US President Donald Trump has called on politicians to ‘summon the unity’ needed to fix the nation’s immigration system in his first State of the Union address after a chaotic first year in office. But his call to come together comes amid rising tensions within the US government and just a short time after a three-day shutdown over immigration policies.
He has both privately and publicly attacked both Democrats and Republicans who must approve new legislation. Politicians appear no closer to resolving the status of the ‘Dreamers’ – young people living in the US illegally – ahead of a new February 8 deadline for funding operations. But on Tuesday night, the divisive president asked both parties to compromise, telling the chamber of the House of Representatives: ‘Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.’
Mr Trump said: ‘To every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time,’ ‘If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything.’ Republicans and Democrats clashed this week over plans to release a classified memo on the Russia investigation involving Trump’s presidential campaign – a decision the White House backs but the Justice Department is fighting.
He spent a large amount of his speech talking about the tax overhaul he signed at the end of last year, which he said would ‘provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses’. And he called for more funding call for $1.5trillion (£1.06trillion) in new infrastructure spending and partnerships with states and the private sector. But the president touched only briefly on issues like health care, an issue that was formally at the centre of the Republican Party’s policy agenda for years.
Speaking on the immigration debate in Washington, Mr Trump redoubled his recent pledge to offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants. But that package would also require increased funding for border security, his US-Mexico border wall, ending the nation’s visa lottery method and revamping the current legal immigration system. Some Republicans are wary of the hardline elements of Mr Trump’s plan and it is unclear whether his blueprint could pass Congress. He also alluded to the professional athletes who led protests against racial injustice in the US by kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games – declaring that paying tribute to the flag is a ‘civic duty’.
The speech was short on details of his policy proposals and despite Trump calling for unity, a deep divide between the parties was clear. While Republican erupted into raucous applause throughout the speech, Democrats spent most of it sat silently in their seats – providing only a spurt of polite clapping when he entered the chamber. First lady Melania Trump – who has stayed out of the spotlight following allegations that resurfaced that her husband had an affair with a porn star – arrived at Capitol Hill separately to her husband to attend a reception with guests of the White House. Those sitting alongside the first lady included an Ohio welder who the White House says will benefit from the new tax law and the parents of two Long Island teenagers who were believed to have been killed by MS-13 gang members.