ST. GEORGE – During his first State of the Union address before Congress, President Donald J. Trump touted the recent tax overhaul and called on Congress to come together on reforming immigration, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and providing for a stronger defense for the nation from potential threats.
As with previous State of the Union addresses, the party of the president, in this case the Republicans, stood and clapped throughout the speech. Many on the Democratic side remained seated, though stood and clapped for individuals honored by Trump for their personal experiences. These were both tragic and triumphant and related to policies set in place over the past year and policies the president plans to roll out in the coming year.
He acknowledged the year’s natural disasters and other tragedies, the Las Vegas mass shooting included, lauded improvements to America’s economy with all the benefits that flow from that to individuals and a growing workforce and declining unemployment.
Besides noting the past year’s accomplishments, including judicial appointments and tax reform, the president addressed issues to be resolved in 2018 – immigration reform being one of them. One of his top priorities this year is to address the high cost of pharmaceuticals: “And prices will come down substantially,” Trump said. “Watch.”
Recent tax reform
“This is our new American moment,” Trump said. “There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.”
Trump said this after lauding recently passed tax reforms and their benefits to business and the middle class.
“To lower tax rates for hardworking Americans, we nearly doubled the standard deduction for everyone,” Trump said. “Now, the first $24,000 earned by a married couple is completely tax-free. We also doubled the child tax credit.”
Millions of Americans should also start seeing the benefits of the tax reforms in April as it will give them “more take-home pay,” he said.
Trump also praised the repeal of the individual mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act that came with the recent tax overhaul.
Call for immigration reform
“Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families,” Trump said.
Trump called on Congress to pass a proposed immigration plan that he called a “fair compromise.” No one gets everything they wanted in the plan, but “our country gets the critical reforms it needs,” he said.
The plan has four parts, or pillars, the president said.
The first part allows a path to citizenship for 1.8 million “Dreamer” immigrants, that is, those who were brought into the county illegally by their parents while they were still children.
Once shielded under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, the future of the “Dreamers” – whom advocates note grew up in the U.S. and know no other life – became uncertain when the Trump administration rescinded the policy last year.
The second part of the plan calls for a border wall, as well as closing immigration loopholes that are taken advantage of by immigrants by potentially violent criminals, Trump said.
The third and fourth parts of the plan also call for an end to the visa lottery system and limits on chain migration to the United States that happens based on family ties (when a U.S. citizen or, in some cases, a green card holder petitions for a relative to join them).
“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” Trump said. “Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children.”
Mention of limiting chain migration earned Trump boos from parts of his audience.
Trump called for a merit-based immigration system and bringing overall immigration policy into the current century. A great need for immigration reform is to protect the American people from criminals, particularly those associated with violent gangs like MS-13, Trump said.
Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again.
The United States is a compassionate nation. We are proud that we do more than any other country to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world. But as President of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, and my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities.
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“As we rebuild our industries, it is also time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure,” Trump said.
Trump asked for Congress to pass a bill for $1.5 trillion for new infrastructure projects. He also called for legislation to streamline the approval process for such projects.
“America is a nation of builders,” Trump said. “We built the Empire State Building in just one year – is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?”
“Restoring our strength and standing abroad”
The president reaffirmed his commitment to the country’s veterans, touting choice in benefits and new accountability for the Veterans Administration, and called on Congress to “end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military.”
“As we rebuild America’s strength and confidence at home, we are also restoring our strength and standing abroad,” Trump said. “Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy and our values. In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.”
He also called for the nation’s nuclear arsenal to be modernized.
“Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons,” Trump said. “Unfortunately, we are not there yet.”
North Korea was particularly mentioned as a potential threat due to its pursuit of nuclear missile capable of hitting the continental United States.
“We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening,” Trump said.
Just prior to the his State of the Union speech, Trump signed an executive order keeping Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba open so it can continue to serve as a place to hold and interrogate accused terrorists.
“As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve,” Trump said as his speech drew to an end.
“As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens and trust in our God, we will not fail,” he said. “Our families will thrive. Our people will prosper. And our Nation will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free.”
“Thank you, and God bless America.”
St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.
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