About 50 immigration advocates gathered in southeast Las Vegas to watch President Donald Trump give his first State of the Union speech Tuesday evening.
Mostly, they laughed, shook their heads and let out the occasional “oof” at Trump’s remarks on topics like lowering drug prices, coal mining and a falling unemployment rate among blacks and Latinos.
Trump blamed immigrants for gang violence, drug issues and competition for low-wage jobs. “Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives,” he said, pointing to Kayla Cuevas, 16, and Nisa Mickens, 15, killed by MS-13 gang members on Long Island in 2016.
“We just hear more of the same anti-immigrant rhetoric, and what I mean, is demonizing family migration,” said Leo Murrieta, director for advocacy group Make the Road Nevada. While he advocates, he worries about his siblings who remain undocumented.
Trump, who praised border patrol agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, detailed his immigration plan, unveiled last week, which would open a 12-year path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants and calls for $25 billion for a border wall.
The plan, which he said would require compromises from Democrats and Republicans, would limit legal immigration, restricting visas for the family of citizens to spouses and minor children.
“Americans are Dreamers, too,” Trump said, referencing the 800,000 young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and are protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Watchers in Las Vegas booed.
Trump’s comments on immigration hit home for Kenia Morales, a 30-year-old from Las Vegas whose family immigrated from Nicaragua in the 1980’s.
“He can’t talk about putting America first and talk about separating families,” said Kenia Morales, 30, of Las Vegas, who came to the event with her husband and two children. “That’s not how that works.”
She continued: “I also dream of a better world, Donald Trump.”