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Trump warns of migrant peril, touts tax overhaul

China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-01 09:47

US President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

US president addresses nation with tensions running high on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON-Addressing a deeply divided nation, US President Donald Trump summoned the country to a "new American moment" of unity in his first State of the Union, challenging Congress to make good on long-standing promises to fix a fractured immigration system.

Trump's address on Tuesday blended self-congratulation and calls for optimism amid a growing economy with ominous warnings about deadly gangs, the scourge of drugs and violent immigrants living in the United States illegally.

He cast the debate over immigration-an issue that has long animated his most ardent supporters-as a battle between heroes and villains, leaning heavily on the personal stories of White House guests in the crowd. He praised a law enforcement agent who arrested more than 100 gang members.

Trump addressed the nation with tensions running high on Capitol Hill. An impasse over immigration prompted a three-day government shutdown earlier this year, and lawmakers appear no closer to resolving the status of the "Dreamers" young people living in the US illegally ahead of a new Feb 8 deadline for funding operations.

The parties have also clashed this week over the plans of Republicans on the House intelligence committee to release a classified memo on the investigation involving Trump's presidential campaign a decision the White House backs but the Justice Department is fighting.

The controversies that have dogged Trump and the ones he has created have overshadowed strong economic gains during his first year in office. His approval ratings have hovered in the 30s for much of his presidency, and just 3 in 10 US citizens said the country was heading in the right direction, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In the same survey, 67 percent of them said the country was more divided because of Trump.

At times, Trump's address appeared to be aimed more at validating his first year in office than setting the course for his second. He devoted significant time to touting the tax overhaul he signed at the end of last year, promising the plan will "provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses".

Broad terms

He also highlighted the decision made early in his first year to withdraw the US from a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade pact, declaring: "The era of economic surrender is totally over."

He spoke about potential agenda items for 2018 in broad terms, including a call for $1.5 trillion in new infrastructure spending and partnerships with states and the private sector. He touched only briefly on issues like healthcare that have been at the center of the Republican Party's policy agenda for years.

Trump also highlighted the anti-terrorism fight and foreign aid policy in his address. Trump said he had signed an order to reexamine the US military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

"In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds and hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield-including the ISIS leader, (Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi, who we captured, who we had, who we released," Trump said, referring to the Islamic State group by another name.

He pledged to continue the anti-terrorism fight until IS was defeated.

Trump also asked Congress to pass legislation to "help ensure American foreign-assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to friends of America".

Republicans led multiple rounds of enthusiastic applause during the speech, but for the opposition party it was a more somber affair. Democrats provided a short spurt of polite applause for Trump as he entered the chamber, but offered muted reactions throughout the speech. A cluster of about two dozen Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, remained planted firmly in their seats, staring sternly at the president and withholding applause.


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