President Donald Trump said Sunday that four minority, liberal congresswomen who have been critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," prompting other Democrats - including Pelosi - to rally to their defense.

Pelosi denounced Trump's tweets as "xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation," while one of the freshman Democrats, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, responded that "the country we all swear to" is the United States.

Trump's remark, made in morning tweets, comes as the infighting between Pelosi and the four freshman women of color - Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota - has spilled into public view. It also comes as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are preparing to round up migrant families that have received deportation orders across the country.

Video: President Trump's tweet follows infighting between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and four Democratic freshman women of color - Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) (The Washington Post)

"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," Trump tweeted.

Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Tlaib was born in Detroit and Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York - about 20 miles from where Trump was born. Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia; her family fled the country amid civil war when she was a child, and she became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

All four women won election to Congress in 2018.

In a follow-up tweet, Trump suggested that the four Democrats should leave Washington.

"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," he said. "Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"

Trump's tweets prompted a sharp response from Pelosi, who described them as racist and divisive.

She also called on Trump to halt the planned ICE raids on Sunday and "work with us for humane immigration policy that reflects American values."

Ocasio-Cortez also fired back at Trump on Twitter.

"Mr. President, the country I 'come from,' & the country we all swear to, is the United States," she said. "But given how you've destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet."

Trump's tweet came after House Democrats spent the prior week locked in internal tumult over whether Pelosi and House leaders have unfairly marginalized the four liberal freshmen. The firestorm reignited late Friday when the official House Democratic Caucus Twitter account attacked Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff for suggesting that Democrats had voted to "enable a racist system." And on Saturday, Pressley made comments at the annual Netroots Nation conference that seemed to add to the conflagration.

But within a few hours on Sunday, Democratic lawmakers were united in defending their colleagues against Trump's attack.

"This is white nationalism," said Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who is running for president.

Some pointed out Trump's history of birtherism as well as the fact that the president's wife, Melania, immigrated to the United States. Melania Trump immigrated from Slovenia in 1996 for modeling.

"3 of 4 are American born and other is a citizen," Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said of the four Democratic lawmakers in a tweet. "They are all 'more' American than 2 of Trumps wives (he seems partial to foreign women) and his grandparents."

Trump's first wife, Ivana Trump, was born in what was then Czechoslovakia, and Trump's grandparents and mother were born in Europe.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, another Democratic presidential hopeful, called Trump's tweets "another effort to divide people along lines of religion, ethnicity, origin, and create a country where there can't be unity."

"Unfortunately, there's an American tradition of telling people to go back where they came from," de Blasio said on CNN's "State of the Union." "It's a very bad tradition that we need to weed out of our nation, because we are a nation of immigrants. That's who we are by our nature for hundreds of years. But you don't expect to hear it from the president of the United States."

Some, such as Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., responded to Trump with personal stories. Gallego on Sunday recounted how, despite being born in the United States, he was repeatedly told to "go back to Mexico" from childhood through adulthood, regardless of his service in the Marine Corps or how well he did in school.

"To people like Trump I will never be American enough," Gallego said in a tweet. "So if you wonder why I give no inch to these racists, now you know. Nothing will ever satisfy them, all we can do is stop them."

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., said on "Fox News Sunday" that Trump's tweet was "racist" and "wrong."

"Telling people to go back where they came from? These are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the most distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives," said Luján, who is assistant House speaker.

For years, Trump repeatedly raised doubts about former President Barack Obama's birth certificate, making the issue a central part of his 2016 presidential run. He finally acknowledged in September 2016 that Obama was born in the United States - but falsely accused the campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of being the source of the rumor.

"Trump is now turning the same birtherism he directed at President Obama against women of color serving in Congress," Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said. "Everyone should call this what it is: racism."

Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., a vocal Trump critic who recently left the Republican Party, also defended the four Democratic lawmakers.

"To tell these American citizens (most of whom were born here) to 'go back' to the 'crime infested places from which they came' is racist and disgusting," Amash said in a tweet.

Trump administration officials, meanwhile, declined to defend the president's tweets.

On CNN's "State of the Union," host Jake Tapper asked Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, whether he knew whom the president was talking about in his tweets.

"I don't. I don't," Cuccinelli said.

Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, also declined to weigh in. "I think that you need to talk to the president about his specific tweets," Morgan said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

Jeh Johnson, who was homeland security secretary during the Obama administration, said Morgan had "ducked" the question. Johnson argued that by sending the inflammatory tweets, Trump was undermining his own administration's efforts on a bipartisan immigration reform deal.

"I cannot believe a president of the United States would make a statement about foreign-born members of Congress, suggesting they go back from where they came from. ... Americans should not become numb to this kind of language and offensive statements," Johnson said on "Face the Nation."

This article was written by Felicia Sonmez, a reporter for The Washington Post.