As President Donald Trump prepares to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, Democrats are gearing up to protest the new president by inviting a diverse group of guests impacted by Trump’s most controversial policies.
Immigrants who have made important contributions to American society, the family members of victims of mass shootings and those dependent on the Affordable Care Act will be among the guests on hand for the high-profile speech, say Democrats.
"I want, when the president is giving his address, to be looking up in the gallery and see the diversity that is America," said Rep Jim Langevin (D-RI). Langevin is leading the charge encouraging House Democrats “to invite guests who have, despite discrimination, made positive impacts on their communities.”
And unlike Trump's inauguration last month when several dozen House Democrats boycotted, only one member, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), has plans to skip the speech. Waters told her Democratic colleagues Tuesday that she won't be in attendance out of concerns she would not be able to "contain enthusiasm."
"The only thing we urged members to be is respectful," House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Tuesday ahead of Trump's address.
Immigration is the dominant theme among the Democratic invitees who could all stand to lose if Trump follows through on signature campaigns promises like cracking down on undocumented immigrants, restricting travel to the U.S., and repealing the Affordable Care Act.
“Once he assumed the highest office in the land, his first order of business was to close our borders to immigrants and refugees, particularly those from Muslim-majority countries,” Langevin, said in a statement. “Diversity makes our nation stronger, and I believe it should be celebrated.”
The White House announced its own list of guests meant to highlight the importance of Trump’s agenda. The family members of a victim killed by undocumented immigrants will be siting with First Lady Melania Trump.
Not all Democratic guests will be a direct rebuke of Trump, however. One of the most notable invitations was extended by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who recently defeated Ellison to become head of the Democratic National Committee.
Below is a list of some of the guests being brought by House Democrats to watch Trump’s address:
IMMIGRATION FOCUSED GUESTS:
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX) invited celebrity chef Jose Andres, who cancelled plan to open a restaurant in Trump's new Washington, D.C. hotel after his inflamatory comments about Mexicans.
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) invited Dr. Ehsun Mirza. Mirza is a critical care doctor originally from Pakistan.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) invited Jacqueline García de Rayos. Her mother was deported despite efforts to prevent her deportation. Her brother, Angel Garcia De Rayos, will be a guest of Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ).
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) invited Fidaa Rashid. Rashid is a Chicago attorney who works with thos directly affected by Trump's travel ban from majority Muslim countries.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) invited Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, he founder and Executive Director of the Syrian Community Network.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) invited Banah Alhanfy. She is a 20-year-old Iraqi immigrant whose father served as an interpreter for the U.S. military, but was unable to board a flight from Baghdad to the U.S. in the aftermath of Trump's order to restrict travel.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley invited Sarker Haque. The New York City business owner was the victim of an anti-Muslim hate crime in his store in 2015.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) invited Hameed Darweesh. He was detained in New York City after Trump's executive order. He worked for US government in Iraq for 10 years as an Army interpreter, as well as an engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers and for the State Department at the US Consulate in Irbil.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) invited Lupe Salmeron, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals student who came to the U.S 12 years ago.
Rep. Ed Blumenauer (D-OR) invited Wajdi Said, a Muslim community leader and and co-founder of the Oregon Coalition for Muslim Values.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) invited Farah Alkhafaji, the sister of an Iraqi interpreter and widow of an Iraqi killed for aiding the U.S. who was initially refused entry into the U.S. after the executive order. She has resettled in Northern Virginia and has remarried a Lieutenant Commander in the US navy.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) invited Syrian refugee Karnig. He is now an employee in a factory, having owned one in Syria and lives in southern California with his wife and two children.
Sen. Catherine Cortez (D-NV) invited Astrid Silva. She is a DREAMer who will also deliver the Spanish language Democratic response Tuesday to Trump's speech Tuesday.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) invited Yuriana Aguilar, the first DACA Recipient to earn a PhD.
GUNS AND POLICE VIOLENCE FOCUSED GUESTS:
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) invited Christine Leinonen. She is the mother of Christopher Leinonen, who died along with his boyfriend in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) invited Waterbury Police Chief Vernon L. Riddick, Jr. Etsy, whose district includes Newtown, said she will be working with Vernon on solutions to gun violence.
HEALTHCARE FOCUSED GUESTS:
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) invited Ola Ojewumi. Ojewumi is a community organizer and women’s health advocate who credits Obamacare for helping her fight against cancer.
Rep Sandy Levin (D-MI) invited Lindsay Helfman. Levin's office said Helfman "and her family have health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and her attendance will spotlight the many provisions of the ACA that are helping families throughout Michigan, and the entire nation.”
Rep Ted Deutch (D-FL) invited Lauri Major Tillman. Per a press release: Lauri’s grandson, Jackson, was born with severe health complications…“Thanks to the ACA, this family doesn’t have to worry about going into medical bankruptcy, having their insurance cap Jackson’s lifetime benefits, or being denied future coverage for his pre-existing condition.”
Rep Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) invited Jen Fox. She is one of the congressman’s interns and a cancer survivor who was able to afford access and treatment with the help of Obamacare.
OTHER NOTABLE GUESTS:
Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN) invited new Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez.
Rep Dan Kildee (D-MI) invited Dr. Mona Hanna–Attisha. She is a Flint pediatrician who helped to expose the city's water crisis. She is also the daughter of Iraqi-American scientists who immigrated to the U.S. with her parents after fleeing Saddam Hussein’s oppressive regime
Rep Jackie Speier (D-CA) invited Former State Department official Tom Countryman. Per a release from her office: “Countryman’s distinguished Foreign Service career spanned over 30 years, including postings in Yugoslavia and Egypt. Countryman was serving as Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security when, on January 27, he was recalled from overseas travel and dismissed without explanation by the Trump Administration, and without a replacement there to take over and ensure security remained a priority.”