In his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump called for bipartisanship, a message that U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said should be relatable to all Americans and will be crucial moving forward.
Collins also called for compromise in immigration reform and protection at the country’s southern border, issues that have become contentious and led to a more than month-long federal government shutdown when Congress opted not to fund a border wall.
“The clearest, most urgent opportunity for compromise lies at our southern border. Misguided immigration policies have led to a humanitarian crisis we can no longer afford to ignore,” Collins said in a statement. “Americans agree we must fix our broken immigration system to ensure a brighter future for this country and our global neighbors.”
Bipartisan compromise is possible, Collins said, noting the First Step Act as an example of legislation that was able to gain support from both Republicans and Democrats. Collins sponsored the bill, signed by Trump in December, that focuses on reducing recidivism for federal offenders.
“Last Congress, Republicans and Democrats worked hand in hand to turn the First Step Act into a reality, one that has restored hope to families and communities across the nation,” Collins said. “Redemption is woven into our American identity, and I hope this is one of many bipartisanship accomplishments that will rebuild communities by changing lives.”
Collins also said he hopes Democrats and Republicans can work together to lower the cost of prescription drugs and expand access to broadband.
Gainesville was also represented at Tuesday’s State of the Union by Art Gallegos Jr., co-founder of the Latinos Conservative Organization and Collins’ guest for the address. The organization focuses on outreach in the Latino community and works to raise awareness about political and economic issues.
Gallegos said he was grateful for the opportunity to hear the address in person, and he liked the president’s message of bipartisanship.
“I believe that President Trump was able to engage both sides of the aisle. … the tone that he used of engaging with them and speaking about unity and working with anybody that is willing to work together,” Gallegos said.
He said he would have liked to hear more concrete policy proposals, though. The trip also helped him meet other Latino leaders that he plans to work with moving forward, he said.
Hall County is about 28 percent Latino, according to Census data. Collins said Gallegos represents a conservative Latino community that many may believe does not even exist.
“There is a common misconception that the Latino community is not supportive of the president or his border security policies. Art is pushing back on that narrative,” Collins said. “… Art’s voice represents an invaluable part of Northeast Georgia, and it was an honor to have him as my guest at this year’s State of the Union.”
Georgia was also in the spotlight Tuesday, as Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House of Representatives minority leader and candidate for governor, gave the official Democratic response to the address. Abrams called the shutdown a “disgrace.”
“Just a few weeks ago, I joined volunteers to distribute meals to furloughed federal workers. They waited in line for a box of food and a sliver of hope since they hadn’t received a paycheck in weeks,” Abrams said. “…The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”
She also criticized Trump’s immigration policies, saying his administration “chooses to cage children and tear families apart.”
“Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders. President Reagan understood this. President Obama understood this. Americans understand this,” Abrams said. “And Democrats stand ready to effectively secure our ports and borders.”