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The Cable

Trump, Hill Critics Troll Each Other on Immigration With Guests for Big Speech

The new president brings parents of children killed by undocumented immigrants as his guests, while opponents bring children of undocumented immigrants he just removed.


It’s too soon to tell whether Congress will see another “You lie! moment when President Donald Trump gives a speech to both chambers of Congress Tuesday night, but he and his opponents on Capitol Hill have already embraced the storied tradition of using the formal speech to troll each other — this time, over his controversial executive orders on immigration.

Among other guests, Trump and his wife Melania will bring Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver, whose husbands — Detective Michael Davis and Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver — were killed in 2014 by an undocumented immigrant, according to a White House announcement Monday night. They are joined by Jamiel Shaw, Sr., whose son Jamiel, Jr. was fatally shot by an alleged gang member and undocumented immigrant in 2008.

Under Trump, U.S. immigration officials have ramped up deportations, ostensibly targeting those with criminal records; Trump himself has touted the recent raids as ridding the country of “bad dudes” and “killers.” But the cabinet emphasizes there will be no mass deportations, as Trump repeatedly promised during the campaign.

And this is not the first time the Republican has used parents of children were killed by undocumented immigrants as props, as seen at the apocalyptic GOP convention this past summer, where Shaw also spoke.

“That’s where our focus is. It’s the bad ones … Drug lords, gang members, heads of gangs, killers, murderers. We’re getting them out,” Trump told an assembly of governors on Monday. “And they are bad. They are rough, and tough, and we’re getting them the hell out of our country.”

Illegal crossings are at their lowest levels in decades and there’s little evidence of an epidemic of violence at the hands of undocumented immigrants. Trump’s recent immigration orders dramatically expanded the focus of the U.S. immigration enforcement regime to include effectively anyone in the country illegally. And the immigration crackdown has already caught up immigrants without criminal records, and others Trump has pledged to exclude from the dragnet, not to mention U.S. citizens.

Opponents who are highly critical of Trump’s roundup, as well as his earlier executive order to temporarily ban most travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, shot back with their own guests for Tuesday’s address.

Arizona Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego and Raúl Grijalva offered a “prebuttal” of the speech in a press conference with their guests, two children of Guadalupe García de Rayos, an undocumented immigrant living in the United States for more than two decades who was recently deported from their state. More than a dozen other members of Congress and their guests — including Muslim-Americans, those brought to the United States as children and known as Dreamers, and other immigrants impacted by the travel ban — held their own press conference hours later.

The travel ban has been blocked for now by the courts, but the White House indicated it will issue a new order this week meant to resolve the legal issues — while not modifying its ultimate intent. Even more confusingly, the administration does not plan to rescind the prior executive order.

Freshman Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both legs when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down over Iraq in 2004, will host Abdulla Sindi, who worked as a U.S. military interpreter in Iraq — including for visits by former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Sindi was forced to flee Iraqi Kurdistan and became an American citizen in 2006. The new executive order, expected any day, could — if it echoes the prior ban on Iraqi nationals entering the country — bar Sindi’s wife’s parents, who are still in Iraq, from visiting their grandchildren in Virginia, Duckworth noted.

The initial travel ban did not exempt Afghans and Iraqis like Sindi, whose work with the U.S. military endangered their lives and those of their families. While the Department of Homeland Security later clarified they should be exempt, it’s unclear how the new order will handle this “specialized immigrant visa” category, especially if the original order is not rescinded.

“America saved my life,” Sindi said in a statement from Duckworth’s office, where he’s been hired as part of the scheduling and operations team.

Sindi’s presence at Trump’s first big address to Congress will send a message to the president, Duckworth said: “That’s not the America I bled to defend.”

In a stunning rhetorical reversal later Tuesday, Trump reportedly told television anchors during a lunch ahead of his address that he was open to immigration reform.

“The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides,” a senior administration official said, per Politico.

The dueling guest lists don’t indicate much of a chance at that.

Photo credit: Pool

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