The audience for President Trump’s speech in the House chamber Tuesday night will include undocumented immigrant students who face an uncertain future under his administration.
A growing number of Democrats are bringing young undocumented immigrants as their guests to Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress.
More than half-dozen House and Senate Democrats so far are hosting immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are temporarily shielded from deportation under an Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Trump has so far avoided eliminating the program, despite implementing policies that could overall result in significantly more deportations.
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSenate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Democrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema MORE’s (D-Ill.) guest, an undocumented medical student named Aaima Sayed, immigrated from Pakistan when she was three years old.
Rep. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraOvernight Defense & National Security — Blinken heads to the hot seat Dozens of Sacramento students remain in Afghanistan after US pullout, district says Lobbying world MORE (D-Calif.) is bringing Alfredo Rivas, a 25-year-old student who came from El Salvador at the age of 13 and wants to be an immigration attorney.
“When people ask me where I'm from, I say 'California' but I have worried every day since the election that my family or I could get deported at any time,” Rivas said in a statement.
Guests sitting in the House chamber’s visitor gallery will be positioned high above the floor where Trump will be speaking and members of Congress will be sitting, along with Trump’s Cabinet and Supreme Court justices. But Democrats are hoping their guests will help make a point to Trump.
“The next time the president talks about undocumented immigrants, I want him to think about this bright young man and others like him," Bera said.
Lawmakers are still announcing their guests ahead of Tuesday’s speech, but several other young undocumented immigrants will be in the audience.
The guest of Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanBiden seeks to build Democratic support among unions Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — A warning shot on Biden's .5T plan Overnight Defense & National Security — America's longest war ends MORE (D-Wis.), a student at Edgewood College named Lupe Salmeron, immigrated to Wisconsin from Mexico in 2005 and is also hoping to become an immigration lawyer.
Two members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Democratic Reps. Nanette Barragán (Calif.) and Lou Correa (Calif.), plan to bring DACA recipients as their guests as well.
Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) are also giving their guest tickets to DACA recipients.
Many Democratic lawmakers are bringing guests who have been impacted by Trump’s policies in other ways, such as people who were detained while the refugee ban was still in effect.
Others are hosting constituents who benefited from the 2010 healthcare law and would stand to lose coverage if it's repealed.
Two Arizona Democrats, Reps. Ruben Gallego and Raúl Grijalva, are hosting the two children of Guadalupe García de Rayos, an undocumented immigrant who was deported to Mexico earlier this month. Both are American citizens, but their mother was among the first immigrants to be sent out of the U.S. after Trump signed an executive order expanding the types of people who should be prioritized for deportation.
Under the Obama administration, only immigrants with serious criminal records or who had recently crossed into the country illegally were prioritized for deportation.
“In the first month of Trump's presidency, we have seen a wave of raids and arrests that have torn many immigrant families apart. These actions have also caused deep fear and uncertainty in communities across the country,” Gallego said.
Trump has offered mixed messages on whether he’ll eliminate the DACA program. At a news conference this month, Trump said DACA "is a very, very difficult subject for me."
"To me, it's one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids, in many cases, not in all cases. And some of the cases, having DACA and they're gang members and they're drug dealers, too. But you have some absolutely, incredible kids, I would say mostly. They were brought here in such a way — it's a very — it's a very, very tough subject."
Tuesday won't be the first presidential address where an undocumented immigrant attended as a guest and drew controversy.
In 2015, one of former President Obama's State of the Union guests seated with then-first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaWe must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary MORE was a student benefiting from the DACA program. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most ardent illegal immigration hardliners in Congress, called the student a "deportable."