On Tuesday night, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union Address. In his speech, he focused on employment growth and the economy, infrastructure, trade policies, immigration and national security. The address invoked a sense of unity, and bipartisanship, vastly differing from the gridlocked state that the government is currently in. Congressman John Lewis was not in attendance, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus did not react to Trump’s speech. This goes to show just how divided America is currently, and how far from reality Trump’s rosy version of America is.
President Trump boasted about achievements the his administration have made. “Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success,” he remarked (the only success the Trump administration has had so far is the tax cuts that they barely passed at the end of last year).
Trump went on to cite all time low unemployment rates. While employment rates are soaring, President Trump refused to acknowledge that the unemployment rates started declining during the Obama administration era due to the former president’s policies. Trump also boasts about how low the Black and Hispanic unemployment rate currently is, but fails to recognize the inferior quality of life and lack of respect afforded to minorities.
The government recently shut down over the Senate’s inability to pass legislation on government spending and disputes about the extension of status over the 690,000 dreamers who are protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The government only reopened temporarily after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to allow a debate on the immigration bill.
Trump laid down the framework for his reformed immigration policies, which included a pathway to citizenship for the dreamers. The four pillars of his policy are:
- A pathway to citizenship for people who were brought to the United States by their parents as children. This is a 12 year process that will eventually grant them citizenship provided that they meet the education and work requirements, and show good moral character.
- Securing the border by building a wall on the southern border, and hiring more Border Patrol Agents. It also includes ending the practice of catch and release. Catch and release is the practice of apprehending people who have crossed the border illegally and then releasing them while their cases are pending.
- Ending the visa lottery program that, according to Trump, “randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of the American people.” The visa diversity program is not random, the applicants are vetted and must meet certain requirements. Applicants go through a medical exam, cannot have a criminal record, must have at least a high school education or two years of work experience. And after all this, the visa winners are subjected to a lengthy background check.
- And finally, ending “chain migration.” Under current policies, citizens are allowed to sponsor their spouses, children (minor and adult), parents and siblings. Residents and green card holders can petition to bring over their spouses, and their minor children. Under the Trump administration’s reformed policy, immigrants are only allowed to sponsor their spouses and minor children.
Needless to say, this would be a major shift in U.S. immigration policy, which has remained mostly the same since the 1960s. In a lightly veiled jab to immigrants, Trump also devoted a large portion of his speech to MS-13 and used the gang as an example to discredit hardworking DACA recipients, who are still portrayed as dangerous, low-skilled, unintelligible job stealers.
Trump also touched on his recent remarks about recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and acknowledged the backlash it received in the United Nations. In response to the countries that voted against his decision, he said, “…I am asking Congress to pass legislation to ensure that American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.” While it remains unclear what assistance he is threatening to withhold, his isolationist rhetoric threatens the very national security he says he is trying so hard to protect. The United States needs allies, not adversaries, and calling other sovereign nations “enemies” because of their disagreement with America’s leader is unnecessary conflict.
Trump mentioned his plans to increase military funding, and urged Congress to end defense sequester. This is is to protect American interests as he says “we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy and our values.”
President Trump said he hopes to work in a bipartisan manner to unite the country and resolve our problems, although everything he said makes this very unlikely. He continues to disrespect minorities, immigrants and other marginalized groups, which will cause conflict with the Democrats. True to his signature, Trump talked a big talk and whether or not he actually strives to protect American values and the people of this country by working across party lines is yet to be seen.