Democrats hope to send a message to President Trump by inviting a host of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to attend his first State of the Union address on Tuesday.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, and more than two dozen Democrats have invited so-called “DREAMers,” whose status has been in jeopardy since the Trump administration announced it would phase out legal protections that former president Barack Obama established.
So far, eight House members are heeding calls from the progressive base to boycott Trump's address. But most Democrats will use the event and their guest selections to highlight concerns about immigration, health, gun violence prevention and sexual misconduct.
Taking a cue from Hollywood, dozens will wear black in a symbolic stand against sexual harassment, honoring the “Time’s Up” and “Me Too” movements.
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus will wear red pins honoring the late Recy Taylor, a black Alabama woman who was raped in 1944 by six white men who were never brought to justice.
And members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will be wearing migrating butterfly stickers to show support for immigrants and refugees a year into the Trump administration.
“I want to be clear: DREAMers are Americans,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., whose guest came to the U.S. from El Salvador at the age of 15 and now works as a technology specialist at Apple. “They contribute to our economy, our communities and our strength and stability as a nation.”
Sen. Kamala Harris of California said DREAMers like her guest, Denea Joseph, who works for an advocacy organization serving black, undocumented immigrants nationwide, “represent the best of who we are as a nation.”
“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,” she said.
Progressives opposed a deal to reopen the federal government last week that postponed legislative action to protect DREAMers. The deal called for the Senate to immediately take up DREAMer legislation if there is no broader accord by Feb. 8.
President Trump has proposed a path to citizenship for up to 1.8 million DREAMers along with $25 billion for a border wall and a 25% reduction in legal immigration. But Democrats oppose the reduction in immigration, with Pelosi calling the plan “make America white again.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., among those boycotting the speech, announced on Facebook that he will be sending an Oregon DREAMer in his place “to remind Trump that these are real people with families and jobs, who are vital to our communities. They deserve certainty and protection.”
Others members of Congress who have said they won’t attend include civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Barbara Lee of California, Maxine Waters of California, Frederica Wilson of Florida, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and Gregory Meeks of New York.
It is "just a false celebration of bipartisanship” for Democrats to attend the speech, said Murshed Zaheed, political director of the liberal group CREDO. CREDO Action is petitioning members to skip the address. “If Democrats are rising up to applaud this guy, that’s just going to send the wrong message to DREAMers.”
Democratic leaders chose Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts to deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s address and Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman to deliver the Spanish-language response. Guzman is the first Hispanic female immigrant elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
Pelosi called Guzman “a respected advocate and community leader who represents the best of our nation’s ideals.”
“Driven by her faith and her belief in the promise of the American Dream, Elizabeth has been a vital, relentless leader for the voiceless,” she said.