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Trump, in first State of the Union address, outlines immigration plan

Mark Wilson | GettyImages North America | AFP
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President stays true to "America First" theme throughout his first SOTU speech.

In his first State of the Union address, President Donald J. Trump reaffirmed his “America First” approach Tuesday night, but offered a plan that will provide a way for millions of non-Americans to become citizens.

The president, who spent much of the 80-minute address touting the accomplishments of his first year in office, outlined four “pillars” of an immigration reform bill he said his administration is backing.

The pillars of the reform, he said, include a “path to citizenship” for so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents illegally and still have no legal status to live or work here; fully securing the country’s borders; ending the “visa lottery” system, and ending “chain migration.”

Trump said the plan would offer a “path to citizenship for 1.8 million ‘Dreamers,’ who were previously protected under the Obama-era “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program, or DACA. He said that such young people could earn citizenship over a 12-year period if they “meet educational and work requirements and show good moral character.”

Secondly, securing the border means building a “great wall on the southern border,” but also hiring more border control agents and closing the “terrible loopholes” in the law that he said have been exploited by criminal gang members to gain entry into the U.S. He added that the bill would also end the “horrible and dangerous practice of ‘catch-and-release.'”

Third, Trump’s reform legislation would end the “visa lottery, which randomly hands out green cards without regard for skill, merit or the safety of the American people” but would “admit people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to society and who will love and respect our country.”

Finally, the bill would “protect the nuclear family by ending ‘chain migration,'” whereby, according to the president, a single immigrant can “bring in a virtually endless number of relatives.” Trump’s plan will limit such privileges to spouses and minor children.

Immigration policies, he said, must focus on the best interest of Americans. He said that for too long, those policies have made it too easy for drugs and gangs to get into the country and have also given low-wage workers an advantage over citizens.

“My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans,” Trump said, “to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too.”

Toward that end, the president said the country needs “fair and reciprocal” trading relationships with other countries; a rebuilding of crumbling infrastructure; investment in workforce development and job training; tougher treatment of drug dealers in the midst of the opioid addiction crisis, and a reform of prisons “to help former inmates get a second chance at life.”

He said that faith and family are the center of American life, not bureaucracy.

“The motto,” he said, “is ‘In God We Trust.'”

But he ended with a strong reminder for government officials to trust in the people of America.

“This Capitol, this city, and this Nation, belong to them,” he said as he wound down his speech. “Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them.

“Americans fill the world with art and music. They push the bounds of science and discovery,” Trump continued. “And they forever remind us of what we should never forget: The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it is the people who are making America great again. … As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail.”

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