U.S. President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump doubled down on his administration’s immigration policies in his latest State of the Union address Tuesday night, nine months ahead of this year’s presidential election.

Addressing a joint session of Congress, Trump said the administration is working on legislation to replace the nation’s “outdated and randomized immigration system with one based on merit.”

Business24

The president, who has been pushing to tighten the nation’s immigration system to appeal to conservative voters, said he welcomes those who “follow the rules,” contribute to the economy, and support themselves financially.

In addition, Trump touted the building of a wall along the nation’s southern border with Mexico, a signature promise of his 2016 campaign that Democrats have slammed as costly and ineffective to curb illegal immigration.

“We have now completed over 100 miles,” the president said. “Early next year, we will have substantially more than 500 miles completed.”

He also warned against unauthorized immigration, saying that people will be “promptly removed” if they “come illegally.”

The address came a day after Iowa, a Midwestern state, held Democratic and Republican caucuses, the first nominating contests of the 2020 presidential primary.

Trump won the Republican caucuses in a largely symbolic vote as he was facing no significant challenge, while full results of the Democratic events have not been released.

A Democratic presidential contender, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden accused Trump of giving “hollow lip-service to respecting” the nation’s diversity in a sharply-worded statement.

He “attacked and demonized undocumented people, immigrants, and asylum seekers fleeing violence and persecution,” said Biden, who is leading in national polls but is fourth in partial results of the Iowa Democratic caucuses.

Besides immigration, Trump touched upon the economy, working family issues, health care costs, and national security in the address, the third since he took office in 2017.

Republican Strategist Ford O’Connell, in an interview with Xinhua, called the address “the first major speech” of Trump’s re-election campaign.

The remarks were also in the middle of a Senate trial of Trump’s impeachment scheduled to end Wednesday afternoon after final votes on his articles of impeachment amid wide expectations that the president will be acquitted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who orchestrated the chamber’s impeachment drive against Trump and was seated behind him during the address, reached out to shake his hand before it began, which the president ignored. The Democrat tore up what appeared to be a copy of Trump’s speech when it concluded.

“The manifesto of mistruths presented in page after page of the address tonight should be a call to action for everyone who expects truth from the President and policies worthy of his office and the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The White House and Republicans blasted Pelosi for ripping up the copy, with some demanding an apology. Enditem

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