President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday night was an address full of powerful moments and stony-faced receptions from Democrats irked by his appeals for immigration reform.
Trump’s theme was making America great again — and that wasn’t a surprise.
It also wasn't a surprise that Trump's appeals to drive MS-13 gang members back to Central America or to end chain migration were met with frozen looks (and sometimes hissing) from the Democrats in the House chamber.
But Trump's dramatic throwing down of the gauntlet on immigration is sure to be remembered. The president reminded the audience that his first priority is to Americans, and he stole one of the Democrats' most cherished metaphors to do so.
"My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream," said Trump. "Because Americans are dreamers, too."
Trump said his plan for 2018 is to pass immigration reforms and restrictions, based on his idea of "four pillars."
Pillar one is to extend a carefully defined amnesty to 1.8 million illegal aliens. The immigrants in question were brought to the United States illegally as children by their parents. They are called "dreamers," and were extended temporary amnesty by former President Barack Obama in 2012. The executive order was named Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and it affected about 700,000 people.
Trump revoked DACA in September, but surprised his own allies by almost tripling the number a compromise amnesty would have.
Pillar two was border security, the basis of which is Trump's most famous campaign pledge, to "Build the Wall" along the country's border with Mexico.
Pillar three is a merit-based immigration system for legal immigrants. Nations such as Canada have much stricter standards for legal immigrants than does the United States, which changed in 1965 to a system based on multiple factors besides skills, education and achievement potential.
And pillar four, Trump said to hissing from Democrats, was an end to chain migration. Chain migration is the sponsoring by U.S. residents of new immigrants based solely on family relation. Trump believes the system extends too far and too wide in families, allowing far-distant cousins to come to America.
The overall proposals brought praise from Trump's allies in the immigration-reform movement.
"Most American voters had to be thrilled to finally hear their long-time immigration desires expressed at the highest level, as the president made clear that any immigration deal has to eliminate chain migration and end the visa lottery," said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA.
"Polling has long shown that strong majorities of voters oppose both methods of adding foreign workers to compete for jobs and wages," he continued.
Beck said the address was a long-held dream of immigration critics who want to see legal immigration decreased, and illegal immigration stopped.
"I'm not sure I have ever heard a president better express the priorities of immigration policies than tonight when President Trump reminded us that such policies must always take into consideration their effect on the vulnerable of our own national community," Beck told LifeZette.
"The proof of that commitment will be in how much and how soon his deal trims lifetime new immigrant work permits from the present 1 million a year back toward the 600,000 a year of the 1980s."
Former Sen. Jim DeMint, now president of the Conservative Partnership Institute, said lawmakers should look to Trump for guidance on issues like border security.
Trump did not shrink from his role as a world leader.
"As the president and Congress move forward on the current immigration debate, conservatives urge lawmakers to hold the line on protecting the rule of law and securing our border," DeMint said in a statement.
Trump did not shrink from his role as a world leader, though.
Perhaps the most powerful moment came when Trump singled out a North Korean who escaped the daily horrors of that nation, Ji Seong-ho. Ji lost a foot and a hand in 1996 while taking coal from a train during the North Korean famine of the 1990s.
Ji fled to South Korea in 2006 and now broadcasts messages into North Korea. Trump used Ji's story to stress "the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom."
Last Modified: February 1, 2018, 8:42 am