FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — President Trump used Tuesday’s State of the Union Address to talk about immigration policy, a topic on the minds of Arkansans.
Republican leaders were surprised to hear Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) defend further refugee resettlement late last month. The popular national news-oriented Twitter page “NowThis” shared a clip of the governor’s arguments this week, indicating the situation is still of relevance even several weeks later.
Trump discussed an oft-talked about border wall and briefly mentioned his proposed overhaul overhaul of the immigration system.
“We are working on legislation to replace our outdated and randomized immigration system with one based on merit,” Trump said.
Trump also mentioned statistics related to illegal immigration and violent crime. Speaker Nancy Pelosi visibly shook her head as he relayed information about an aversion to sanctuary cities.
“The United States of America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminal aliens,” Trump said.
Pro-immigrant advocates and lawmakers in Northwest Arkansas opposed Trump’s comments.
“We are disappointed, albeit not surprised, that last night President Trump used his national platform to further propel myths about immigrants and continue to push policies that will hurt all Arkansans and Americans if passed, by creating a deeper wedge between government and immigrants,” Mireya Reith, Arkansas United’s executive director, said in a statement. “These policies are meant to drive fear in our families and deliver the message that immigrants are not welcomed here. Common ground exists on immigration, as we have proven time and time again here in Arkansas, but unfortunately rather than build bridges, the President is choosing division and is unnecessarily propelling distrust.”
State Senator Greg Leding (D) said he opposed many of Trump’s comments on immigrants.
“So much of our country’s history is a story of immigrants seeking opportunity,” Leding said in a statement. “For nearly 150 years, the Statue of Liberty has stood as a symbol of that search, welcoming all—the tired, the poor, the ‘huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ The U.S. wouldn’t be what it is today without the hard work and contributions of our immigrants, so to turn our country into a country club where only a select few are allowed inside is wrong, and it’s embarrassing.”
State Senator Bob Ballinger (R) said he supports Trump’s focus on immigration and lauded the President for saying he would work to open up the country’s immigration system to accept more legal immigrants. He said a merit-based system could work.
“We’ve got the greatest nation in the world, and other people recognize it,” Ballinger said. “I think you pick the [applicants] that’re gonna try to contribute and help the society get even better.”
In Trump’s own words, his administration will stay focused on immigration.
“Welcoming those who follow the rules, contribute to our economy, support themselves financially and uphold our values,” Trump said.