A Maryland senator who represents Montgomery County, where a third of the residents are foreign-born, called on her colleagues on Friday to condemn President Trump for using the word “shithole” to describe Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.
“Maryland is better than we are seeing right now in this White House,” Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor. “Please join me in condemning the language, the disrespect, the hatred and, yes, the racism that we continue to see coming out of this administration.”
Kagan’s remarks prompted applause, an unusual response in the normally orderly chamber. Five other senators — three of them immigrants — also spoke about the impact Trump’s remarks have had.
Sen. Dolores Kelly (D-Baltimore City) said the president’s words prompted her to reassure her three granddaughters, whose mother is Haitian, that “their mother was a worthwhile human being.” She thanked Kagan for “raising this issue that harms real people.”
Trump on Friday appeared to deny using the word “shithole,” saying he used “tough” language during a meeting on efforts toward a bipartisan immigration deal.
When Kagan began speaking about the incident, after Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) acknowledged her for a point of personal privilege, she was interrupted by Sen. Robert G. Casilly (R-Harford).
“We’re living in really contentious and divisive times, and it is shocking, deplorable and offensive when the president of the United States disparages groups of people, nations and an entire continent,” Kagan began.
“Mr. President, Mr. President, point of order,” Casilly said. “Can I just ask the nature?”
“This was a point of personal privilege,” Kagan retorted.
“Mr. President,” Casilly said.
“This is the Senate of Maryland, and we can do it now or later, Senator,” Miller responded.
Casilly said he thought Kagan’s remarks were out of order. “Points of personal privilege are to relate to the matters before this body,” Casilly said. “There is no matter before this body.”
Miller opted to move on with taking up override votes on Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes and gave Kagan a chance to finish her remarks later.
In Virginia’s House of Delegates, Del. Lee Carter (D-Prince William) also addressed the situation on the floor, without directly mentioning the president. He drew groans from Republicans in the chamber when he rose and said he wanted to speak to the recent comments made in the White House.
Carter, a Marine Corps veteran, recalled his deployment to Haiti after a deadly earthquake eight years ago, and how a teenager approached him to ask about life in the United States and how he could join the U.S. military.
“I personally saw what the lives of those folks down there are like. I saw the hardships that they face,” Carter said. “So I understand just how important it is for people who want to come here from Haiti and from the other nations like Haiti to come here and have a better life for themselves and their children.”
Fenit Nirappil in Richmond contributed to this report.