ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - State lawmakers took turns denouncing President Donald Trump's remarks regarding why the U.S. would accept immigrants from "s***hhole countries" like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations - a remark representing the administration's second snub towards Haitians in two months.
“If this report is true, it is absolutely wrong to say or think this," Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement. "I do not think this way, nor do I agree with this kind of sentiment. I represent Florida, and we are an amazing melting pot where over 250 languages are spoken."
Trump made the remark during an Oval Office meeting about immigration, asking why doesn't the United States accept immigrants from countries like Norway.
On Twitter, Trump described his language as "tough" but denied using the derogatory term.
Another snub towards Haitians
Trump's remarks come two months after deportation protections for nearly 60,000 Haitians following the country's 2010 earthquake were rescinded in November. They're now required to return home by July 2019.
"Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent," the Homeland Security Department said at the time. "Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens."
Haiti's recovery has been hampered by Hurricane Matthew and a severe cholera outbreak, along with continued political instability and deep poverty, according to migrationpolicy.org.
About 7,000 Haitians have relocated to Tampa Bay between 2011 and 2015, according to the U.S. Census. The region ranks ninth nationwide for metropolitan areas with the most foreign born Haitians.
Florida and New York are home to about 70 percent of the nation's Haitians, with most living in South Florida and Brooklyn, N.Y.
Increased danger overseas
State Rep. Robert Asencido (D-Miami) believes Trump's remarks will make it more dangerous for U.S. diplomats, military, businesses and tourists to travel overseas.
"Today I ask that all Florida elected officials stand in solidarity against President Trump's baseless and vulgar statements against foreign nations yesterday," he said. "These comments, not worth repeating here, are not just insensitive, as some in his party have put it, but flat out prejudiced and racist. Many of these countries are not only our neighbors, but also our partners fighting human trafficking, organized crime, and the narcotics trade."
Florida House leadership, including Speaker Richard Corcoran, Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, Minority Leader Janet Cruz, Speaker-pro tempore Jeanette Nuñez, Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, Chairman Chris Sprowls, Chairman Paul Renner and Minority Leader-designate Kionne McGhee, issued a joint statement.
“If the remarks attributed to President Trump are accurate, they have no place in our public discourse. America’s greatness is self-evident, we do not need to tear down other nations. The leadership of the Florida House celebrates our diversity," the statement read.
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