Congressional Democrats are hoping to use an annual presidential tradition as an opportunity to put a human face to some of the more divisive issues currently dominating talks in Washington. A number of Democrats will bring sexual assault survivors and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) as their guests to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday.
At least 24 Democratic members of the House of Representatives are planning to bring a DACA recipient, commonly referred to Dreamers, to Trump's State of the Union as their guest, ABC News reported. At least one Democratic senator, Kamala Harris, also has plans to bring a Dreamer as their guest, according to the Times of San Diego. Another six Democratic legislators, such as Rep. Debbie Dingell, are expected to bring a guest who has had a family member deported.
Immigration reform and Trump's unwillingness to compromise on a bipartisan deal granting DACA recipients permanent protections in exchange for increased border security measures played a significant role in the three-day government shutdown earlier this month.
Yet Democrats aren't the only ones planning to bring DACA recipients to the president's State of the Union Address. GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo announced Friday that he'd also invited a Dreamer. "Honored to have Adrian, a
#SoFla #DACA recipient, as my guest for #SOTU next week,'" Curbelo tweeted. The Florida representative said he "was encouraged" by immigration framework that included a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers released by the White House earlier in the week. "[I] look forward to working w/ colleagues from both sides of the aisle to make sure Congress fully recognizes #Dreamers."
But immigration isn't be the only issue Congressional Democrats are hoping to highlight at the president's annual State of the Union address. According to ABC News, at least 10 Democratic lawmakers plan to bring survivors of sexual assault or female activists as their guests in an effort to draw attention to the #MeToo movement. Legislation aimed at overhauling how harassment claims from congressional employees are reported, filed, and settled was introduced late last year.
Fatima Goss Graves, the president and CEO of the National Women's Law Center, which is managing the legal defense fund for the Times UP movement, will reportedly be the guest of Rep. Jackie Speier. The representative has also urged her colleagues to wear black when attending Trump's speech as a nod to survivors of sexual assault and harassment. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman is reportedly planning to bring the niece of Recy Taylor, a woman whose rape Oprah Winfrey recently mentioned in a speech at the Golden Globe Awards. While lawmakers watch from their seats on the floor, their guests will sit in the House galley during Trump's speech.
Other Democrats are reportedly looking to send their own message to President Trump in a different way — by skipping his State of the Union address altogether. At least five Congressional Democrats have said they planned to boycott the president's address. Rep. John Lewis said he wouldn't attend Trump's address following allegations the president had referred to Haiti and African nations as "sh*thole countries." Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Maxine Waters, Frederica Wilson, and Pramila Jayapal have also said they would not attend.
Although Blumenauer won't be attending the State of the Union himself, he announced Tuesday that he would still be sending a guest. "I'll be sending an Oregon DREAMer in my place to remind Trump that these are real people with families and jobs, who are vital to our communities. They deserve certainty and protection," the Democratic representative tweeted.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III will deliver Democrat's official response to the president's State of the Union Address while Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman gives the party's Spanish-language response.