African Union, group of Haitian-American diplomats react to reports of Trump’s words

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Members of the African Union and a group of Haitian-American diplomats have spoken out Saturday, about comments attributed to President Donald J. Trump – and the two groups are not pleased.

According to an open letter released to PBS NewsHour, the Haitian-American diplomats rebuked President Trump, saying his comments caused “heartbreak and despair.”

According to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), President Trump said in a meeting that the United States should accept fewer immigrants from “sh–hole countries,” including Haiti and Africa. Trump denies that he used those terms, and others present at the meeting did not confirm his use of those specific words.

After the quote was widely attributed to the president in the media, the Haitian diplomats expressed their concerns. From PBS:

The diplomats, who are foreign service officers with Haitian ancestry working for the United States, say in the letter that they are “dismayed to hear about alleged comments denigrating areas of the world with large diasporas in the United States.” A member of the group told the NewsHour that they want to remain anonymous because they continue to serve in positions abroad.

“January 12th marked the 8th anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti, taking more than 200,000 innocent lives,” the letter said. “As American diplomats of Haitian heritage, we woke up to heartbreak and despair from reports of disparaging remarks emanating from the administration we serve, as we mourned family members lost on that fateful day.”

According to the news outlet, the diplomats were “careful not to directly criticize Trump” while making it clear that they, like many Haitians, were deeply hurt by the president’s statements (read the full letter below).

Additionally, the African Union is asking the president for an apology.

From The Hill:

The group, which represents the 55 countries on the African continent, said that Trump’s remarks “dishonor the celebrated American creed and respect for diversity and human dignity,” and that the administration has a “huge misunderstanding” of the continent.

Trump’s comments were also condemned by a group of African ambassadors to the United Nations, who demanded a retraction and apology.

The group called the remarks “outrageous, racist and xenophobic” while thanking those Americans who had condemned the remarks.

The remarks attributed to Trump have dominated news coverage on Friday and Saturday, and may complicate efforts to reach a deal on immigration changes for recipients of former president Obama’s veiled amnesty plan, dubbed Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA would prevent the deportation of young immigrants known as “Dreamers.”

The full text of the letter from the Haitian diplomats may be read below:

In Memory of Those We Lost

January 12th marked the 8th anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti, taking more than 200,000 innocent lives. As American diplomats of Haitian heritage, we woke up to heartbreak and despair from reports of disparaging remarks emanating from the administration we serve, as we mourned family members lost on that fateful day. We were dismayed to hear about alleged comments denigrating areas of the world with large diasporas in the United States.

Haitian-Americans, like Salvadoran and Nigerian Americans, are one of many immigrant groups that make up our country’s mosaic. Nearly one million Haitian-Americans contribute to the fabric of America. Haitian immigrants contribute to American society as doctors, taxi drivers, lawyers, nurses, teachers and more. Immigrants have made it possible for us to live up to the true promise of America– a country that welcomes individuals of all backgrounds, incorporates them into our society, and allows them and their children to contribute to the building of our great nation.

We have witnessed the power of a diverse American diplomatic corps. Our diversity strengthens our ability to interact and negotiate with foreign counterparts who see themselves in us. It encapsulates how the United States aims to lead by example, providing proof that we embrace people of all races and creeds. It highlights the wonder of America, the belief that anyone can arrive on our shores, work hard and live the American dream and one day represent our country across the world. Our families are evidence of that, and our foreign counterparts recognize it when they meet American diplomats with last names strikingly similar to their own.

We are beneficiaries of the American dream, first generation Haitian Americans who have carved out a unique space within the melting pot as college graduates and homeowners, neighbors and taxpayers. We repay our debt of gratitude to America through public service and when we joined the Foreign Service, we pledged an oath to uphold the constitution and will continue to do so, on behalf of the American people. This honor would never have been bestowed upon us without great leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King. Such opportunities also would not be feasible without the sacrifices of our parents, Haitians, who like many other immigrants dating back to Plymouth Rock, came to the United States searching for freedom, dignity and economic opportunity. The story of Haitians, Salvadorans and Nigerians who left their homes and families behind to start a new life on these shores is the story of America. There is no America without immigrants, both old and new.

 

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