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Trump talks immigration, terror and trade in State of the Union address

The US president also called for unity, stressing the need for a nation tested by tensions over the past year to come together “as one team, one people, and one American family”.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2018 23:41 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,State of the Union,immigration
US President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address in Washington on January 30, 2018.(NYT)

US President Donald Trump, in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, offered a four-pillar immigration deal, talked tough on trade and terrorism, and called for unity in the nation.

The address is an annual message presented by the president to a joint session of Congress on the state of the nation and his intent for the year ahead.

Clocking in at nearly 80 minutes, Trump’s major pitch was on immigration, with a call for support from both Republicans and Democrats. He formally put before the Congress a four-pillar plan his administration had unveiled earlier — a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, boosting border security with the wall along the Mexico border, ending a visa lottery to encourage diversity, and ending 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,” Trump said.

He reiterated his tough position on trade — calling for it to be “fair” and “reciprocal” — and terrorism, in which he redeployed Guantanamo Bay for terrorists apprehended abroad, reversing the Obama administration’s decision to close it.

He also called for unity, stressing the need for a nation tested by tensions over the past year to come together “as one team, one people, and one American family”.

India would be paying close attention to the first three issues — immigration, trade and terrorism — read along with his remarks reiterating his new strategy in Afghanistan.

Though details of his immigration plans will be hammered out during negotiations, implications for India are unclear except for the fate of its nationals brought here illegally as children — generically called Dreamers. More opportunities could arise for Indian professionals anecdotally, but analysts are projecting a shrinkage that may well follow as well in the number of green cards issued to Indians.

India, which has felt for a while it has been in the crosshairs of the Trump administration on account of a combined trade surplus in goods and services of an estimated $30 billion, will have heard loudly his tough talk calling for it to be “fair” and “reciprocal”.

However, New Delhi will feel reassured by his unflagging commitment to both act and talk tough on terror. “We must be clear: Terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful enemy combatants,” Trump said.

He also reiterated the shift in US policy on Afghanistan that he first laid out in his South Asia Strategy in August. The US has “new rules of engagement”, he said, and it will not be “undermined by artificial timelines”. That will be good news for India, which has been worried about the US leaving behind a chaotic Afghanistan vulnerable to meddling by Pakistan.

A fact sheet issued by the White House to draw out nuances in Trump’s speech said the suspension of nearly $2 billion in security aid to Pakistan was held up as a “long overdue message to aid recipients that we expect them to fully join us in combating terrorism”.

Though Trump did not mention South Asia or Pakistan, the 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”.

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 23:41 IST