Trump highlights immigration, war on terror in speech to Congress

Discussions of immigration, terrorism and health care were among the highlights of President Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28.  Screen capture from C-Span Discussions of immigration, terrorism and health care were among the highlights of President Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28.

The hour-long address included no mention of abortion, so-called homosexual and transgender rights or religious liberty. It did include calls to "invest in women's health," confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and ensure parents' access to "paid family leave."

The president also voiced support for "the incredible men and women of law enforcement" and seemed to imply some Americans are driving a "wedge of disunity and ... division" between communities and police officers.

Regarding education, Trump advocated a "bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children." He added, "These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them."

Trump mentioned immigration at least three times during the speech.

Reviewing his first month in office, the president said his administration "has answered the pleas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security." The administration "will soon begin the construction of a great, great wall along our southern border" and has begun removing criminal immigrants from the country, he said.

Later in the speech, Trump announced the establishment of a Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office at the Department of Homeland Security to assist victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. The announcement drew what sounded like an audible negative reaction from some audience members.

In another section of the speech, Trump said America should adopt a "merit-based system" of legal immigration that requires would-be immigrants to have a means of supporting themselves financially. Similar systems are employed by Canada and Australia, among other nations, and help both citizens and immigrants, he said.

One aim of border control should be to protect Americans from "radical Islamic terrorism," Trump said.

"It is not compassionate, but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur," Trump said in an apparent reference to his controversial executive order on immigration.

"Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values. We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America," Trump said.

The Defense Department is developing a plan to "demolish and destroy" the Islamic State terrorist group, Trump said, stating America will work with Muslim allies "to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet."

The president called on Congress to "repeal and replace" the Affordable Care Act. He noted principles "that should guide Congress as we move to create a better health care system for all Americans." Among them:

• Ensure "access to coverage" for individuals with preexisting conditions and "have a stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the healthcare exchanges."

• "Help Americans purchase their own coverage through the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts."

• Give states "the resources and flexibility they need with Medicaid" to ensure broad access to health insurance.

• "Protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance."

• "Give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines."

"Mandating every American to buy government-approved health insurance was never the right solution for our country," Trump said of the Affordable Care Act. "The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do."

The most sustained applause of the night came when Trump acknowledged Carryn Owens, widow of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, who was killed in the line of duty during a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen. Referencing John 15:13, Trump said of Ryan Owens, "There is no greater act of love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.

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