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Trump details immigration policy proposal in State of Union speech as he calls for ‘one America’

In his address to Congress from the Capitol Hill, he told lawmakers that there has “never been a better time to start living the American dream”.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2018 12:11 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Trump,State of Union address
President Donald Trump gestures at the end of his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, on January 30, 2018. (AP Photo)

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday offered a deal on immigration in his first State of the Union address, talked tough on trade and terrorism, and called for unity stressing the need for a nation tested repeatedly by bitter divisiveness in the past year to work together “as one team, one people, and one American family”.

Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, long by some standards, the president reiterated his tough position on trade — calling for it to be “fair” and “reciprocal” — and terrorism, in which he redeployed Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorists apprehended abroad, reversing Obama Administration’s decision to close it.

Also on terrorism, one of fact-sheets issued by the White House to draw out nuances in the speech, the suspension of security aid to Pakistan — nearly $ 2 billion earlier in January — was held up as a “long overdue message to aid recipients that we expect them to fully join us in combatting terrorism”.

India would be paying close attention to all the three issues as it will affect the country as well its citizens. Immigration reforms are expected to improve the situation for Indians, some undocumented but most others legally in the United States.

India has also been in the crosshairs of the administration’s tough posture on trade, on account of a trade surplus of an estimated $30 billion.

“From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and, very importantly, reciprocal,” Trump stated.

New Delhi will also feel reassured by the president’s continued resolve to combat terrorism. Trump did not mention south of Pakistan, but a White House fact sheet spoke of how his conditions-based South Asia Strategy provides commanders with the authority and resources needed to deny terrorists the safe haven they seek in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The major pitch of the speech was the ongoing immigration debate.

“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,” he said in his speech, which is a customary annual report on the state of the nation from the president to the Congress and his intent for year ahead.

He went on to formally put before the Congress a four-pillar plan his administration had unveiled earlier: one, a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children; two, boost border security with the wall along the border with Mexico and more resources; three, end visa lottery to encourage diversity; and, lastly, four, end family-based chain migration.

“It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system -- one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country,” the president said, renewing his call for the system that he spoke of first in his 2017 joint address to the Congress.

These reforms, he added, “will produce legislation that fulfils my ironclad pledge to only sign a bill that puts America first”.

“Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family,” the president, who has been criticised in the past for ambivalence in the face of racial, ethnic and religious conflagrations, said.

“We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag.”

But, even in his search for unity, he couldn’t help bring up his ongoing tussle with American sportspeople, who have refused to stand for the pre-game national anthem to protest continuing racial inequalities.

The speech was interrupted repeatedly by applause mostly along partisan lines, barring a few times when Democrats joined in as well, mostly for first-responders who made a mark with their bravery and service, and American troops and veterans.

President Trump also took the opportunity of his address to talk about his initiatives from the previous year — such as tax reforms, energy reforms “eliminating” regulations and restrictions.

“This is our new American moment,” Trump said about the benefits accruing from his tax system overhaul, which has been popular with most Americans. “There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.”

He also talked about the battle against the Islamic State.

“Last year, I pledged that we would work with our allies to extinguish ISIS from the face of the earth. One year later, I’m proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated almost 100% of the territory once held by these killers in Iraq and Syria.”

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 09:41 IST