The guest list isn’t limited to lawmakers for President Donald Trump’s first address before a joint Congress Tuesday night in Washington.
It’s a tradition for members of Congress to extend a special invitation to someone of their choosing. The guests typically embody issues that are important to each politician.
Trump, who promised to secure the nation’s borders on the campaign trail, is bringing along Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver, the wives of the late Placer County Deputy Michael Davis Jr. and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver. The officers were allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant in a daylong rampage that shook the region in 2014.
In his address to Congress, Trump mentioned Oliver and Davis as among several Americans whose government has failed them.
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“They were pillars of their community,” Trump said. “These brave men were viciously gunned down by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.”
Trump then motioned to Susan Oliver, noting that she was joined by her daughter, Jenna.
“Jenna,” Trump said, addressing her personally. “I want you to know that your father was a hero, and that tonight you have the love of an entire country supporting you and praying for you.”
Meanwhile, local Democrats are using their invitations to show the opposite side of the immigration debate: ‘Dreamers.’
Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove, invited Alfredo Rivas, a 25-year-old undocumented immigrant and UC Davis senior who said state and federal immigration policies enabled him to achieve his dream of attending college. Susan Oliver was Bera’s guest to the speech two years ago, and later testified in Congress about her husband’s slaying.
Rivas came to the United States at age 13 after fleeing El Salvador with his parents.
He cited California laws that allowed him to pay in-state tuition and apply for the same financial aid packages as residents. He is also protected from deportation under federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, signed by former President Barack Obama in 2012. It provides temporary protection for undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. as minors.
Rivas fears those programs could be rescinded under President Donald Trump’s administration. He’s also afraid for his parents, undocumented immigrants who don’t have the same protections.
“I’m always in fear of going home and them just not being there,” Rivas said. “As soon as we saw he get elected, I got my backpack and got on the bus and started crying. I got home and my parents were crying too.”
Rivas, who did not provide his entire last name out of fear, said he hopes Trump will pay attention to Dreamers tonight, and recognize the contributions of undocumented immigrants.
“We’ve been trying to keep a low profile, but after I got this invitation, I said ‘Enough,’” he said. “It’s time to step out of the shadow and show people we are dreamers, we love this country and we deserve to be here.”
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris will have a Dreamer by her side, too.
Yuriana Aguilar, who grew up in Fresno and graduated from UC Merced, is a world leader in biomedical research at Rush Medical College in Chicago, Harris said in a press release. Her research focuses on the human heart.
The senator said Aguilar became the first student enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to receive a PhD. Aguilar moved to Fresno from Apatzingan, Mexico, before she started kindergarten.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, is among a small contingent of farmers in Congress, and he invited Jamie Johansson, first vice president of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Johansson said he mainly grows olives and citrus on an 80-acre farm in Oroville that sits across Highway 70 from LaMalfa’s rice farm.
Johansson, 49, said his property is elevated and outside the flood zone if the Oroville Dam failed. He hopes Trump reduces regulations related to water, soil, and other issues that plague farmers. His organization would also like to see legal pathways for immigrants to secure seasonal jobs on California farms, saying the industry is “highly dependent” on those workers.
“I kind of expect a little history to be made or something that people will talk about for a long time,” he said about Trump’s address. “There’s a lot of hope in rural America – and rural California even – that there will be some differences for us that felt forgotten in the last couple years.”
Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, invited a Valley High School history teacher and midtown resident who benefited from the Affordable Care Act during his fight with cancer.
At age 24, Cameron Collins was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in early 2015. Obamacare allowed young adults to remain on their parents health care plans until age 26, which provided Collins coverage for chemotherapy and other cancer treatments as he attended UC Davis for his teaching credential. Matsui’s office said without Obamacare, surviving cancer could be considered a pre-existing condition and grounds for health insurers to deny Collins coverage in the future.
Angela Hart of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.