President Donald Trump faced boos from Democrats during his first State of the Union address, after criticising "chain migration" – a practice in which family members come to join immigrants who have settled in America.
Mr Trump has long bemoaned the practice as a means for terrorists and "truly evil people" to enter the country. He used his address to lay out his own immigration plan, which he claimed would "protect the nuclear family by ending chain migration".
"Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives," Mr Trump claimed. "Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to spouses and minor children. This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security, and our future."
The comments earned grumbles and boos from Democrats in the audience, many of whom had brought immigrants with them as their guests to the event.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi even tweeted abut the comment, writing: "Reminder: when @realDonaldTrump says we need to end 'chain migration,' he means we need to stop making it a priority to keep families together."
Chain migration is the most common form of immigration to the US, making up 60 to 70 per cent of all legal immigration in the last decade. Democrats and advocates argue that the more accurate term is "family reunification," as the purpose of the policy is to bring families separated by immigration back together. More than 50,000 children of immigrants, and 85,000 parents, entered the US this way last year.
Mr Trump has attempted to tie chain migration to increased crime and terrorism in the US. In his speech on Tuesday, he pointed to the suspect in an attempted Times Square bombing, who entered the country on a visa for family members in 2011.
"In the age of terrorism, these programmes present risks we can no longer afford," Mr Trump said. "It is time to reform these outdated immigration rules, and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century."
Multiple studies have shown that immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States.
Mr Trump rolled out his proposed immigration policy last week. The plan would make a massive cut to the number of family members allowed to immigrate to the US each year. It would also require $25b for a border wall with Mexico and other border security measures.
In exchange, it would create a path to citizenship for some 1.8m residents who arrived in the US illegally as children.
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