Washington– Prominent Indian-American lawmakers have slammed US President Donald Trump’s first State of Union address in which he equated young immigrants with members of the brutal criminal gang MS-13.
In his 80-minute speech in the House chamber of the Capitol, Trump offered to legalise those who were brought into the country illegally as children — referred to as “Dreamers” and ultimately give them citizenship, while cracking down on criminal gangs as part of his reform package to “bring our immigration system into the 21st century”.
Trump led into his immigration plan on Tuesday by recognizing two families from Long Island whose daughters had been killed by members of MS-13 gang.
He has called on the Congress to come together to enact sweeping immigration reforms that introduce a merit-based system while ending the inflow of extended family members and building a wall to safeguard the borders.
Reacting strongly to the speech on Wednesday, first Indian-American to serve in the US Senator Kamala Harris said: “MS-13 is an example of some of the worst criminal gang behaviour,” but, “to equate that with Dreamers was completely irresponsible”.
“It was scapegoating and it was fear-mongering and it was wrong,” she said.
“Dreamers” became eligible for protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that former President Obama set up in 2012.
“Dreamers should not be used as a bargaining chip or held hostage in exchange for anti-immigrant policies,” Harris tweeted.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who boycotted the address, also ridiculed Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants and called it “outrageous”.
“The President’s rhetoric was absurd. He wants to slash legal immigration and conflate immigrant families with terrorists and criminals and drains on our economy,” Jayapal tweeted.
Congressman Ro Khanna said: “Trump talked about immigration. His perception is flawed. Real lives are at stake, and I will not stop fighting for the 800,000 Dreamers who deserve nothing less than a clean DREAM Act.”
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said he wished that “Trump governed with the same tone of promise and cooperation that he used at times during his speech.
“If only the first year of his presidency had focused on infrastructure, investments in workforce development, and career and technical education, what a different political moment we would all be living in today,” he said.
Voicing his support for immigrants, Democratic US Representative Ami Bera said: “We are a nation of immigrants and that should be celebrated.” (IANS)