"Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?” Trump asked during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers, the Washington Post reported, citing several people briefed on the meeting.

Instead of the Latin American and African countries, Trump suggested the U.S. should focus its immigrant entry policy on places like Norway, according to the Post.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according the Post. “Take them out.”

Someone in the room responded: “Because if you do, it will be obvious why”, NBC News reported. 

The comments disturbed lawmakers during the meeting, and came as Trump discussed steps on immigration reform with them. Senators Lindsey Graham and Richard J. Durbin later proposed slashing the visa lottery program by 50 percent, the Post reported.

Following the publication of the report, the White House issued a statement to the newspaper in which it did not directly challenge the authenticity of the reported comments, but said: “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people”.

"Like other nations that have merit-based immigration, President Trump is fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation," spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.

Trump has sought the elimination of the program, as well as immigration based on extended familial connections, also known as "chain migration". He has consistently made disparaging remarks about some ethnic groups, notably calling Mexicans criminals and "rapists".

"Some, I assume, are good people," he conceded, during his 2016 campaign.

Responding to Trump's Thursday comments, Congressman Luis Gutierrez said, "As an American, I am ashamed of the President."

"We always knew that President Trump doesn’t like people from certain countries or people or certain colors. We can now we say with 100% confidence that the President is a racist who does not share the values enshrined in our Constitution or Declaration of Independence," he said in a statement.

"This is the real Donald Trump and my biggest fear is that his voters will applaud him," Gutierrez added.

Marielena Hincapie, the executive director at the National Immigration Law Center, added in a separate statement: "This is not a president who respects the dignity of people of color, and as Americans we must do everything in our power to resist this administration’s white supremacist agenda."

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) denounced Trump's comments.

"His decision to use profanity to describe African, Central American and Caribbean countries is not only a low mark for this President, it is a low point for our nation," the black civil rights group said in a statement. "This President’s failure to grasp simple ideas of inclusion and maturity is an open sore on our democracy that continues to fester."

Anadolu Agency