While some members of Congress have decided to wear black to tonight’s State of the Union address, and others are skipping it entirely, a number of Democrat attendees have extended an invitation to everyday Americans — including some who hope to become citizens — who are being affected by the GOP’s planned immigration reform, which may see hundreds of thousands of people deported over the next 18 months.
The attendance of these people at Trump’s inaugural SOTU will help shine a light on the humanity of immigrants, and why they should be protected. Here are some of tonight’s SOTU guests:
California Senator Kamala Harris has invited DACA recipient Denea Joseph, who arrived in the US from Belize as a child. Since receiving DACA, Joseph has truly embodied the American Dream: She graduated from UCLA, interned with a congressperson, and has fought for undocumented Black immigrants in the US since she was a student.
In a statement announcing her guest, Senator Harris said of Joseph, “Dreamers like Denea represent the best of who we are as a nation. Her commitment to the representation and empowerment of Black immigrant communities is inspiring. We must continue to fight to give her and the hundreds of thousands of other young people like her who are living in fear, the security they need to live up to their full potential.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren has tapped a guest whose attendance packs multiple punches: Jean Bradley Derenoncourt, a Haitian-American immigrant, and the first Haitian to be elected to city council in Warren’s home state of Massachusetts.
Derenoncourt arrived in the US after the devastating 2010 earthquake that plunged his home country into infrastructural chaos, from which it never fully recovered. Many Haitians fled to the US both in 2010 and again in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew wreaked further havoc on the island nation. Last summer, the president announced plans to remove TPS protections for Haitians who had been living legally in the US since the 2010 disaster, which prompted thousands to flee on foot to Canada.
Michigan Representative Debbie Dingell has opted to bring Cindy Garcia as her guest to the SOTU. Just a few weeks ago, Garcia’s husband, Jorge Garcia was arrested and deported to Mexico after arriving as a child and living in the US for 30 years, leaving behind his wife and children.
Garcia had tried to resolve his immigration status as early as 2005, but immigration officials mixed up his paperwork and delayed the process. Though Garcia had technically been living without legal immigration status, the landscaper had avoided deportation until this year due to immigration officials’ own role in bungling the process. On January 15, Garcia was sent to Mexico by a new immigration officer, who said that the president’s newly handed-down rules made Garcia’s original order of deportation a top priority.
Senator Nancy Pelosi will also be bringing a guest affected by immigration reform. Melody Klingenfuss is a DACA recipient and activist who originally came to the US from Guatemala on a tourist visa at the age of nine. Though she outstayed her visa, she was able to qualify for DACA protections and eventually received a master’s degree from the University of Southern California.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, meanwhile, has invited mechanical engineer and DACA recipient Elizabeth Vilches. Vilches created latinoTECH, a conference for Latinx members of the tech world, and in 2016, squared off with Rick Santorum, who said that undocumented immigrants should go back to their countries of origin and return “the right way.”
“I stand to lose all the work that I’ve done if the new administration decides to end DACA,” Vichis told the former Senator.“My career will come to an end if that program ends and I will also potentially be labeled for deportation, which means I am going to be removed from the communities that I’ve contributed to so much.”
The Dems will be bringing over 30 guests whose personal stories are intertwined with American immigration, including State Senator Kwame Raoul, a first-generation Haitian-American, and a huge amount of DACA recipients.
Democrats will also be arriving with guests affected by #MeToo, and those who have served in the military, including Staff Sgt. Patricia King, a trans service person who will attend with Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who is set to give the opposition’s rebuttal to the SOTU shortly after the president concludes his remarks.
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(Photo via Win McNamee/Getty)