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For the second straight year, undocumented immigrants will be in the audience during this year’s State of the Union address, when President Obama will address the nation about his priorities this year and presumably urge Congress again to pass immigration reform.
Members of the Illinois Democratic Congressional delegation — Reps. Luis Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider and Bill Foster — will be hosting two DREAMers, Estefania Garcia and Maria Torres.
Estefania was born in Mexico and brought to the United States when she was only a child. A DREAMer, she applied and was approved for the deferred action program, which allows for a two-year reprieve from deportation. Estefania graduated from Lake Forest College in 2013 with a double major in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in business. She currently lives in Highwood and works for Mano a Mano, an important nonprofit organization that provides social, educational and career services to immigrant and underserved families in Lake County.
Maria is an undocumented youth, who came to Illinois when she was 15 years old. After she was brought to the US, she learned English, graduated from high school with honors, and received a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University in December 2012. Maria was granted work authorization through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but currently is ineligible for citizenship. She works at Family Focus in Aurora, IL, helping others navigate the immigration system.
In addition, Lucas Codognolla will be in the audience, as a guest of Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT). Lucas is a lead organizer for CT Students for a DREAM, an immigration reform and educational equity movement. He graduated from Westhill High School and most recently from the University of Connecticut.
Lorella Praeli, the Director of Advocacy & Policy for United We Dream, will be a guest of Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). Originally from Ica, Peru, Lorella immigrated to the United States when she was 10 years old to receive medical treatment. After advocating for anti-bullying measures to be adopted at the legislative and community levels, she joined the student immigrant rights movement and came out as “undocumented and unafraid.” She graduated from Quinnipiac University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology, summa cum laude.
And Mayra Guadalupe Rubio Limon will be a guest of Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL). Mayra was born in Guadalajara and came to the US when she was just 3 months old. After discovering that she was undocumented in her sophomore year of high school, she started working the fields with her father, picking and packing avocados. One day, she stood up in the hot sun and realized that she didn’t want that to be her future – that her parents had sacrificed everything to give her a better life. Mayra joined S.W.E.R (Students Working for Equal Rights) and got involved in the fight for immigration reform. An in-state tuition waiver at Miami Dade College allowed her to start college, where she is working toward her bachelor’s degree in business.
Other immigration reform advocates who will be present include Rudy Lopez, a Chicago organizer with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) who fasted 22 days on the National Mall with the Fast for Families, and Rev. Tony Suárez with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, who is a national leader among Hispanic evangelicals working to built support for immigration reform.