Fact-checkers and immigrant rights advocates alike slammed President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Wednesday, cataloguing the president's lies about how people come to the U.S. and expressing anger over his divisive statements on immigrant communities.
Calling the outline the president gave for immigration policy "a dystopian vision" that was "based on fear, not facts," the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) argued that the president's focus on immigrants as perceived national security threats was meant to "distract from the plain and simple fact that his administration failed to address the needs of the many working Americans who voted for him."
"The president, who pledged to keep jobs in the United States and increase wages for those struggling to make ends meet, instead delivered a tax cut to the billionaire class," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the group. "One constant, however, has been his dogged commitment to attempt to divide our communities by scapegoating immigrants."
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) offered this gruff rebuke to the president's speech:
Trump’s four pillar plan is an alt-right wishlist of mass deportation, a ridiculous wall of hate, and a militarization of border communities. Instead of moving us into the 21st century, it takes us back in time. https://t.co/ULhh1GecZ6— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) January 31, 2018
The president referred to young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children—often called "dreamers" and protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) until Trump moved to end it last year—only implicitly in his speech.
"Americans are dreamers, too" he said as he affirmed his duty as president to "to defend Americans—to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream"—suggesting that allowing immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, to live and work in the U.S. represents a threat to citizens.
"The American people weren't fooled by Trump's discriminatory Muslim ban or by his xenophobic attempt to exploit the DACA crisis to enact a white nationalist wish list. We certainly won't be fooled by any attempt to pit workers, whether immigrant or native born, against each other," Hincapié said.
In contrast with Trump rhetoric, at least 70 percent of Americans support protections for DACA recipients, many of whom are in their 20s and 30s and have bought property, worked, and contributed to the U.S. economy all their adult lives.
On Twitter, the NILC and other advocates pushed back against Trump's incorrect characterization of two of the "pillars" of his immigration agenda: family reunification, which the Trump administration commonly refers to as "chain migration" and which Trump said allows immigrants to "bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives"; and the Diversity Lottery Program, which he claimed "randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people."
He is fucking lying. Under current law citizens can sponsor children, spouses, parents and siblings. No distant relatives. This is not chain migration, it is family reunification.#SOTU— rabia chaudry (@rabiasquared) January 31, 2018
Trump says the visa lottery "hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people."— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) January 31, 2018
But lottery entrants must meet educational and work experience requirements. #SOTUhttps://t.co/mzVhRHYRzn
FYI: "Diversity Lottery" doesn't work how he says it works. There are education and job skill requirements, and there is an in-person interview before you even enter the lottery. In 2015, over 9 million entrants for like 50K slots.— Steve Schale (@steveschale) January 31, 2018
Cristina Alex Jimenez, co-founder of United We Dream, joined several progressive activists to deliver the People's Response to the State of the Union in a Facebook Live video, addressing what she called the "nativist immigration plan" put forward by Trump, under which thousands of immigrants have already lost protection from deportation as the president moved to end DACA, giving Congress a March deadline to determine their fate.
Trump's agenda, Jimenez said, "is nothing more than a white supremacist ransom note. Trump created this crisis and now he's using this crisis to push a white supremacist plan to threaten our parents, black immigrants, and the very idea that families should stay together."