When U.S. President Donald Trump gives his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, there will be several people in the audience who could be adversely affected by the policies he will pitch.
Several Democratic lawmakers have invited immigrants and foreigners as guests, in an effort to send a message to Trump. The invitees include the Iraqi-American doctor who discovered elevated levels of lead in the blood of many children living in Flint, Michigan; a Pakistani-born doctor who delivers critical care to patients in Rhode Island; and an American-born daughter of Palestinian refugees who aids people like her family in their quest to come to the United States.
Lawmakers typically get one guest ticket each for presidential addresses, and the invites often go to family, friends or a constituent.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin has invited Aaima Sayed, a Muslim-American whose parents brought her to the United States when she was three years old, Politico reports. Sayed, a third-year medical student at Loyola University, qualifies for permission to live and work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program put in place in 2012 by former President Barack Obama.But Trump is said to be seriously considering rolling back that program.
The Illinois Democrat has been pressing Trump to exclude these children, known as Dreamers, from any efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants.
“Would the United States be better off if Aaima is deported to Pakistan, where she hasn’t lived since she was a toddler, instead of using her talent as a physician to help low-income Americans? The answer is clear,” Durbin said in a statement. “I am honored to host this gifted young medical student as my guest. I hope her presence reminds President Trump what’s at stake in the debate over DACA: the lives of more than 750,000 innocent young people and the wellbeing of entire communities.”
Trump and his wife, Melania, are countering with their own group of guests, including the father of a teenager who was killed by a man who was in the United States illegally, and the widows of two police officers whose suspected killer was also in the country illegally.
Jamiel Shaw Sr., whose son was killed in 2008 by a man now sitting on California's death row, supported Trump's campaign for president and gave a primetime address during last year's Republican National Convention.
Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver are the widows of Detective Michael Davis and Deputy Danny Oliver, who were killed in 2014.The suspect in that case is awaiting trial after being found mentally competent last month.The officers were named in a 2015 Senate bill sponsored by then-Senator Jeff Sessions, now the nation's attorney general, that called for the kind of cooperation between federal immigration enforcement and local agencies that the Trump administration is now putting into action.
Some Democrats also have invited guests in an attempt to highlight a different point - the need for the Affordable Care Act, which Trump wants to repeal. Representatives Marcy Kaptur and Joyce Beatty will host constituents who will be adversely affected by the cancellation of the program commonly referred to as Obamacare.
An Ohio senator hopes to make labor related points at Trump's speech. Senator Sherrod Brown invited pizza parlor owner Steven Hill to attend the speech after he wrote a letter to Brown's office that favors raising workers' wages. "I'm honored to have him as my guest this week to remind President Trump that we will hold him to his promise to put American workers first, and that must include raising the minimum wage," said a statement from Brown.
California Democratic Representative Judy Chu has invited Iranian graduate student Sara Yarjani to be her guest. After an order from Trump restricted U.S. entry for citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries, Yarjani was detained at Los Angeles' airport and deported, despite having a valid two-year student visa. She was able to re-enter the United States a week later.
New York's Rep. Nydia Velazquez has invited Hameed Darweesh, an Iraqi and father of three who worked for the U.S. military as an interpreter. Darweesh was detained at John F. Kennedy airport in New York for 18 hours before being released.
Another of Trump's guests is a woman who used a Florida scholarship program that helps lower-income students attend either a private school or a public school that is outside of their district.
The pick seems to highlight another shift in policy with the new administration, which has as its Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an advocate for school choice.
And with a Supreme Court nomination battle looming, Trump also invited Maureen McCarthy Scalia, the widow of Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat on the court has been vacant since his death a year ago.
The audience also will be on alert for any Joe Wilson moments in Trump’s speech. Wilson, a longtime Republican congressman from South Carolina, shouted, “You lie!” as then-President Obama addressed Congress in 2009 about his health care plan.