After Trump’s State of the Union, Get the Backstory on 5 Key Issues

January 31, 2018
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by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

In his first State of the Union address last night, President Donald Trump called for tougher immigration policies, touted his economic record, and outlined his vision for what he called “our new American moment.”

Explore FRONTLINE’s reporting and documentaries to get the backstory on five of the issues the president touched on in his speech, from murders committed by the MS-13 gang, to the continuing opioid crisis and tensions with North Korea.

1. The notorious MS-13 gang

During the address, President Trump addressed the parents of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, two teenage girls from Long Island who were murdered by MS-13. This video tells the backstory of how the murders became a focal point in the administration’s fight for tougher immigration policy:

The Gang Crackdown, FRONTLINE’s full documentary investigating both MS-13’s violence on Long Island and law enforcement’s response, premieres Tuesday, Feb. 13.

2. The future of the prison at Guantanamo Bay

President Trump announced that he has signed an executive order to keep the controversial U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay open. A symbol of the post-9/11 war on terror, the prison has been used to hold terrorism suspects for years — nearly half of the 52 detainees released in the last year of the Obama presidency had been held there without charges. In 2017’s Out of Gitmo, FRONTLINE and NPR examined the debate over freeing prisoners once deemed international terrorists, and followed one of the last “indefinite detainees” to be released before Trump took office.

3. Coal mining and environmental regulations

President Trump claimed to have ended the war on what he called “beautiful clean coal,” and to have “eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in the history of our country.” The FRONTLINE documentary, War on the EPA, tells the inside story of how Trump’s administration has rolled back years of environmental protections — with the input of energy company leaders. It traces how Scott Pruitt went from suing the Environmental Protection Agency 14 times to running it, and how the anti-regulatory and anti-climate change science movements in America reached this moment.

4. The opioid epidemic

“Never before has it been like it is now,” President Trump said of opioid and drug addiction. In 2016’s Chasing Heroin, FRONTLINE investigated how the epidemic came to be, examined shifts in U.S. drug policy, and explored what happens when addiction is treated like a public health issue instead of a crime.

5. North Korea

“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland,” Trump said, calling Kim Jong-un’s regime “depraved.” Amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea., 2017’s North Korea’s Deadly Dictator investigated what motivates Kim Jong-un and shed light on his regime’s chemical and nuclear ambitions.

Note: This post has been updated to clarify the number of detainees who were held at Guantanamo Bay without charges.

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