trump state of the union speech before congress President Trump delivers his State of the Union address on Jan. 30, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Trump Pitches Immigration Plan to Congress: ‘Americans are Dreamers, Too’

Days after unveiling an immigration plan that outlines “pillars” he wants to see in any bill from Congress to spare Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals program beneficiaries from deportation, President Trump referenced the DREAMers — called so after the long-stalled DREAM Act — in declaring that “Americans are dreamers, too.”

In his first State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Trump lauded Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents as “great, great people that work so hard in the midst of such danger.”

“The United States is a compassionate nation. We are proud that we do more than any other country anywhere in the world to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world. But as president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, my constant concern is for America’s children, America’s struggling workers, and America’s forgotten communities,” he said. “…My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream.”

Among the White House guests at the speech before a joint session of Congress was Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez, whose team, the president said, has arrested nearly 400 gang members on Long Island, including more than 220 members of MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha.

Trump called his plan one that “should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise, one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs and must have.”

In the legislative framework released Jan. 25, the Trump administration requested a $25 billion trust fund “for the border wall system, ports of entry/exit, and northern border improvements and enhancements,” along with an end to the visa lottery and to “chain migration,” limiting family reunification to spouses and minor children.

In return, Trump said he “generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age,” a caveat that has drawn some opponents on the GOP side of the aisle.

“That covers almost three times more people than the previous administration covered,” he said. “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 over a 12-year period.”

The president declared that it’s “time to begin moving toward 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.”

“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children,” he added. “This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America.”

In the official Democratic Party response to the State of the Union, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) signaled Dems’ resistance to the Trump plan, accusing the administration of “turning American life into a zero-sum game, where for one to win, another must lose… where we can take care of sick kids if we sacrifice DREAMers.”

Kennedy declared in Spanish and English, “You are part of our story. We will fight for you. And we will not walk away.”

Some lawmakers brought DREAMers as their State of the Union guest, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). He brought Gabriela Hernandez, who was brought to the country at age 4 from El Salvador and is currently a student at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland.

“DREAMers love this country too, and they deserve action from Congress to end the fear and uncertainty they are facing as a result of a crisis of the president’s own making,” Hoyer said after Trump’s speech. “Any action Congress takes should reflect our deepest values: allowing DREAMers to stay should not mean tearing other immigrant families apart.”

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called Trump’s address “a strong and patriotic speech in which he laid out his security-focused agenda.”

“The Department of Homeland Security fully supports this agenda, and the men and women of DHS remain wholeheartedly committed to securing our borders, keeping dangerous criminals off of our streets, and defeating terrorists in our country and around the world,” Nielsen said in a statement Tuesday night.

“Many of the items on the president’s immigration and border security agenda are things that our frontline officers have asked for, so that they are able to more effectively do their jobs,” she added.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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