WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump called on Tuesday for a “new American moment” in his first State of the Union address, urging Congress to toughen the country’s immigration laws, approve his ambitious infrastructure plans and prioritize US interests in security and trade.
Trump centered his speech, which lasted more than 80 minutes, on “the American Dream.”
“This is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream,” Trump said.
On immigration, he said American citizens were also “dreamers,” using the name given to undocumented youth who entered the US as children.
The president spoke on immigration in terms of security and blamed “open borders” for the large-scale arrival of cheap labor, drugs and criminal gangs such as MS-13.
Trump repeatedly appealed to Republicans and Democrats to work together on immigration reform which would grant 1.8 million “dreamers” citizenship in exchange for a $25 billion allotment to build a wall on the Mexican border.
“So let us come together, set politics aside, and finally get the job done,” Trump said, although stressing that he will only sign a law which puts “America first.”
The leader asked Congress to end the diversity visa lottery, which randomly assigns up to 50,000 visas to foreigners, and install a merit-based system to substitute the current family reunion method, called “chain migration” by its detractors.
He also stressed the need of erecting a border wall to close the doors to “criminals and terrorists.”
Trump asked for an increase in the defense budget, called for modernizing and reconstructing nuclear weapons and announced that he was ordering the prison in Guantanamo Bay to be kept open, ending an initiative that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had made a priority.
The leader also warned about the threat from North Korea, saying the regime had missiles which could very soon threaten US territory.
“We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies,” Trump said.
He also used the address to take credit for sanctions imposed on Cuba and Venezuela.
Despite the almost constant media coverage the issue gets in the US, the president did not comment on the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections, merely mentioning Russia and China as “rivals” that challenge US interests and values.
Talking of his legislative priorities, Trump urged to Congress to approve a bill to rebuild infrastructure in the country, which would require a $1.5 billion investment.
“America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just 1 year. Is it not a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?” the president said.
Trump also boasted of the “extraordinary success” of his first year in office, citing record highs in the stock markets, low levels of unemployment and the biggest financial reforms in three decades in the US, passed in December.
“Just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history,” Trump said.
The leader also referred to trade pacts and promised that “the era of economic surrender is over.”
“America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation’s wealth,” said the President, although avoiding a direct mention of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), currently in effect with Mexico and Canada.