Democrats Plan to Pack House With Dreamers for State of Union Speech

(CN) – California’s freshmen congressional delegation whose districts have been directly affected by the Trump administration’s immigration policies will join other elected officials across the nation and bring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday.

FILE – In this Sept. 1, 2017 file photo, a woman joins a rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, outside the Edward Roybal Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Rep. Mike Levin, a Democrat representing south Orange and north coastal San Diego counties, will bring DACA recipient Lucero Sanchez. Sanchez studies environmental science at the University of California, San Diego, and worked on Levin’s 2018 campaign. In an interview, Levin said he got to know Sanchez over the past couple years.

“She’s somebody who, despite the fact they won’t allow her to vote or work for Congress, is fully civically engaged and cares deeply about our country and represents everything that is good about our country,” Levin said.

Besides interning with Levin’s campaign, Sanchez is a fellow with Blue Future, which drives youth participation on progressive campaigns. She came to the United States from Mexico as a child, and in 2018 wrote an op-ed for Teen Vogue detailing how the Trump administration’s immigration policies inspired her to get politically active.

Levin – who said “You wouldn’t know it from my last name or from looking at me, but my grandparents on my Mom’s side were Mexican immigrants” – calls for a permanent solution for DACA recipients, who have been given a temporary reprieve from possible deportation so they can attend school and work legally. He wants to see a clean Dream Act passed with a pathway to citizenship for the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients.

California freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros, a Democrat and a Navy veteran from Orange County, has also invited a DACA recipient – Miriam Tellez, who attends California State University, Fullerton – as his guest to the State of the Union.

Cisneros, whose come-from-behind election victory this past November flipped the 39th District for Democrats, recently co-sponsored the American Dream Employment Act, which would make DACA recipients eligible for employment in Congress.

He also signed a letter asking Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to craft regulations that would allow DACA recipients to travel abroad.

Cisneros called it “crass and inhumane” for Trump to use DACA recipients – often called “dreamers” – as bargaining chips to get funding to expand a border wall along the U.S and Mexico border.

“Dreamers are students, service members, neighbors, and our friends. Above all, they are real people,” Cisneros said in a statement. “Dreamers are so much more than bargaining chips – they are valued community members who want nothing more than to contribute to the country they love.”

Tellez, the daughter of undocumented Mexican immigrants and fifth-year sociology major, is the first person in her family to attend college.

“So many other Dreamers and DACA students like me want nothing more than the opportunity to give back to our communities and country,” Tellez said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that this new Congress can rise above the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and put forward a permanent fix for those protected by DACA.”

At least four other members of California’s congressional delegation have invited immigrants’ rights leaders and DACA recipients to attend the address as their guests.

Angelica Salas, director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, is a guest of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Rep. Tony Cardenas will bring Salas’ colleague Luis Perez, the legal services director at the coalition and the first undocumented student to earn a degree from UCLA School of Law. Rep. Linda Sanchez has invited Diana Laureano, a Rio Hondo College student and DACA recipient. And Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, author of the DREAM Act, will bring DACA recipient Kenia Yaritza Arredondo Ramos.

Across the country, other members of Congress are also bringing DACA recipients and those affected by Trump’s immigration policies – including a family separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under the since-abandoned “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has invited Albertina Contreras Teletor and Yakelin Garcia Contreras, a Guatemalan mother and her 12-year-old daughter. The pair were separated for two months in 2018 before being reunited this past July after U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California ordered the federal government to reunite separated families.

Merkley recently leaked a December 2017 document showing the federal government had plans to use family separation as a deterrent to asylum-seekers presenting themselves at the border.

Meanwhile Reps. Jimmy Gomez of California and Rep. Watson Coleman of New Jersey (D-12) have invited former Trump employees who worked for the president and his businesses while undocumented.

While several other Democratic members of Congress plan to bring DACA recipients to the annual address, some Republicans have invited immigration agents: Sen. John Cornyn of Texas will bring Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Manny Padilla as his guest.

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