After his boyfriend Larry “Daniel” Kaufman was shot and killed in last month's attack in San Bernardino, California, Ryan Reyes has urged that the massacre not become a reason to treat Muslims different than others.
Tuesday he will join First Lady Michelle Obama in her box at the State of the Union address where President Barack Obama is expected to deliver a message of what the country can accomplish beyond his presidency. Reyes will be one of several Latinos invited to President Barack Obama’s speech kicking off his final year in office.
Kaufman worked at the Inland Regional Center where the attack occurred Dec. 2, 2015. He helped pushed people to safety and yelled warnings to others to get out of the center during the shooting, helping to save four people.
Reyes told the Los Angeles Times that he hopes his appearance at the speech brings healing for himself and the country.
“If we ostracize people, they can’t help us,” Reyes told the Times. “If we embrace, we can all help each other. I’m hoping this can unify us as a nation.”
Oscar Vasquez, who migrated from Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona when he was 12, was the leader of the Carl Hayden Community High School underwater robotics team that beat MIT at a robotics championship sponsored by NASA. Like others on the team, he did not have legal immigration status in the U.S. Their story was made into a documentary and a Hollywood film, “Spare Parts,” starring comedian/actor George Lopez.
Vasquez went on to college, thanks to scholarships created with money from readers of his story when it was first reported in “Wired” magazine.
But unable to get a job because he was in the country illegally, he returned to Mexico to apply for a visa. He was helped by Sen. Dick Durbin to get legal permanent residence in the U.S., returned and went on to serve in the military, including a tour in Afghanistan. He is now a U.S. citizen working for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railways as a business analyst and as part of a "we app" development team. The White House said he advocates for STEM opportunities for Latino and underrepresented youth.
Other Latinos will be invited as guests to the speech by different members of Congress.
Dallas businesswoman Gloria Fuentes will be a guest of Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas. An immigrant to El Salvador she owns a 15-restaurant franchise, Gloria's Latin Cuisine. She started selling Salvadoran food outside a Dallas dance hall to supplement her income, Veasey's office said in a news release. She is sharing her knowledge and experience with other minority and women business owners through mentoring.