In his first speech to the United States Congress, President Donald Trump asked for unity to produce more jobs, protect Americans and improve education.
Trump said he would continue to remove undocumented immigrants who commit crimes from the country. But for the first time, the president said he is ready to negotiate a plan that would give legal standing to millions of undocumented immigrants.
“I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security, and to restore respect for our laws,” he said.
Trump began his speech by talking about bomb threats against Jewish schools and centers, destruction at two Jewish cemeteries and the shooting of two immigrants from India.
The attacks “remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.
In his first 40 days as president, Trump has been divisive. He has used social media to criticize the news media and U.S. intelligence agencies for reporting information critical of him and his administration. He has also put in place a ban on travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations. The ban was blocked by the courts and criticized by most Democrats.
In his speech, Trump said America cannot accept immigrants from countries where it is difficult to investigate connections to terrorism.
“We have seen the attacks in France, in Belgium, in Germany and all over the world,” Trump said. “It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.”
Trump talked about the 2016 presidential campaign, which ended with his surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“The people turned out by the tens of millions, and they were all united by one very simple, but crucial demand, that America must put its own citizens first because only then, can we truly make America great again,” Trump said.
“Above all else," Trump said, “we will keep our promises to the American people.”
One promise he carried out in the early days of his presidency was to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal connecting 12 nations.
When he repeated his call to cancel and replace President Barack Obama’s national health care plan -- known as Obamacare – many Republican lawmakers cheered.
The speech became emotional when the president recognized Carryn Owens, the wife of a Navy seal killed last month in a raid in Yemen. She cried and took deep breaths as members of Congress and others stood and remembered her husband, William “Ryan” Owens.
Trump said Owens “laid down his life for his friends, for his country, and for our freedom -- we will never forget him.” He said the raid produced large amounts of important intelligence.
The president said he wants Congress to cut taxes on business and “hardworking” Americans, and make work easier for parents raising children. Trump said he would work with Democrats and Republicans to give new parents paid family leave from their jobs. He said he would make new investments in women’s health.
Trump also called for a major change in how America decides which immigrants to permit to enter the United States.
“It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially,” Trump said. “Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.”
The president also said he wants to protect the environment -- providing clean air and clean water. Democrats, however, criticized his action earlier Tuesday to change a rule created under the Obama administration. That measure extends the power of the U.S. Clean Water Act to small bodies of water.
On foreign relations, Trump said “America is willing to find new friends and develop new partnerships” to deal with world problems.
During the election campaign, Trump said he would try to work with Russia to end the deadly military conflict in Syria and defeat Islamic State militants.
But reports that Russia worked to leak embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton have led to calls for investigations by Democrats and some Republicans.
Trump also spoke about his plan to increase military spending and fight terrorism.
“As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS, a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians and men, women and children of all faiths and beliefs,” he said.
He used the expression “radical Islamic terrorism” to describe the terrorism problem. The president’s new national security adviser had earlier said the expression is not helpful in fighting the terrorist threat.
Steve Beshear, the former governor of Kentucky, gave the Democratic Party’s response to Trump’s speech.
“When the president attacks the loyalty and credibility of our intelligence agencies, the court system, the military, the free press and individual Americans simply because he doesn’t like what they say, he is eroding our democracy,” Beshear said.
I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.
Bruce Alpert reported this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do and George Grow were the editors.
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Words in This Story
vet – v. to investigate (someone) thoroughly to see if they should be approved or accepted for a job
crucial – adj. extremely important
principle – n. a basic truth or theory; an idea that forms the basis of something
strain – v. to cause problems or trouble for (something)
savage – n. a person who is very violent or cruel
slaughter – v. to kill (many people) in a very violent way