build this country like those who came before us.
“Today is the Dr. King holiday…It was his dream to have this nation unified, but we are regressing. It’s sad to see that in this time with all the work that others have done before us,” Mullings noted.
Yvette Leslie is a Palm Coast native who moved to Florida from New York. She also has lived in Arizona. She was born in Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory.
Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria has been ridiculed. Maria devastated the island and destroyed many homes and displaced tens of thousands of its 3 million plus citizens. Many have relocated to Central Florida.
As of Monday morning, 40 percent of the island was still without power.
Trump has been quoted as saying, “Puerto Ricans are lazy,’’ “They want everything done for them,” and “They don’t need help.”
Leslie said with a sigh, “He needs to be impeached yesterday. He needs to have a mental evaluation. He is not fit to be president. I don’t know why we have put up with this already. He doesn’t know his history. He doesn’t know the history of Puerto Rico, America, other nations or the world. He is the one that puts out the fake news.”
Student speaks out
Local college students, many whom are children of immigrants or here on student visas also expressed disappointment.
Merritt Bibawy attends Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She is from Washington, D.C. and her parents originally brought her to the U.S. from Egypt.
Bibawy told the Times, “He recently said Democrats want to reduce funds for veterans. He is against funding veterans’ services and providing veterans jobs after military service,’’ she said.
“Funding DACA (Deferred action for Childhood Arrivals) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fund other areas. He pits Americans against immigrants. He makes it look like immigrants are taking money, which isn’t right.”
She added, “If it wasn’t for policies like DACA and other immigration policies, my parents and many other immigrants who are now citizens couldn’t have come here. I am against his immigration policies. He wants to stop immigration. If he wants to filter, it’s fine but stopping people from coming completely is not the solution. It isn’t right.’’