Earlier this week, Donald Trump delivered a surprising message on immigration reform before a joint session of Congress. However, despite widespread support in Washington for a bipartisan compromise on immigration, heavy skepticism remained as to whether Trump would be able to achieve such a feat.

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Trump Sends Mixed Message on Immigration

On Tuesday, Trump sent mixed messages on his immigration plans: during a meeting with reporters at the White House, Trump signaled he would be interested in helping pass an immigration reform bill, given there was "compromise on both sides," and a senior administration official said that would include a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.
 
Then, he followed that up with his joint address to Congress, where he did not advocate for legalization, but said that he still thinks meaningful immigration reform could be achieved.
 

"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," Trump told lawmakers.

 

There was no mention of offering legalization to anyone, and, as some advocates pointed out, it turned out to be a "great immigration fake-out."

In reality, Trump offered little to no meaningful policy on immigration during his speech. Instead, he continued his anti-immigration rhetoric, accusing immigrants of increasing criminal activity, misrepresenting key facts underlying illegal immigration, and reiterating his campaign pledge to build a "great wall" on the border.

Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement office (VOICE)

Instead of offering policy details on an immigration reform, President Donald Trump used his joint address to Congress to call attention to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

He welcomed guests who were victims of crimes allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants to announce a new victim's office at the Department of Homeland Security.

"I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims," Trump said Tuesday night. "We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests."


VOICE will be required to make weekly reports on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, designed to name and shame sanctuary cities, and to issue reports once a quarter "studying the effects of the victimization by criminal aliens present in the United States." Critics fear the measures are purposely designed to skew public opinion unfavorably toward immigrants. 

In the past, studies conducted by organizations that support favorable immigration policies have found that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the general public, findings that supporters of hardline immigration policies say don't matter.
 

Advocates and Lawmakers Skeptical of Trump's Call For Immigration Reform

Across the nation, advocates remain skeptical of Trump's call for a bipartisan immigration reform. Under the Trump administration, ICE has been detaining and deporting moms, DACA recipientsvictims of domestic abuse, and, more recently, detaining a DREAMer who had just delivered a press conference speaking out against immigration raids. 

"It's our view Trump is engaged in a PR campaign to try to make himself sound like a reasonable guy on immigration, but what they're doing in practice and what they're putting in place on policy is the most radical nativist agenda we've seen in modern America," said Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration advocacy group America's Voice.


According to CNN, Washington lawmakers on both sides of the aisle had a similar reaction to President Donald Trump's talk of a bipartisan immigration reform: we'll believe that when we see it.

Ultimately, lawmakers from both parties say they're waiting for more policy details from Trump on what he actually wants:

"As was the case with much of the speech, the blanks weren't filled in, so I think at the end of the day on an issue as big immigration, an issue as big as tax reform, it's going to require presidential leadership," said South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford.


As of now, Trump has not released any policy details regarding an immigration reform, besides calling for a "merit-based immigration" system.

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MBJ Staff

Written by MBJ Staff