In a statement touting the diversity that came from immigration, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared to push back on President Donald Trump's reported comments admonishing the United States admitting immigrants from “s**thole countries” like Haiti and those in Africa:
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 12, 2018
“Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness,” Graham said.
Graham, a long-time immigration reform advocate, said he believed that “America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.”
His comments came after international figures and others accused Trump of making racist remarks during a meeting with Graham and other lawmakers discussing immigration reform.
In reference to Haiti and African nations, Trump allegedly asked: “Why are we having all these people from s**thole countries come here?”
On Friday, Trump cast doubt on the accuracy of that quote and others from the meeting. He specifically denied saying “take them out,” in reference to Haitian immigrants.
While Graham's statement didn't confirm or deny Trump making those comments, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who also attended Thursday's meeting, claimed the alleged quotes were accurate. “He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly," Durbin said on Friday.
Graham didn't specifically refer to those remarks, but said that he said his “piece directly” to the president after his comments during the meeting.
Graham, in his Friday statement, also vaguely referenced Durbin's statements. “I appreciate Senator Durbin's statements and have enjoyed working with him and many others on this important issue,” Graham said.
It's unclear, however, whether he was talking about Durbin refuting Trump earlier that day.
Graham's letter supported an on-going process in which lawmakers from both parties recently met to discuss an immigration deal. A group of senators announced they made a deal on Thursday, but Trump rejected it as insufficient:
The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican Senators and Congressmen was a big step backwards. Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Trump previously made clear he wouldn't approve immigration reform unless it included border wall funding, something Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) indicated most Democrats would oppose. “I will certainly vote against it and I know most Democrats will vote against it,” Castro said of House Democrats.