Donald Trump used the platform of his first State of the Union address to sow division and fear, failing to present a unifying message that the White House promised.
His comments on immigrants were some of his most divisive of the night.
Trump consistently talked about immigrants in the context of crime and violence. By rhetorically aligning immigrants and violence, Trump sought to paint a picture of all immigrants as a violent “other” and a threat to communities.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) spoke clearly about the motives of Trump, saying, “Manipulative. Exploitative. Bigoted. Misleading. These are just a few of the words I have to describe President Trump’s use of grieving families at tonight’s State of the Union.”
“It is a fact that immigrants are more law abiding and less violent than native-born individuals, and are more likely to be victims of gangs like MS-13 who particularly terrorize immigrant communities. But Trump instead chooses to hold up tragic exceptions as a norm in an attempt to create fear and mistrust of immigrants. That’s because, despite his claims, Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda is not driven by safety or economics (economists agree that immigration improves our economy in the long term). It’s driven by white nationalism.”
“His goal is persecution. His motivation is bigotry. His methods are lies.”
Trump’s rhetoric did not sit well with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who said many of the DREAMers in the audience could teach Trump about the real story of immigrants.
Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) wrote a response on Medium, also calling out Trump for failing to bring people together.
“As an immigrant who has served our nation both in our armed forces and now in Congress, I stand proudly with those Dreamers tonight,” Carbajal said. “The President’s immigration strategy referenced tonight holds citizenship for Dreamers’ as a bargaining chip, in exchange for drastic changes to family-based immigration and a costly, inefficient border wall.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) noted Trump’s desire to reduce family-based immigration is “the opposite of family values” and fundamentally un-American.
Not everyone opposed the speech.
Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and prominent white supremacist David Duke was wildly excited about the speech.