President Donald Trump called for immigration reforms that would serve the the economic needs of American workers, laying out an inclusive message on the divisive issue during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
Offering a sunnier tone and a more inclusive message on immigration policy than in his more pugnacious public rallies, Trump called on Republicans and Democrats to craft policies that protect people who are already here.
“Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families,” the president said. “So tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color, and creed.”
Trump has often cast his immigration agenda in terms of public safety and the rule of law, promising to expel criminal alien gang members and open up deportation to anybody in the U.S. without authorization. Trump hit on those themes in his State of the Union address, but the balance of his immigration-related remarks focused on how his agenda will benefit “America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities.”
Trump’s address comes amid often combative negotiations over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era executive amnesty that shielded certain younger illegal immigrants from deportation. Trump ended DACA last year and gave Congress until March 5 to pass a bill that codifies the protections.
Lawmakers have been unable to come to a compromise, and the issue has dominated the legislative agenda as the March expiration date approaches. Trump and many Republicans are insisting that any DACA bill include funding for a border wall and significant changes to immigration law, including limits on chain migration and an end to the diversity visa lottery. Democrats have refused to consider deeper immigration reforms and accused Republicans of holding DACA recipients “hostage” to achieve their policy goals.
Trump attempted to stake out some common ground Tuesday night by arguing that U.S. immigration policy has failed to protect “vulnerable communities” and workers at the low end of the wage scale — rhetoric that is more typically associated with the Democratic Party.
“For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities,” Trump said. “They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.”
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