President Trump begins to speak to a joint session of Congress. Image from CNN broadcast
President Trump begins to speak to a joint session of Congress. Image from CNN broadcast

In his first address to Congress, President Trump spoke extensively about three issues important to California, promising to stop gang violence, secure the border with Mexico and reform immigration policy.

“We will soon begin the construction of a great wall along our southern border…it will be a very effective weapon against drugs and crime,” he said during the hour-long speech.

“As we speak,” he added, “we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens.”

Trump vowed to reform the legal immigration system so that it is merit-based, and appealed to Democrats to “work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.” He said such a reform must improve wages, strengthen American security and restore respect for laws.

“The current, outdated system depresses wages for our poorest workers, and puts great pressure on taxpayers,” he said.

For the military, Trump announced the end of the sequester that has cut budgets, and promised “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.”

And he recognized concerns about recent threats that have forced the evacuation of Jewish community centers in San Diego, Irvine and Los Angeles.

“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said.

A number of national commentators said the speech represented a change in tone for the President, but California Democrats quickly criticized the substance.

“Behind the political rhetoric tonight was an affirmation of this President’s divisive agenda and a complete lack of substance and specifics,” said Sen. Kamala Harris. “Treating all immigrants like criminals disparages the millions of incredibly hardworking and patriotic families who simply want a chance at the American dream.”

Three Californians whose relatives were killed by people in the U.S. illegally were among Trump’s guests for the speech, sitting with First Lady Melania Trump.

Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver are the widows of two Place County sheriff’s deputies who were killed in 2014 by a twice-deported convicted felon. And Jamiel Shaw is the father of a Los Angeles teen who was killed by a gang member who was in the country illegally.

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