Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Monday joined a growing list of members of Congress who plan to invite DREAMers to attend President Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday in Washington.
Hoyer's guest, Gabriela Hernandez, is a DREAMer — an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States as a child — and attends Prince George's Community College. She has lived in Prince George's County since she came to this country at age 4 from El Salvador with her mother, according to Hoyer's news release.
"Like so many DREAMers, Gabriela came to the United States as a young child, and knows no other country but this one as home. She is working hard to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker, and is an upstanding member of her community," Hoyer wrote.
Hoyer's invitation is one of several that have been extended to DREAMers by members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla), among others, NPR reported.
Inviting people affected by major policies discussed at the State of the Union is common practice. In 2003, former President George W. Bush invited families of soldiers killed in Iraq. President Obama invited federal contractor Alan Gross to the 2015 State of the Union after Gross was freed from captivity in Cuba to highlight ongoing diplomatic negotiations with the island nation.
"I hope that the presence of Gabriela and other DREAMers at tomorrow's address will remind President Trump and Congressional Republican leaders of the importance of working expeditiously to allow DREAMers to remain here and ensure they have a pathway to citizenship," Hoyer wrote.
Hernandez is one of the estimated 700,000 young people who were protected by the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program — including 132 recipients at the University of Maryland as of fall 2017 — an Obama-era policy that protected children from deportation who were brought to this country by their parents by allowing them to work and study in two-year intervals. There were more than 8,000 registered DACA recipients in Maryland as of September 2017, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In September, Trump announced the ending of DACA, setting a deadline of six months for Congress to pass permanent legislation for the DREAMers. But with just more than a month until the March deadline before protections phase out, a deal has yet to be reached.
Since Trump announced the program's rollback, this university and 49 peer institutions filed a brief in federal court urging his administration to keep DACA in place. University President Wallace Loh and the 13 other Big Ten presidents signed a letter in December calling on lawmakers to pass a DACA replacement "as soon as possible."
"I remain committed to protecting DREAMers and ensuring these young people – who contribute so much to our nation – are not sent to countries they do not know," Hoyer wrote.