President Donald Trump, in his first address to a joint session of Congress, laid out his vision for key immigration policy changes. In the hours leading up to the speech, speculation mounted that Trump would call for some kind of amnesty for illegal aliens who have not committed serious crimes. However, Trump did no such thing, instead calling for immigration policies that strengthen national security, improve wages, and restore the rule of law.
From the outset, Trump focused on immigration enforcement and border security. “By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions and billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone,” Trump declared. “We want all Americans to succeed, but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law at our borders.” Trump then addressed two of his key campaign promises—building a wall on the southern border and immediately removing dangerous criminal aliens. “We will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border [and] as we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens,” he said. Trump then spoke squarely to the body before him that must play a key role in implementing his border security and immigration enforcement agenda. “To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”
Noting that “[his administration’s] obligation is to serve, protect, and defend the citizens of the United States,” Trump pledged to continue taking strong measures to ensure that terrorists are unable to exploit our immigration system. After rattling off notable terrorist attacks carried out within our borders, as well as recent attacks in Europe, Trump declared that, “those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.” He added, “We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America [and] we cannot allow our nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.” Trump then hinted at an upcoming executive order to replace the freeze on admitting people from countries that are hotbeds for terrorism, which is currently blocked by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. “My administration has been working on improved vetting procedures and we will shortly take new steps to keep our nation safe and keep out those who will do us harm,” he said.
Trump also discussed his vision of a legal immigration system that is merit-based and serves the interests of taxpaying American workers. “The current, outdated [legal immigration system] depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers,” Trump said. He also noted that other nations, such as Canada and Australia, already have a merit-based system. “It’s a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” Trump went on to say. “Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.” Trump’s willingness to switch away from the current system of lower-skilled immigration was a tacit endorsement of Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue’s (R-Ga.) RAISE Act (S. 354). This important piece of legislation would take the first crucial step in moving the immigrant selection process to a more merit-based system while returning immigration to more historic levels.
After urging Americans to support the men and women of law enforcement, Trump said that victims of crime must also be supported—including those who suffered at the hands of illegal aliens. “I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims,” he said. The office, according to Trump, will be called Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE), as it will “provide a voice to those who have been ignored by the media and silenced by special interests.” Specifically, the office would provide services to victims of crimes committed by removable aliens and the families of such victims. It will also provide the public with quarterly reports on the effects of the victimizations by criminal aliens present in the U.S.
Lastly, Trump acknowledged his special guests seated alongside First Lady Melania Trump in the gallery, including four individuals whose relatives were killed by illegal aliens. “Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them,” he said. “Their names are Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver, and Jessica Davis.” Jamiel Shaw’s son, Jamiel Jr., was gunned down by an illegal alien gang member in 2008. Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver (joined by her daughter Jenna) are the widows of Placer County Detective Michael Davis, Jr. and Sacramento Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver. These two California law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2014 by an illegal alien gang member with multiple deportations. Their names were memorialized in the 114th Congress by the Davis-Oliver interior enforcement bill, which aims to increase cooperation between federal and local officials in the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. While the Davis-Oliver bill is yet to be introduced in the current Congress, Trump voiced support for it on the campaign trail and would likely sign it into law if it landed on his desk.
“President Trump demonstrated a studied understanding of the market forces at work that are displacing American workers and depressing working class,” said FAIR President Dan Stein, who lauded the address to Congress and the American people. “He once again showed that he empathizes with the thousands of American families who have needlessly lost love ones to illegal immigrants who should not have been in the country in the first place. Acting on behalf of the American people, he has a vision for key policy changes that will address all of these problems,” he said.