Before President Donald Trump's first speech to a Joint Session of Congress (a State Of The Union address in all but name), the rumors were flying that tonight was going to be the long awaited cave on amnesty. Trump supporters on Twitter (those who haven't been banned yet) rose in revolt, swearing eternal vengeance if the President betrayed them on the one issue which defined his entire movement.
Immigration is still something where patriots are going to have to hold President Trump's feet to the fire [Trump envisions bill allowing many immigrants to stay in US,
by Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and Tal Kopan, CNN,
February 28, 2017]. But there was no sign of a cave from President Trump tonight.
Indeed, when it came to delivery and presence, this may have been President Trump's best speech yet. President Trump's recognition of the widow of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens prompted a standing ovation of more than two minutes and was deeply emotional. Even Van Jones said
: "Trump became President of the United States tonight. Period."
Regards immigration, it's hard not to see tonight as a repeat of Trump's Arizona address during the campaign
. There too, his speech was preceded with lots of media speculation about a coming cave on immigration. Instead, President Trump doubled down.
Is this another example of "4-D Chess," where Trump deliberately trolled the media into reporting a nonexistent betrayal? Or did the media just get too excited and jump the gun? Or is President Trump still going to push amnesty, but didn't want to mention it tonight?
It's impossible to know for sure, but one thing is certain. Supporters fearful of a Trump betrayal can sleep soundly at least for tonight, as the President stuck to his guns.
Tonight on immigration, President Trump said:
[M]y Administration has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security. By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars, and make our communities safer for everyone. 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 to our borders.For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border. It will be started ahead of schedule and, when finished, it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime.As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this question: what would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?[Full speech: President Trump's address to a joint session of Congress, The Hill, February 28, 2017]
Not much to disagree with there. It's especially heartening the President continues to refer to a "great wall" instead of just a fence or security barrier. President Trump also suggested far reaching reforms to America's legal immigration system.
Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others –- have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America's taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.Switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system, will have many benefits: it will save countless dollars, raise workers' wages, and help struggling families –- including immigrant families –- enter the middle class.
Of course, what America really needs is an immigration moratorium. But this system makes far more sense than what we have now. And a focus on raising workers' wages is appropriate for someone who wants to turn the GOP into a pro-workers, nationalist party.
Finally, President Trump did suggest Republicans and Democrats could cut a deal.
I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws.If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.
It's hard to see Democrats agreeing with much of that. And it's always worrisome when Republicans start thinking about striking a grand bargain with the Democrats on this issue. Still, there's nothing specific to be angry about here. And notice there wasn't even an en passant
reference to the feelings of illegals.
Besides immigration, President Trump decried the money wasted in foreign wars, championed a nationalist trade policy (drafting Lincoln to support his policies), and defended law enforcement.
At the beginning of the night, I was worried Donald Trump's supporters would have reason to turn on him. By the end of that speech, I think Donald Trump's base is more loyal to their God-Emperor than ever. And as Van Jones also said
, it's time for the Democrats to be worried.