Trump in His Third Address to a
Joint Meeting of Congress
President Donald J. Trump adhered to familiar themes on immigration during his second State of the Union Address, which he delivered on Tuesday, February 5th from the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. The President devoted more than one-fifth of his Address to the subject, painting immigrants as criminals, drug traffickers, and job-stealers, And he renewed his oft-repeated demand that Congress fund the construction of a wall along stretches of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
Tuesday;s speech was the President's second State of the Union Address. However, it was his third time addressing a joint meeting of Congress. As is typical for first-term Presidents, he delivered an address during his first months in office in 2017 that was not officially designated a State of the Union Address.
In his first address to a joint meeting of Congress, which he delivered on February 28, 2017, he also devoted what then was a record amount of time on immigration (937 of the 5,037 words). And he did so, as well, during his second Address, which he delivered on January 30, 2018 (1,013 of the 5,146 words). By comparison, President Obama devoted just 37 words to the subject in his first Address to Congress.
Morality and Compassion? The President began his remarks on immigration by declaring that "Now is the time for the Congress to show the world that America is committed to ending illegal immigration and putting the ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers out of business."
He couched his efforts to prevent illegal immigration as a "moral issue," asserting that doing so was a matter of "compassion" for the American citizens; for those seeking to enter the United States illegally, themselves; and for immigrants who come to the United States legally.
With respect to those who are seeking to enter the United States, the President said that "Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate -- it is cruel. One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north. Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country." Continuing, he asserted that "Human traffickers and sex traffickers take advantage of the wide open areas between our ports of entry to smuggle thousands of young girls and women into the United States and to sell them into prostitution and modern-day slavery."
With respect to Americans, he declared that "The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well being of all Americans. We have a moral duty to create an immigration system that protects the lives and jobs of our citizens."
Supposed Impact of Illegal Immigration. As he has in previous Addresses, the President claimed that immigration has a negative impact on the nation's economy. Said he on the subject, "working class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration -- reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net However, it was a portrayal of immigrants as criminals he devoted most of his attention to with respect to immigration.
Ignoring the fact that border cities are among the safest in the country and that the crime rate of immigrants to the United States -- both those who come to the country legally and those who don't -- is lower than the crime rate for U.S. citizens, the President declared, "The savage gang, MS-13, now operates in 20 different American States, and they almost all come through our southern border. Just yesterday, an MS-13 gang member was taken into custody for a fatal shooting on a subway platform in New York City. We are removing these gang members by the thousands, but until we secure our border they're going to keep streaming back in." Continuing, he asserted that "Year after year, countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens."
As he has done in his previous addresses to Congress, the President invited the families of several Americans who had been killed by persons suspected of being in the United States illegally to sit in the House gallery with the First Lady. He pointed to them during the course of his speech and old the stories of their loved ones, asserting that "Not one more American life should be lost because our Nation failed to control its very dangerous border."
The Border Wall. The President promoted his proposed border wall and other border security proposals during his Address, calling his demands "a commonsense proposal to end the crisis on our southern border." He said that his proposal "includes humanitarian assistance, more law enforcement, drug detection at our ports, closing loopholes that enable child smuggling, and plans for a new physical barrier, or wall, to secure the vast areas between our ports of entry. In the past, most of the people in this room voted for a wall -- but the proper wall never got built. I'll get it built."
He described the wall that he envisions as "a smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier -- not just a simple concrete wall," and he said "It will be deployed in the areas identified by border agents as having the greatest need, and as these agents will tell you, where walls go up, illegal crossings go way down."
The President contended that "The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime -- one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our Nation's most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities," a contention that has repeatedly been rebutted by the Sheriff of El Paso.
The President concluded the immigration section of his remarks by declaring, "Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let's work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe."
The Democratic Response. Democrats chose former State Representative Stacey Abrams (D-GA) to present the Democratic response to the President. While she did not devote a large section of her speech to the subjects of immigration and immigrants, she struck a dramatically different tone than the President on those two subjects.
In her remarks, the former State Senator declared, "We know bipartisanship could craft a 21st century immigration plan, but this Administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart. Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders. President Reagan understood this. President Obama understood this. Americans understand this. And Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders. But we must all embrace that from agriculture to healthcare to entrepreneurship, America is made stronger by the presence of immigrants - not walls."