President Donald Trump addressed controversial issues of immigration and foreign policy during the State of the Union on Jan. 30.
Trump began his address with an optimistic tone. He spoke on the many natural disasters that have struck America this year, highlighting the heroism of the coast guard, firefighters, police officers and citizens who helped each other.
“Through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul and the steel in America’s spine,” Trump said.
He then spoke of the great economic strides that have been made in the past year. He cited 2.4 million new jobs, the growth of the stock market and a 45-year low in the unemployment rate as evidence of this success.
Trump said tax reforms will benefit business owners and the middle class.
“Millions of Americans will have more take-home pay starting next month,” Trump said.
Trump also addressed the need for better infrastructure.
“America is a nation of builders,” Trump said. “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?”
Trump called on Congress to produce a bill that generates $1.5 trillion to be invested in infrastructure. Trump said with this bill, the approval process should be streamlined down to no more than two years. He also wants funding to be a combination of federal, state, local and private sector investments.
BYU political science professor Ken Stiles said Trump was very positive in the beginning, but around the middle he took a more negative turn as he discussed immigration reform and foreign policy.
“It was kind of a two-toned speech,” Stiles said.
Trump began his discussion of immigration by pointing out the parents of two teenage girls who were killed by members of the MS-13 gang.
“Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as unaccompanied alien minors — and wound up in Kayla and Nisa’s high school,” Trump said.
Stiles said Trump’s jump to immigrants bringing gangs and violence and theft to the country felt sudden.
“That led into what should have been the most bipartisan part of the speech,” Stiles said. “Instead, the whole discussion of immigration seemed really aggressive.”
Trump then outlined the four pillars of his immigration reform. The first offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Those immigrants would need to meet education and work requirements to obtain full citizenship.
The second pillar Trump outlined is to increase border security by providing more funding and building a border wall.
The third pillar is to end the visa lottery program.
The final pillar would eliminate chain migration, only allowing sponsorships to spouses and children.
BYU political science major Camille Conor said she agreed with Trump’s stance on chain migration. However, she did not like the way he addressed gang violence.
“It just made it sound like most illegal immigrants are criminals,” Conor said.
Trump also took a strong stance on foreign policy, calling for a modernized nuclear arsenal, increased military funding and the detainment of terrorists at Guantánamo Bay.
“We know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense,” Trump said.
Trump said North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is a serious threat to America.
“No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” Trump said.
BYU political science student Cameron Crittenden said although he doesn’t think North Korea should be ignored, he felt Trump gave it too much attention without a set plan in his speech.
“It’s something that we either need to take more action on or back off,” Crittenden said.
Trump ended his speech with hope.
“As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens and trust in our God, we will not fail,” Trump said.
Though Trump addressed many issues in his speech, Stiles pointed out he made no mention of climate change, violence against women or police brutality — all of which have been big issues recently.
See Senator Lee’s video response to the State of the Union below.