US President Donald Trump has offered a more moderate tone on immigration policy, telling lawmakers in Congress that he was open to immigration reform.
Addressing the country during his first speech to Congress on Tuesday, Trump shifted from the harsh rhetoric that he had expressed over illegal immigration during his election campaign and first month in the White House.
The president’s wide-ranging speech was long on promises but short on specifics on how to achieve the pledges he made in his election campaign.
Trump was seeking to regain the confidence of Americans that are rattled by his leadership thus far.
On immigration, the new president took a more measured tone, appealing to Republicans and Democrats to work together on immigration reform.
Trump also said immigration to the US should be based on a merit system, rather than relying on lower-skilled 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”, Trump said in a conciliatory tone.
However, the US president reiterated his pledge to build a wall along the border with Mexico. “We want all Americans to succeed — but that can’t happen in an environment of lawless chaos. We must restore integrity and the rule of law to our borders. For that reason, we will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border,” he said.
Trump built a base of support behind his presidential campaign by vowing to fight illegal immigration.
Building a wall on the US-Mexico border to stop the influx of refugees and undocumented migrants coming from Central and Latin America was a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign.
During his campaign, Trump also characterized Mexican migrants living in the US as murderers and rapists and pledged to build a wall that he said Mexico would pay for.
Since his inauguration, Trump has faced nearly non-stop protests and rallies condemning his divisive rhetoric and controversial immigration policy.
Trump’s first month in office was dominated by a battle over his temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries and harsh personal criticism of federal judges who blocked his immigration order.