WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump touted hard-line border policies at his third State of the Union, impressing on his anti-immigrant supporters he has fulfilled his 2016 campaign promises.
“If you come illegally, you will now be promptly removed,” Trump said.
He credited his administration for its unprecedented effort to restore the rule of law. He said immigration crackdowns have contributed to a safer America and the “Great American Comeback,” the theme of his address Tuesday.
A hard-line immigration stance and anti-immigrant rhetoric was a large basis of his 2016 presidential campaign. An US-Mexico border wall was even his signature campaign promise. “Build That Wall!” Trump would chant rally after rally, describing the task as an easy feat.
Trump said he has completed 100 miles of the promised border wall. He expects over 500 miles to be completed by early next year.
“The wall goes up, drug seizures rise, and border crossings go down,” he said during his address to the nation Tuesday. “Unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises. We did our job.”
The president reported border crossings have dropped eight consecutive months, down 75 percent since last May. He characterized Border Patrol and ICE officers as heroes for their work on drug seizures and invited a chief border patrol agent as a special guest.
Trump vows to continue building a safer America by eliminating sanctuary cities. He criticized sanctuary cities like New York and California for undermining his administration’s efforts to increase safety.
“The United States of America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminal aliens,” Trump said.
He called on Congress to pass the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act, allowing victims of crimes to sue sanctuaries cities and obtain financial remedy. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Tom Thillis (D-N.C.) last July.
The Trump administration has already gone far beyond the border wall to keep immigration at record lows.
Trump has targeted “birth tourism,” a practice where pregnant women travel to the United States and give birth to secure U.S. citizenship for their child. He has also shut out asylum seekers, forcing immigrants fleeing their country to wait in Mexico until their court cases are heard.
Just last week, the president expanded his travel ban to block legal immigration from six more countries — Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania.
The Supreme Court has also recently upheld the president’s “public charge” rule. Also known as the wealth test, the rule allows the government to deny green cards on the basis of needing government aid.
A Migration Policy institute said 69% of migrants meet this standard of evidence, and that such a rule could cut immigration in half.
During his speech, Trump said “illegal aliens” take advantage of taxpayer-funded health care and “prey on the public.” This anti-immigration rhetoric also dominated his 2016 election.
The State of Union address comes a day after the Iowa caucus kicked off the 2020 presidential race. As an incumbent in the Republican primaries, Trump won Iowa with 97 percent.
“Four more years!” Republican congressmen chanted as he entered the House Chambers, before he even started his speech.