A hate-filled fight over immigration erupted on Capitol Hill Tuesday as a Republican congressman called for arrests ahead of President Trump’s first State of the Union address.
Facing an ongoing Russia investigation, abysmal approval ratings and a short list of legislative accomplishments, Trump planned to make the case for his America First agenda with a plea for unity.
The President was prepared to present sweeping visions of reforms to immigration, infrastructure and rebuilding “America’s strength and confidence at home.”
Trump called for a “new American moment” as he attempted to foster a sense of unity in Washington.
But prior to the speech, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) asked U.S. Capitol Police to check the identification of all attendees at the address and requested undocumented immigrants be arrested.
“Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress,” Gosar said in a statement.
More than two dozen guests invited by Democrats, who did not clap when the President entered the House chamber, were young immigrants hoping for a permanent fix for the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
Gosar’s comment drew fire from both sides of the aisle as Trump addressed the nation and called for harmony.
“What’s wrong with you?” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) tweeted at Gosar.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that “the speaker clearly does not agree.”
Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress stressed the need for unity — from a President who habitually targets enemies on Twitter and reportedly denigrated to African nations in a meeting with members of Congress.
His speech attempted to focus on positives.
“Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American Workers and American Families,” Trump planned to say, according to excerpts from the White House.
Trump’s conciliatory tone won’t erase his caustic tweets or frequent riffs on Democrats and other political opponents, said Scott Talan, a professor of communications at American University
“You can’t give these types of speeches once a year or every so often and expect people to change their mind about you or to move people to work with you,” he added.
The DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and protected from deportation by the Obama-era program.
Trump announced last year he was rescinding the program — booting the future of the program and its nearly 700,000 recipients to Congress.
A bitter partisan fight over immigration has enveloped Washington in recent weeks.
It led to a three day government shutdown earlier this month and the White House has rejected any plan to protect the Dreamers that does not include funding for a border wall with Mexico and drastic changes to legal immigration laws.
At least 11 Democrats boycotted Trump’s appearance in the House chamber, including Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.).
Democratic women wore black on Tuesday evening as a form of protest against sexual harassment.
Others protested the President’s appeal to the nation with a massive projection on the facade of the Trump International Hotel.
“Donald Trump harassed or assaulted twenty women. Congress: Investigate Trump,” read the massive lightshow, run by the women’s rights activist group Ultra Violet.
Nearly two dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct.
“It is impossible for us to tackle the nation’s sexual assault and harassment epidemic when the man who occupies our highest office is facing no accountability for the scores of sexual abuse accusations mounted against him,” Ultra Violet campaign officer Karin Roland told the Daily News.
First Lady Melania Trump, who wore a cream-colored outfit and arrived at the State of the Union separately from the President, was making her first public appearance with her husband since reports emerged this month that his lawyer allegedly paid $130,000 to a porn star who claimed she had an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006.
The First Lady was joined by more than a dozen guests representing the President’s priorities, including small-business owners, beneficiaries of tax relief, victims of gang violence and a police officer who adopted a baby from parents addicted to opioids.
Trump reflected on his first year in office with rose-colored glasses, sharing an optimistic vision of the country's direction under his leadership.
He touted a growing economy and called for action on trade and infrastructure as he looks to the road ahead, but has been hindered by his unfiltered social media habit and his combative style, experts said.
“You can count on one hand the amount of times that he’s delivered speeches in a way that people would deem presidential and so he gets applause because the bar is so low,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at the progressive nonprofit Public Citizen.
Trump on Tuesday promised a “New American moment,” for all, citing the GOP-backed tax overhaul and his efforts to scale back regulations as catalysts of a brighter economic future.
“There has never been a better time to start living the American dream,” Trump was expected to say.
But critics weren’t convinced.
“The ways that he’s taking credit are inaccurate and he doesn’t deserve the credit when a lot of it is due to the way the economy was trending before him,” Gilbert said, adding that deregulation can only make the country less safe for workers and consumers.
Others said that no matter how presidential Trump sounded Tuesday, his actions in the weeks and months ahead are what will define his legacy.
“President Trump is his own worst enemy,” Tala said. “The problem with Trump is it’s ‘me, me, me.’ He should be talking about the people he’s met since becoming President and sharing what’s happened to them, how his policies have helped them.”
Trump also offered a unique way for campaign donors to watch — and have their names “displayed right under the livestream” on a special website.
The positive message from the President contrasted with the “American carnage” he described on his inauguration day a little more than one year ago as he vowed to make America great again.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) provided the Democrats rebuttal.
“It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos, partisanship, politics, but it's far bigger than that,” Kennedy is expected to say. “This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”