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Deconstructing Trump's Speech with Aldo Gonzalez

Note: This brief is intended as an introduction to current events or specific policies. Any opinions expressed herein reflect only those of the author.

Give me your wealthy, your skilled masses?

As a country, we have arrived at a critical economic, social, political, and humanitarian crossroads. We can either recede into ignorance or become the world’s champion of comprehensive immigration for those seeking the American Dream.

Photograph - Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, CNN  Donald Trump delivers first speech to Congress

Photograph - Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, CNN Donald Trump delivers first speech to Congress

After addressing a joint session of Congress this past Tuesday, President Trump revealed in the “dishonest” media’s praise for his ability to read from a teleprompter and avoid obscure tangents about the elections results. Even prominent liberals like Van Jones submitted admiration for President Trump’s speech. Specifically, Van Jones appreciated the moment when President Trump deemed Navy SEAL Ryan Owens an American hero for taking part in the recent Yemen raid, a raid that collected relevant intelligence according to the Trump White House. Trump’s words prompted a sustained wave of applause from the House chamber. This segment from President Trump’s speech convinced Jones that President Trump morphed into the leader every American deserves.

“He became President of the United States in that moment, period,” Jones asserted in the post-speech CNN roundtable. But once again we find ourselves having conversations about spectacle over the substance. The controversy revolving around Van Jones is a simply an ideological scrum with some liberals upset that one of their media figures offered a compliment to the president.

Others chose to pinpoint the response to President Trump which was delivered by former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear from the confines of a dimly lit cafeteria. Democrats’ uneasiness is more understandable here. In the aftermath of an election where an idol for the Democratic Party was defeated by a brash real-estate and television personality, it can be offsetting unnerving to see the response to Trump’s biggest speech so far being delivered by a figure who seems like the relic of a past era. The reasons for Beshear’s selection, a beloved Kentucky politician who successfully implemented an ACA exchange in red-blooded Kentucky and who appeals to the white middle-class family that seemed to gravitate towards President Trump, have merit but they seem far-reaching as the Democratic Party struggles to define itself in the midst of political defeat.

Yet, when placed in the scope of President Trump’s speech, the response proves to be an afterthought. Quite frankly, President Trump does not deserve praise and admiration simply because he followed the standards established by every single president to precede him. President Trump does not deserve praise for staying on script or for expressing common sympathy for a bereaved wife. Nevertheless, the media gravitated to the lack of tweets and the footage of President Trump rehearsing his lines in his limousine, simultaneously neglecting the inaccuracies, lies, and points of contention that riddled President Trump’s speech.

In his speech, President Trump expressed his desire to increase defense spending. This increase - according to administration officials - could be up to $54 billion . President Trump has also called for simultaneous efforts for health care overhaul and tax reform. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin committed to the latter by the August recess, prompting anxious sweats from various Republican representatives. And of course, Trump touted the imminent construction of a border wall along the southern border. This agenda is ambitious and, frankly, politically implausible. With the border adjustment tax (BAT) facing heat from consumer groups and uncertainty about what a GOP healthcare plan would look like, two objectives at the core of the GOP agenda already face major obstacles. Not to mention that Trump’s desires for defense spending, border enhancements, and infrastructure spending will reveal the hypocrisy of the Republican party, another political battle in and of itself, as they disregard debts and deficits when a red president is in the White House.

But one major point of contention and controversy overshadowed by the superficial is President Trump’s new approach to the acceptance of immigrants.

"It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon," Trump expressed as Speaker Ryan and Vice President Pence watched on.

To supplement his statement, President Trump alluded to a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences. Trump went on to assert that “our current immigration system costs American taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.” Finally, President Trump’s proposal manifested itself as “switching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system.” Trump claimed that “we will have so many more benefits,” in predictably hyperbolic and nonspecific fashion.

For those unfamiliar with our complicated immigration system, the United States espouses a family-based immigration system where spouses and relatives of United States citizens are granted entry. With this minimum context, it is easy to see the appeal of a merit-based immigration system, especially if you buy into Trump’s depiction of low-skill immigrants as strains on public resources and drivers of wage depreciation for Americans.

But if we drill deeper into President Trump’s very own evidence, the National Academy of Sciences’ study reveals that “the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small.” Furthermore, the study admits that first-generation immigrants are costly for state and local governments, but this detriment is countered by the fact that their children prove to be among the “strongest economic and fiscal contributors” often contributing more in taxes than even the native-born population.

Let us not overlook the fact that undocumented immigrants, according to a Heritage Foundation think tank, pay $7 billion into Social Security for benefits that they will never see. The hypothetical expulsion of the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants would certainly add another dimension of tribulation to the conversations regarding Social Security funding.

Also, let’s not pretend that the United States is neglecting the world’s talent and strangling innovation within its borders. The United States’ reputation as a world economic power stands firm. Along with an illustrious network of public and private universities, talent will seek and enter the United States for generations to come. The crux of this issue lies in determining whether the United States will stand as a beacon of hope for low-income, low-skilled immigrants hailing from countries without the necessary resources to attain the skill President Trump’s so ardently desires. President Trump’s merit-based system would exacerbate the global economic inequality gap that continues to erode social mobility.

As a country, we have arrived at a critical economic, social, political, and humanitarian crossroads. We can either recede into ignorance or become the world’s champion of comprehensive immigration for those seeking the American Dream. America, please stand firm.

NYU College Democrats