SC Officials Criticize President Trump\'s Vulgar Comment

Susan Walsh, AP President Donald Trump speaks while visiting the Boeing South Carolina facility in North Charleston, S.C., Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, to see the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Trump visited the plant before heading to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. for the weekend. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) ORG XMIT: SCSW125(Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)

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In South Carolina, reaction to President Donald Trump's recent comments regarding people from "s---hole countries" was swift, bipartisan and, in some cases, brutal.

"This is nothing more than the rantings of a lunatic who happens to be our president," said Trav Robertson, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. "At the end of the day, he is attempting to rally the most negative and base of the human core by these types of comments. It's very unfortunate."

The president made the remarks in a closed-door meeting apparently in reference to El  Salvador, Haiti and African countries.

Janet Kwami, a Furman University professor of communications studies who is originally from the west African country of Ghana, said Trump's comments only fuel division.

“I feel very offended and I think it’s very problematic for the president of the United States to make such a derogatory statement," Kwami said. "It feeds into hate and xenophobia. People who come from these countries really contribute to America in so many ways.”

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, called Trump's remarks "disappointing" and drew attention to how immigrants and diversity have contributed to the strong American fabric.

More: Clemson University official swipes at Trump during MLK breakfast in Anderson

"If these comments are the president’s words they are disappointing to say the least," Scott said in a statement.

"The American family was born from immigrants fleeing persecution and poverty and searching for a better future," Scott added. "Our strength lies in our diversity, including those who came here from Africa, the Caribbean and every other corner of the world. To deny these facts would be to ignore the brightest part of our history."

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican who represents Greenville and Spartanburg counties, didn't address Trump's remark directly but referred to the nation's inclusive spirit. 

"Those of us born in the United States won the 'lottery' of life," Gowdy said. "We understand the desire of others to come to a land known for freedom and opportunity. For over 100 years Americans have said, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.' Americans care about the qualities inherent in people of good conscience who want to become Americans — no matter what country they come from."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was present at the meeting where Trump made his remark, said he let Trump know his position.

“Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday,"  Graham said in a statement. "The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals. The American ideal is embraced by people all over the globe. It was best said a long time ago, E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one. Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness.  In reforming immigration we cannot lose these American Ideals."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., co-sponsor of legislation to provide some protections to young immigrants known as Dreamers, praised Graham for confronting Trump directly, according to The Associated Press.

“My colleague, [Sen. Graham], spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said,” Durbin said. “For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage, and I respect him for it.”

White House spokesperson Raj Shah did not deny the "s---hole" remark on Thursday evening, but said in a statement that 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."

Trump later tweeted Friday morning that he "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!"

Trump's comments emerged during a Cabinet Room meeting on immigration, according to the AP. Trump asked why the United States should accept immigrants from "s---hole countries" rather than people from Norway, a predominately white nation.

"If the attributions to the president are true, then this is another low," said Akan Malici, a Furman University political science professor and Muslim who has been critical of Trump's immigration policies.

"But our focus should be not only on Trump but on what made him possible, on a political culture in our country that we have cultivated for decades," Malici added. "The Republican Party bears a large responsibility for creating a political culture that is making this possible. It is time for Republican leaders at all levels to distance themselves from this type of leadership and this type of rhetoric and clearly condemn it. Unfortunately too many have failed to do so because they lack moral integrity or alternatively moral courage. Our country needs more and deserves more from them.”

The Greenville News reached out to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, a staunch Trump supporter, but he did not respond to a request for comment. The Greenville News also reached out to the South Carolina Republican Party but officials did not respond to messages.

Will McCorkle, a prominent Upstate advocate for immigrants, called Trump a "racist" and said America's ongoing debate over immigration would be entirely different if the immigrants in question were white.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a racist," McCorkle said. "I don’t think we’d be having this debate about immigration if we were talking about Norwegian families. If white Norwegian or white British mothers were being ripped away from their children, the discussion on immigration would be a lot different.”

Kwami, the Furman communications studies professor, said Trump's remark does nothing to actually address the poverty that exists in many developing countries.

“It shows an ignorance of global inequality and that this inequity is historical and structural," Kwami said. "To use that kind of language really divides the world as opposed to bringing us together so that we can address the injustice and inequities that exist globally.”

Angela Naimou, a first-generation Chaldean Iraqi immigrant and Clemson English professor who has written extensively about Caribbean literature, immigration and legal history, said Trump’s remark reflects a broader intolerance toward immigrants in the U.S.

“What’s distressing is not just that the president said something insensitive, but the real concern is what is actually being done in quiet, to see entire groups of people falsely targeted as threats to our country. They’ve made important lives here and many who have provisional legal status are being targeted more intensely now than under previous administrations. Some people are afraid to go to churches or schools for fear of being taken, forcibly cut off from their families and communities, and they face real threats of violence if they were to be deported.”

Naimou said the U.S. has added to the problems faced by the countries Trump referenced by supporting dictatorships in Haiti and paramilitary forces in El Salvador that have led to thousands of deaths.

IMMIGRANT CONTRIBUTIONS

Immigrant groups and their advocates, for their part, have drawn attention to the contributions of immigrants to the nation.

Robertson said the Upstate has benefited tremendously from international investment.

"Greenville, Spartanburg, Anderson, Oconee and Pickens counties are the recipients of having significant, powerful relationships with other countries, whether it's BMW or Michelin or another business," Robertson said.

The national group New American Economy recently released figures that highlight the importance of immigrants to the economies of every congressional district in the United States.

The Greenville-Spartanburg area has the largest immigrant population in the state, according to a spokesman for the New American Economy.

In Gowdy's Fourth Congressional District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg counties, there are 50,504 immigrants, representing 7.4 percent of the population, according to New American Economy.

In 2014, those immigrants had a spending power of $974.8 million and paid $290.6 million in taxes, the group said.

In U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan's Third District, there are 23,414 immigrants, representing 3.5 percent of the district's population, according to New American Economy. That number appears to include both documented and undocumented immigrants of all ages.

In 2014, those Third District immigrants had a spending power of $381 million and paid $113.6 million in taxes, the group said.

Immigrants also tend to be highly entrepreneurial: According to New American Economy, there are 1,755 immigrant entrepreneurs in the Fourth District and 370 immigrant entrepreneurs in the Third District.

Allen Klump, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, said, "The congressman does not comment on unconfirmed private conversations."

McCorkle, the Upstate advocate for immigrants, said the immigration debate should not only consider economics but also basic American values.

“All the evidence shows that immigration is good for the economy, but I think we need to think about basic human rights: people trying to escape persecution and economic hardship," McCorkle said. "The United States wasn’t founded as a nation just ‘to give me your most educated and wealthy immigrants’ but the ideal was to ‘give me your tired, your poor,’ and we’ve lost that.” 

Paul Hyde covers education and everything else under the South Carolina sun. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

Source : http://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/2018/01/12/sc-officials-criticize-president-trumps-vulgar-comment/1028433001/

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