On Tuesday, Donald Trump will give his first State of the Union Address, where he is expected to proclaim that the state of the union is strong before launching into his agenda for the coming year.
But for many watching in the audience, Trump’s words will be the complete opposite of what they’ve lived in the last year. While Trump spent much of 2017 struggling to pass legislation, on immigration he – led by Administration hardliners like Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions – was able to implement dramatic policy changes that changed the lives of thousands of families across the country.
Trump and his Administration tried to implement multiple Muslim bans, cancelled temporary protected status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of people who have lived here for decades, eliminated the DACA program that protected Dreamers, mass-deported mothers and fathers who were raising U.S. citizen children and trying to become Americans, turned asylum seekers away at the border, reduced the number of refugees allowed into the U.S., and much, much more. It’s all part of his plan to drastically remake U.S. demographics in the long run – and it has led to intolerable heartbreak for so many American families.
Dreamers, TPS holders, and family members of deported immigrants have been invited to the State of the Union as guests of various members of Congress. Here are some of the people who will be in attendance Tuesday night, who will be watching Trump speak after a year in which he’s completely upended their lives:
Cindy Garcia, guest of Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI): Over Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, Jorge Garcia — the father of two U.S. citizen children and the husband of a U.S. citizen wife, who had lived in the U.S. since he was ten years old and had no criminal record whatsoever – was deported. While immigration enforcement agents under the Obama Administration had seen fit to let Jorge stay with his family, the Trump Administration has made it clear that they want to deport all immigrants, regardless of circumstance. Cindy, Jorge’s wife, said that her family was left devastated by her husband’s forced departure. “It’s a nightmare that came to life that we don’t wish upon anybody,” she told MSNBC. The rapper Chamillionaire has sought to help the family financially, partly by directing fans to the Garcia family’s GoFundMe, explaining his involvement by saying that “my parents are immigrants, so I feel some type of way”, and that Americans have been “misled to believe the toxic narrative” against immigrants.
Marco Chavez, guest of Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA): Marco was brought to California as an infant, served in the Marine Corps, but then made a mistake and was deported in 2002. He spent fifteen years in exile from his true home country, unable to be with his three children as they grew up and missing the births of his two grandchildren. Just last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned Marco, opening the door for him to come back home to San Diego. As one advocate said, “No one who was willing to die for this country should be deported.” Marco has now been reunited with his family, but untold numbers of deported U.S. veterans remain trapped outside of the U.S., unable to be with their loved ones despite their sacrifice.
Denea Joseph, guest of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): Denea is a Dreamer, DACA recipient, and leader of the UndocuBlack Network, who came to the U.S. when she was seven. She’s a recent graduate of UCLA, where she advocated for higher education opportunities for marginalized communities. This year, Denea and other members of UndocuBlack (as well as United We Dream and other advocates) have been crucial leaders in the fight to pass the Dream Act. Since Donald Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last September, Dreamers like Denea have been slowly losing their status and ability to legally work. If Congress doesn’t act, Denea and others may eventually face deportation.
Nery Martinez, guest of Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV): Nery fled the Salvadoran civil war in the 1990s and has lived in Las Vegas since then. He is a bar apprentice at the Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino, and is the father of two U.S. citizen children. Nery and his wife are recipients of temporary protected status (TPS) for Salvadorans, which was cancelled by the Trump Administration earlier this month. When a country suddenly becomes unsafe – due to the outbreak of a war or because of a natural disaster, for example – TPS is designated for immigrants of those countries who are already in the U.S., in order to protect those immigrants from having to return to unsafe countries. In the last six months, the Trump Administration has cancelled TPS for immigrants from Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti, with decision dates for Syria and Honduras around the corner. As a result, hundreds of thousands of immigrant-Americans like Nery, who have lived in the U.S. for decades, are being told that they have less than 18 months to pack up their bags and leave. As Nery said recently, “I will be at the address to remind [Trump] and this administration that TPS recipients like me are here to make this already great nation even greater.”
Amy Gottlieb, guest of Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY): Amy is the wife of Ravi Ragbir, a detained immigrant rights activist who is the head of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York. Ravi was handcuffed and arrested a few weeks ago during a routine check-in with ICE and has not been freed despite demonstrations featuring Rep. Velazquez, other members of Congress, and supporters from the community. Advocates say that ICE targeted Ravi because of his activism, and he is at risk of deportation to his native Trinidad.