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President Trump once again defied predictions that he was going to soften his position on immigration, this time during his first address to Congress on Tuesday night.

In the hours before the speech, it was reported that Trump told meeting attendees it was time for “compromise on both sides” on the issue. Some even speculated that something like the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan measure from 2013 that contained a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, might be on the table.

It didn’t happen. “By finally enforcing our immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars and make our communities safer for everyone,” Trump vowed.

Trump did say he was willing to work with Democrats on immigration reform, but he outlined a different approach than the plans endorsed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others, have a merit-based immigration system,” the president said. “According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.”

A move away from family reunification to skills-based legal immigrant admissions is a policy favored by many immigration restrictionists.

This isn’t the first time Trump has defied press predictions. Last August, there were reports that Trump was considering legal status for illegal immigrants.

“Now this would be a huge reversal for Trump, who campaigned on the idea of creating a deportation force that would expel undocumented immigrants from the country,” a CNN broadcast noted at the time.

Just a few days later, Trump delivered a major immigration speech that reaffirmed his campaign position, sounding much like he did Tuesday night.

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“When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following, amnesty, open borders, lower wages,” Trump said in Arizona last year. “Immigration reform should mean something else entirely. It should mean improvements to our laws and policies to make life better for American citizens.”

In both cases, reports characterized Trump as being open to moderating his position in private meetings with audiences likely to favor comprehensive immigration reform. One was with his Hispanic advisory board, the other with media outlets, including Univision and Telemundo.

“There he is, my original supporter,” Trump said to Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who was elected taking an “enforcement-first” position on illegal immigration, as he shook hands with lawmakers after the speech. The president told Barletta that he wouldn’t be “lonely” anymore.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., for a decade the leading immigration hawk in the House of Representatives, previously said Trump’s election was like Christmas, and the president was like “Santa.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called for reducing legal immigration as a Republican senator from Alabama. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., have introduced legislation to do just that.

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Trump did not get that specific. But he did reiterate his support for building the wall and called attention to the victims of crimes committed by illegal immigrants.


Yet Trump’s lack of shift on immigration has already elicited criticism. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow said in her post-speech analysis that Trump devoted a great deal of time to “trying to tell the country what vicious, murdering criminals immigrants are.”



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