World

Trump now open to immigration reform

In his first speech in Congress, President Trump says US should switch from lower-skilled immigration and adopt merit-based system

WASHINGTON:  US President Donald Trump told Congress on Tuesday (yesterday, Singapore time) he was open to immigration reform, shifting from his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration in a speech that offered a more restrained tone than his first month in the White House.

His speech was long on promises but short on specifics on how to achieve a challenging legislative agenda that could add greatly to budget deficits.

Here are some of the main themes of his speech:

IMMIGRATION

  • Mr Trump promised new steps to "keep out those who would do us harm" and said his administration had been working on better vetting procedures.
  • He said most people convicted of terrorism-related offences since 9/11 were not from the United States, and the US should not "become a sanctuary for extremists".
  • He said the US should switch from lower-skilled immigration and adopt a merit-based system. Mr Trump said Republicans and Democrats could work together towards immigration reform as long as it focused on improving jobs and wages, and strengthening the US security.
  • Construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border will begin soon. He had frequently said Mexico would pay for the wall, but made no mention of that in his speech.
  • His new immigration order will remove Iraq from the list of countries whose citizens face a temporary US travel ban, AP reported.

DEFENCE SPENDING AND FOREIGN POLICY

  • Mr Trump promised to send to Congress a budget to rebuild the military. He wants to hike defence spending by US$54 billion (S$76 billion).
  • He vowed to work with US allies, including those in the Muslim world, to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
  • He promised support for the Nato military alliance, but said US partners must meet their financial obligations.

HEALTHCARE REFORM

  • Mr Trump called on Congress to replace Obamacare.
  • He said reforms should lower healthcare cost and ensure people with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage.
  • He proposed tax credits and expanded health savings accounts for people to purchase health insurance.
  • Mr Trump also said legal reforms should protect patients and doctors from needless costs that drive up insurance price.

TAX

  • Mr Trump vowed "historic" reforms to reduce the corporate tax rate to make US companies more globally competitive.
  • He also promised "massive" tax relief for the middle class.
  • He gave no new details on the tax reforms he would like to see and did not mention a border adjustment tax that lies at the heart of a Republican proposal in the House of Representatives.

INFRASTRUCTURE

  • Congress will be asked to approve legislation for a US$1 trillion investment in infrastructure, financed through both public and private channels. "Buy American" and "Hire American" will be the guiding principles, he said.

- REUTERS

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