President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, gives his State of the Union address in Washington on Feb. 12, 2013. Several immigration reform advocates, including two who are undocumented, will attend this year’s State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama will deliver the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, and five members of the Illinois delegation want immigration reform advocates to be there for it.
Democratic Reps. Luis Gutiérrez, Mike Quigley, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider, and Bill Foster have each invited an immigration reform advocate, including two who are undocumented, to hear the president firsthand deliver his State of the Union address.
“This year, we joined together to invite people whose stories illustrate the importance of immigration reform and to make clear that passing comprehensive immigration reform should be at the top of the to-do list,” the House members said in a joint statement.
All five House members have been active in pushing the House to pass immigration reform legislation that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Among the guests they’ve invited are two undocumented immigrants who stand to benefit from immigration reform.
The two undocumented young immigrants invited by the Illinois delegation are Estefania Garcia and Maria Torres. Both of them are college graduates and Dreamers benefiting from the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gives them a two-year deportation reprieve and allows them to work in the U.S.
Garcia works for a nonprofit organization that provides services to underserved families in Lake County, and Torres works for an organization that helps people navigate the immigration system in Aurora, Illinois.
This is not the first time undocumented immigrants are invited to hear the president’s State of the Union address in person. Last year, another group of undocumented immigrants were also invited by members of Congress.
Among them was Julieta Garibay, a 33-year-old who holds a nursing degree and a master’s in public health from the University of Texas. She was 12 years old when she and her mother left Mexico to come to live in the U.S.
Also joining Garcia and Torres to attend this year’s State of the Union address will be several of the immigration reform advocates who fasted on the National Mall as part of the “Fast for Families.”
One of the fasters, Rudy Lopez, was invited by the Illinois delegation. Lopez described his 22-day fast as “a small sacrifice to remind Congress of the dire need to act on immigration reform.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, said he is pleased to see that immigration reform advocates, especially the fasters from “Fast for Families,” will be in the audience when Obama delivers his State of the Union address.
“I think that is a real sign of commitment to immigration reform,” he said in a call with reporters Friday. “We’re so proud of our brothers and sisters who put their lives on the line for immigration reform and will be recognized by attending the State of Union address.”