A leading justice advocacy group has praised President Donald Trump for highlighting criminal justice reform in his State of the Union address Tuesday.
“President Trump made a smart strategic choice here,” Holly Harris, executive director and president of the Justice Action Network, said in a press statement.
“Criminal justice reform is one of the most popular, uniting issues I’ve seen in my career in politics, and the message of working with both parties in Congress on the First Step Act appeals to voters across the political spectrum.”
Noting that Trump also mentioned the issue in an ad that ran during the Super Bowl, Harris said “ It’s also a mark of how far we’ve come that a president who ran on a tough-on-crime message is highlighting his work on justice reform and clemency as he kicks off his election year campaign.”
But she added: “We hope that President Trump’s message that he is fully committed to the First Step Act will be heard by the staff at the Department of Justice who have been working to delay the act’s implementation, and in some cases trying to put people who have been released back in federal prison.”
In his address, the president claimed that “our roaring economy has for the first time ever given many former prisoners the ability to get a great job and a fresh start.”
He added: “This second chance at life is made possible because we passed landmark criminal justice reform into law.
“Everybody said that criminal justice reform couldn’t be done, but I got it done and the people in this room got it done.”
Trump also praised Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, saying they arrested last year more than 120,000 criminal aliens charged with nearly 10,000 burglaries, 5,000 sexual assaults, 45,000 violent assaults, and 2,000 murders.
“Tragically, there are many cities in America where radical politicians have chosen to provide sanctuary for these criminal illegal aliens,” Trump said.
He noted that Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) has introduced legislation to allow U.S. citizens to sue sanctuary cities and states when a loved one is hurt or killed by a “criminal alien.”
He urged Congress to pass the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act.
During the speech, Fred Guttenberg, a gun violence activist who lost his daughter in the 2018 Parkland, Fl., school shooting, was escorted out of the House chamber by police after loudly shouting at President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address on Tuesday, USA Today reports He interrupted a section of Trump’s speech in which the president said he would “always protect your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
Guttenberg’s 14-year-old daughter, Jamie, was among 17 people killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Guttenberg is a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill advocating for gun violence prevention.
Guttenberg later tweeted out a public apology that said his emotions got the best of him.