Leaders around the world are reacting with shock to an expletive U.S. President Donald Trump apparently used to describe Haiti and African countries in a meeting with U.S. lawmakers Thursday on immigration.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, was in the Oval Office meeting Thursday and confirmed on Friday that Trump called them "s---hole countries."
Trump, who denied using the vulgar term toward Haitians in a tweet on Friday, reportedly said in the meeting that the United States should let in more people from places such as Norway, whose prime minister met with him at the White House on Wednesday.
While condemning Trump's comment, one South Sudanese immigrant said the majority of Africans who come to the U.S. are hardworking and are looking to make a better life for themselves.
David Dau, a congressional legislative fellow and a former Lost Boy of South Sudan, was shocked when reports surfaced of the foul word Trump reportedly used. Dau, who spends time working on South Sudan issues, said many Africans contribute to American society in a very positive way.
"The majority of the Africans who come here are already here on the merit-based immigration," Dau told South Sudan in Focus. "So if you look at a lot of Africans, whether they are Ethiopian, South African or Nigerian, many of them are doctors, they are nurses, they are dentists or what have you."
In a tweet Friday morning, Trump distanced himself from the reports.
The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018
Dau said the damage has already been done.
"Now, because of the global connectivity, they will see a comment like this from the leader of the free world and, how will I tell them that America is the greatest country if they see a comment like this," he said. "You have so many people in Africa, and in South Sudan in particular, and their only hope is to find an opportunity to resettle, but when they hear comment like this ... it discourages people."
African Union spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo told the Associated Press "given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice."
The level of alarm was shared by Dau, who said the idea is to work toward a better world.
"And when you hear comments like that, it makes you feel like you haven't done anything over the last year as an advocate," he said. "One hopes for an encouraging comment, but a comment like this it makes me feel like if he thinks like that and he is the leader of the free world, is he going to give money to fight aids or hunger or other things in Africa?"
While his country regularly makes headlines for conflict, hunger and a growing refugee population, Dau believes that the best is yet to come for South Sudan.
"The majority of South Sudan's population is under the age of 34," he added. "There is a better South Sudan that is on the horizon in comparison to what we have now."