By Will Racke
President Donald Trump struck a conciliatory tone in his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, but he let out his inner immigration hawk during his remarks on cracking down on criminal aliens.
Touting his administration’s efforts against the transnational gang MS-13, he called on Congress to “close deadly loopholes” in border security by hiring more immigration agents and tightening rules governing asylum claims.
“My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream.” Trump said. “Because Americans are dreamers too.”
Trump’s remarks on immigration enforcement were in keeping with a theme running through his entire speech: defending the economic and security interests of American citizens. Though he is seeking a bipartisan compromise on legislation to protect certain younger illegal immigrants from deportation, Trump said that goal should not come at the expense of protecting the public.
“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,” Trump said. “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.”
In his first year in office, Trump made immigration enforcement the centerpiece of his domestic agenda. In fiscal year 2017, immigration arrests in the interior of the country rose by 40 percent, while illegal immigration across the southwest border declined to its lowest level in at least three decades.
Trump has promised to make border security a priority in any deal to legalize recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. His immigration framework calls for fully funding a wall along the southwest border and tightening rules about who can claim asylum after crossing the border illegally.