When President Donald Trump gives his first State-of-the-Union address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night Texans will be listening for commitments especially important to the Lone Star State.
Here are three things we want to hear:
AN IMMIGRATION PLAN THAT PROTECTS DREAMERS FROM DEPORTATION
Immigration is among the thorniest and most divisive of issues as lawmakers look for some kind of consensus on border security, a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and a plan for the so-called Dreamers, or immigrants brought here illegally as kids. At 120,000, Texas has the second largest population of Dreamers. About 7,700 live in Tarrant County.
Trump pledged loudly and proudly during his campaign that he would build a wall, and now he wants a $25 billion trust fund for that and other border security measures. He also wants to end the policy of “chain migration.” In return, the White House last week laid out a plan to give 1.8 million Dreamers legal residency and a pathway to citizenship. Trump’s DACA plan has been declared dead on arrival by some. We want to hear him promise to work with Congress and bipartisan negotiators to reach an agreement that protects the Dreamers. And we want him to mean it.
KEEP NAFTA AND PROTECT IT FROM HARMFUL CHANGES
The President repeatedly has said he’d like to back out of the trade pact, calling the 1994 agreement a horrible deal. He will be speaking after recently slapping tariffs on solar panels and washing machine imports. He may do the same to steel and aluminum imports.
Nowhere is the protection of many NAFTA provisions more important than in Texas. Mexican Consulate representatives in Texas say 40 percent of U.S. exports to Mexico come from Texas. Increased tariffs on automotive parts or agricultural goods crossing the border could be devastating for producers on both sides and raise the cost of consumer goods..
Trump has the power to pull the plug on NAFTA, but he isn’t likely to do so in front of a joint session of Congress. Instead, Trump may simply repeat what he said in Davos. Switzerland, that America is “open for business.” He said American may come first, but it’s not alone. We hope that world view extends to NAFTA.
HURRICANE HARVEY AID
Texas needs additional and immediate federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Harvey who are still homeless, facing foreclosure or don’t have enough money to rebuild. While the White House has requested $44 billion in disaster relief, Gov. Greg Abbott and others have expressed concern that the pace of funding does not match what happened in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy smacked into New York and New Jersey. Houston and Harris County say they need $81 billion in federal recovery relief. Texans want to hear the President say the needed help in on the way.
We hope President Trump presents a unifying message this time and not the take-no-prisoners, Twitter account style of attack. It often steals any momentum he may hope to use.
If he does that, protects Dreamers and the border; preserves NAFTA; and signals needed help for Harvey victims, Texans will have something to applaud.