Trump's Immigration Message In The State Of The Union President Trump's State of the Union was a speech where he touted some of his accomplishments and laid out more of what he wants to do in the coming year, which includes changing immigration policy.

Trump's Immigration Message In The State Of The Union

Trump's Immigration Message In The State Of The Union

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

President Trump's State of the Union was a speech where he touted some of his accomplishments and laid out more of what he wants to do in the coming year, which includes changing immigration policy.


The United States Constitution says the president will give Congress periodically information on the state of the union. Some presidents take that literally and include in the annual speech to Congress a sentence that begins - the state of our union is...


Understandably, they do not then finish the sentence with words like divided or tense.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let's begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our union is strong because our people are strong.

MARTIN: The president made a case that the union is a lot stronger than before he took office.

INSKEEP: NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson and NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow were among the many watching President Trump's speech last night. Good morning, guys.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.


INSKEEP: So, Mara, nods to unity throughout that speech. He talked about protecting - the president did - talked about protecting everyone of every background, color, religion and creed. But was it a unifying speech?

LIASSON: I think part of the speech was unifying. The rhetoric was a big change from American carnage, which was the biggest takeaway from his inaugural address. He talked about a new American moment. He offered an olive branch to Democrats, said we want to work together, find common ground. There was a lot less me and I in the speech. Even his tone of voice was calmer and more sedate. But what struck me was the paradox of the speech because when it came to talking about one of his biggest agenda items for this year, which is immigration, his rhetoric was just as dark and divisive as it's always been.

INSKEEP: And let's listen to some of that rhetoric and also do a little bit of fact-checking. And I want to note there is an annotated transcript of the president's speech at, where NPR correspondents go into the president's statements, what's behind them, what's true, what's false. Great reading - NPR's Scott Detrow helped to put that together, and he's here. So, Scott, let's start by hearing this point by the president.


TRUMP: 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.

DETROW: You heard booing and hissing from the Democratic side for a couple of reasons there, first of all because what President Trump said just isn't true. Currently, those visas are already limited to immediate family members. But secondly, most Democrats are just deeply skeptical of President Trump, of the White House's motivations on immigration. They're angry that the White House keeps shifting its positions on negotiations over the future of DACA.

INSKEEP: Oh, there was a deal that was close to being made and then the president torpedoed it - or it was seen that way, anyway.

DETROW: That's right. And he says, I want a deal. I want a bill with love. And then he comes out with a hard-line plan. But they're also just angry at the way he frames the issue, his rhetoric. President Trump regularly talks about illegal immigrants as murderers and criminals. He did that during the brief shutdown. The White House put out an ad saying Democrats would be complicit in any murders committed by illegal immigrants. He did it again last night during the speech, pointing to the parents of two Long Island girls killed in 2016 by gang members.


TRUMP: Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as illegal unaccompanied alien minors and wound up in Kayla and Nisa's high school.


DETROW: Obviously horrifying murders. Everyone in the chamber was very upset at the specific story. But Democrats feel like, broadly, the first thing Trump talks about often is immigrants as murderers, as criminals, as people who should not be in the country.

INSKEEP: Mara, what do Democrats hear when he says things like that?

LIASSON: Yes. I think Democrats heard rhetoric that they feel they've heard all along from Donald Trump from the day he glided down that escalator and talked about Mexico sending rapists, when he started his campaign, to the convention. The message, as Scott said, is immigrants are coming here to kill us. And I think what Democrats heard is something that is going to make it harder to get a deal on immigration. You know, the facts are that immigrants actually commit crime at lower rates than native-born Americans. But the president wants to drastically curtail legal immigration, and that is one of the biggest sticking points in that negotiation.

INSKEEP: The president did suggest that Democrats and Republicans might be able to get together for a deal on infrastructure. Let's listen to that.


TRUMP: Tonight, I'm calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs. Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments, and where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit. And we can do it.

INSKEEP: Everybody's in favor of infrastructure, Scott Detrow, but do Democrats and Republicans mean the same thing when they say it?

DETROW: They do not. Infrastructure's often floated as the bipartisan idea around the corner. But the fact is, Democrats want to do it through federal government spending. Republicans want to incentivize private spending with tax cuts. And there's a deep disagreement there.

INSKEEP: Mara, you get the last word.

LIASSON: Yeah. I think that that infrastructure is something that theoretically could find bipartisan agreement. But the big question also is, how are you going to pay for it?

INSKEEP: Mara, thanks very much, really appreciate it.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. We also heard from NPR's congressional correspondent, Scott Detrow. And, again, you can find an annotated transcript of the president's entire State of the Union speech at

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.