JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- First Coast News invited the future political leaders of Jacksonville to a viewing party to watch President Trump's first State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
We had an equal number of Democrats and Republicans present. They were with the Jacksonville Young Democrats and the Jacksonville Young Republicans.
We asked them to raise a green paddle when the agreed with the president and a red paddle when they disagreed. We asked them to consider how the State of the Union affected the state of the First Coast.
Trump said this about immigrants: "For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They have caused the loss of many innocent lives."
For much of his speech about immigration and tightening borders, the three Democrats disagreed. And the topic drew a big response.
"He is painting immigrants in a light where they're not hard-working Americans," Nathan McKay said. And if he had his way, I would not have met my fiance, the love of my life and her family would not be immigrating here without chain migration."
Shelly Aquino, a Democrat, said, "Not every immigrant who comes to the U.S. comes to commit crimes. When my parents brought me here, I was little. They brought me here for a better life."
Kyle Bedran, president of Jacksonville Young Republicans, said, "Opposed to what my colleagues have said, there is a new opportunity for people to become citizens legally. What Trump is saying is there are many people coming here illegally. They are causing problems. "
Kristelys Estanga, the president of Jacksonville Young Democrats, said, "I agree with that. We all agree. Legal immigration is a good thing. Illegal immigration is not a good thing. However it's the fear-mongering and the way immigrants are being portrayed, and many are not."
"There area sensible immigration reforms which we can all agree on, which we have already kind-of done so." Republican Robert Foster said. "But what they'd (Democrats on the panel) rather do is fear mongering Donald Trump as a Mexican hating person."
Another topic of discussion was Trump's plan to increase the country's nuclear capabilities. Foster raised his green paddle in full support, thinking about the possibility of a nuclear aircraft carrier calling Jacksonville home.
"Once we can start s the ending on military at an adequate level we can possibly bring an aircraft carrier here which will bring an untold amount of jobs," Foster noted.
McKay disagreed with Trump.
"Investing billions of dollars in more nukes when we already have 2,000 nukes makes no sense," he said.
Mentions of tax reform also drew reaction.
Republican Faith Doski said, "There are so many small businesses here that are going to see the benefits of lowering that corporate rate."
In our watch party, division was usually along party lines. However there were moments when these young voters agreed.
"I was really glad to hear him speak to unity. Something that this country so desperately needs," Bedran said. "Especially here in Jacksonville. We're a very diverse group. We need unity. We've lost it. "
"There are those on both sides who don't want to work with each other, but there are those on both sides who appreciate times we can get together like this and talk about issues and try to agree on things we can agree on," Estanga said.