U.S. President Donald Trump met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday — the first visit of the controversial leader to the White House since he returned to power in 2010.
Orban, Hungary's prime minister from 1998-2002 and again since 2010, has been criticized by the European Union, of which it is a member, as well as international human rights groups for a perceived decline in human rights and democracy in his country.
Speaking next to his Hungarian counterpart Monday in the White House, Trump applauded Orban's hardline immigration policies, which have been criticized by human rights groups around the world, saying Orban has "done the right thing" on immigration.
"He's … probably, like me, a little controversial but that's OK, that's OK," Trump said.
Sitting to Trump's right, Orban told reporters Monday that Hungary is "proud to stand with the United States on fighting illegal migration."
Following the talks, the White House said in a statement the two leaders "reaffirmed their commitment to the NATO Alliance and to their democratic systems of government." It also said the two discussed "how best to increase vigilance against unchecked global migration and to address China's unfair trade and investment practices."
Ahead of the talks, a group of U.S. senators and members of the Foreign Relations Committee wrote a letter to President Trump Friday, urging him to discuss concern over Hungary's "downward democratic trajectory."
"Hungary has experienced a steady corrosion of freedom, the rule of law and quality of governance according to virtually any indicator," the letter read.
Among those indicators is the "partly free" designation given to Hungary by the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom — the first country in the European Union to see such a decline.
"The Hungarian government fails to respect the rule of law and human rights," Human Rights Watch writes in its current country profile of Hungary. "Government representatives are increasingly hostile to journalists and critics and engage in anti-migrant, anti-Muslim and xenophobic rhetoric including through publicly funded campaigns."
The White House has not responded to the letter from members of the U.S. Congress expressing concerns about Orban.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hungary's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement on the sidelines of events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO.