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In the wake of President Trump's latest comments about immigrants, Queens leaders have responded.

In the wake of reports about President Donald Trump’s inflammatory remarks over immigrant communities and nations across the globe, leaders from around Queens, one of the most diverse counties in America, have responded in force.

During a meeting at the White House on Jan. 11, while discussing a deal that would include protections for people from Haiti and some nations in Africa, the president reportedly asked the room why he should accept people from “s***hole countries.” A source with knowledge of the conversation advised the Washington Post, which first reported the story. The article also points out that the sources said the president specifically asked, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”

Elsie Saint-Louis, executive director of the Haitian-Americans United for Progress (HAUP), released a long statement condemning the president’s comments, and encouraging the Haitian people of Queens to stay vigilant.

“Be outraged, yes,” Saint-Louis said in the statement. “But channel the outrage into productive and organized efforts to build bonds, strengthen community structures and develop sensible advocacy strategies on immigration, social issues and Haiti’s future.”

The Haitian-American community in Queens began to form in the 1960s, when middle-class Haitians who could afford it fled the country during the Duvalier dictatorship. The Sacred Heart church in Cambria Heights has served as the center of the local Haitian community for decades, said HAUP Advocacy Coordinator Jocelyn McCalla.

Haiti has been regarded as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. An earthquake in 2010 devastated the country to the point where an official death toll could not be counted, though it was believed to be in the hundreds of thousands.

The United States quickly added Haiti to the list of countries with Temporary Protective Status (TPS) designation after the earthquake. On Jan. 22, the TPS will expire and it is up to the Trump administration to renew it or not.

With the impending deadline combined with the president’s comments, the most important part of the HAUP’s message to Haitians in Queens is to “keep your eyes on the prize and don’t get distracted,” McCalla said.

To build community you have to build respect and integrity and remain dignified and fight for the welfare of the people in that community,” McCalla added.

Also part of the reported Oval Office discussion was El Salvador, which will have its TPS status revoked by the administration as announced last week. Jose Calderon, president of the Hispanic Federation, was straightforward in the statement he released about Trump’s comments.

“We are outraged by this bigoted, vulgar and appalling attack on people of color,” Calderon said in the statement. “It is a grotesque betrayal of American values of openness and respect for diversity.”

Just days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the president’s comments were also in reference to African nations that were to be included in the proposed deal. Congressman Gregory Meeks, who represents much of southeast Queens, released a lengthy statement that touched on the importance of African nations to our “shared security and prosperity,” and called on one of King’s messages about the dangers of remaining silent during troubled times.

“I am disappointed when many of my Republican colleagues fail to speak out against President Trump’s repeated assaults on basic American values,” Meeks said. “In this instance, with only a few honorable exceptions, their deafening silence continues.”


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