President Donald Trump stunned lawmakers in a White House meeting on immigration Thursday when he reportedly referred to Haiti and African nations as "s---hole countries."
"Why are we having all these people from s---hole countries come here," the president asked, as was first reported by The Washington Post and confirmed by CNN television. The crude term means dirty and impoverished.
Trump said the United States should let in more people from places such as Norway, whose prime minister met with him Wednesday in the White House.
After being asked by media, including VOA, to respond, the White House issued a statement saying the president will only accept an immigration deal that "adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration — two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country."
Chain migration is a term used by immigration critics to refer to the system that allows relatives to sponsor family members to come to the United States.
The White House neither confirmed nor denied if the president used crude language when talking about Haiti and Africa.
The statement also said Trump will always reject "temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that ... undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway."
VOA also reached out to the offices of U.S. lawmakers who were reportedly present at the meeting.
Trump reportedly made the remark as Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, was explaining the outlines of an agreement reached by six bipartisan senators that would protect nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation as well as bolster border security, according to the Post.
The White House statement released Thursday:
"Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people. The President will only accept an immigration deal that adequately addresses the visa lottery system and chain migration — two programs that hurt our economy and allow terrorists into our country. Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation. He will always reject temporary, weak and dangerous stopgap measures that threaten the lives of hardworking Americans, and undercut immigrants who seek a better life in the United States through a legal pathway."
VOA correspondents Steve Herman and Michael Bowman contributed to this report.