Trump Calls for Merit-Based Immigration During First State of Union Speech

Donald Trump called for an immigration overhaul, something his party and he has been lobbying for since his election, during his first State of the Union speech.


United States President Donald Trump presented four pillars of immigration reform, which could be a boon to high-skilled Indian immigrants, during his first State of the Union speech on Jan. 30. He called for ending the diversity visa program that uses a lottery system and instead pushed for a merit-based immigration system.

“Tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color and creed,” Trump said.

“It is time to begin moving towards a merit-based immigration system — one that admits people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country,” Trump said.

During the speech, Trump reiterated that the Deferred Arrivals for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act will be continued. The 1.8 million illegal immigrants, people who were brought to the United States by their parents at a young age, also known as ‘Dreamers’ can get citizenship in 10-12 years, he had said earlier.

“Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States,” Trump said about Dreamers.

He then spoke about the border wall with Mexico and increasing border security. He also spoke about ending migration for family members who are not spouses and minor children. He has criticized what he calls “chain migration” that allows families to be together.

“Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future,” he said.

And lastly, he said that visa lottery system should be scrapped as well. India was not allowed to be a part of the diversity visa lottery system since it sent more than 50,000 migrants in the last five years. Only countries from where less than 50,000 migrants have applied in the last five years are allowed to be part of the lottery.

“It is time to reform these outdated immigration rules, and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century,” Trump said. Calling the four pillars a “compromise,” he urged lawmakers from the Democrat and Republican Party to come together to create a “safe, modern, and lawful immigration system.”

“Most importantly, these four pillars will produce legislation that fulfills my ironclad pledge to only sign a bill that puts America first. So let us come together, set politics aside, and finally get the job done,” Trump said.

At the event, slain Indian techie Srinivas Kuchibotla’s wife Sunayana Dumla was also present. Kuchibotla was killed in a racist attack in February 2017. Dumla was invited as a guest by GOP Congressman Kevin Yoder.

After the event ended, Democrat Rep. Joe Kennedy, the grandson of Robert F Kennedy, said, “It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos. Partisanship. Politics,” he said. “But it’s far bigger than that. This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us — they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”

How Indian American Lawmakers Responded

Indian American Democrat Kamala Harris said: “I have a very difficult time actually reconciling the words with the way that they’ve actually been prioritizing issues.”

Indian American Democrat Ro Khanna called Trump’s idea as “flawed,” and said: “Tonight, Trump talked about immigration. His perception is flawed. Real lives are at stake, and I will not stop fighting for the 800,000 DREAMERs who deserve nothing less than a clean DREAM Act.”

Another Indian American lawmaker, Pramila Jayapal — who had refused to attend the event — said, “I spoke with @HardBallChris and I totally agree with him. The president’s rhetoric was absurd and more of the same. He wants to slash legal immigration and conflate immigrant families with terrorists and criminals and drains on our economy. That is simply not reality. #SOTU.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *