As President Donald Trump outlines his administration’s goals and priorities in a speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress, some Democratic lawmakers are hoping to visually undermine his message of right-wing populism.
Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin is spearheading an effort to have his Democratic colleagues use their guest passes to fill the House chamber with a diverse group of Americans that could be affected by Trump’s policies.
“It’s my hope that gallery is going to look like America,” Langevin — who will reportedly be joined by Dr. Ehsun Mirza, a Muslim-American and Rhode Island resident born in Pakistan — recently told Politico.
A number of Massachusetts’s all-Democrat delegation are also getting in on the effort to undercut the new Republican president during his 9 p.m. speech (which is not a State of the Union address). Here’s who they’re bringing:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Massachusetts’s senior senator is bringing Tiba Faraj, an Iraqi refugee, who moved with her parents and siblings to Massachusetts in 2010 and is currently studying at UMass Dartmouth.
According to Warren’s office, Faraj’s father was shot and left permanently disabled in 2006, while working for an American-backed development organization in Iraq. Shortly thereafter, the family fled to Jordan, where they began the lengthy process of applying for refugee status. In 2010, they were granted admission and settled in Lynn. The Faraj family now lives in Boston.
“Tiba’s courage, resilience and optimism embody the very best of the American spirit,” Warren said in a statement, referring to Faraj’s volunteer service and academic success. “Our strength as a country is rooted in our diversity, and Tiba’s many contributions have made us that much stronger.”
Trump reportedly plans to sign a new version of his immigration order Wednesday. The original order, which was rejected by federal courts, temporarily banned all refugees from entering the United States.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III
With Trump set to provide details Tuesday about his plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Kennedy wants to make sure Republicans understand the law “is not just a line item budget issue.”
The Newton Democrat is bringing Jen Fox, an intern in his Washington, D.C., office, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and was only able to retain health care coverage due the health care law.
“As she would tell you, the Affordable Care Act saved her life,” Kennedy said in a brief interview Monday.
As a 19-year-old in college, Fox lost her student insurance because she couldn’t attend class full-time due to her chemotherapy treatments, Kennedy said. Only because of the Affordable Care Act provision allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans was she able to stay insured.
Upon relapsing in 2012, Fox was again able to obtain life-saving treatment due provisions in the law, Kennedy said, which saved her from hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills — if not more. The Boston Globe also chronicled Fox’s story Monday.
Kennedy says that Fox — now attending school at George Washington University — gained an interest in public policy due to the impact the law had on her life and subsequently applied to be an intern for the congressman.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to accompany me to the speech this year,” Kennedy said Monday.
Trump has pledged to “repeal and replace” the law and told a group of Republican governors Sunday that we would speak “very specifically” about it in Tuesday’s address.
Rep. Katherine Clark
The Melrose Democrat, who has gained a bit of a reputation for her protests, is bringing Veronica Serrato, the executive director of the Boston-based Project Citizenship, to the president’s speech Tuesday night.
“I want Trump to know that he’s not just addressing Congress; he’s addressing families at home who are hurt by his divisive policies,” Clark said in a statement Tuesday.
According the group’s website, Project Citizenship is an initiative that partners with other local groups to increase naturalization rates among legal permanent residents in Massachusetts.
Serano says they has received “an unprecedented number of calls” from immigrants anxiously seeking citizenship following Trump’s inauguration and recent immigration order.
“We are unapologetically pro-immigrant because we recognize the value and diversity immigrants add to this nation, a nation that was built by immigrants,” Serrato, who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants who became naturalized citizens, said in a statement.
“Veronica’s leadership has been critically needed as Trump’s dangerous, anti-immigrant promises are pushing families, including victims of abuse and other crimes, deeper into the shadows,” Clark said. “Her life’s work exemplifies our proud history and the generous nature of those who call the Commonwealth home.”
Rep. Niki Tsongas
Like Kennedy, Tsongas is using her guest pass to put a spotlight on the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act. In a press release, the Lowell Democrat announced she will bring Lowell Community Health Center CEO Susan Levine.
Tsongas said she felt it was important for someone like Levine, a local health care expert with “strong concerns” about the law’s potential repeal, to hear firsthand from the president.
“It is also just as important for Susan … to be in attendance to show President Trump that his irresponsible actions have widespread consequences, and that they will not go unnoticed or be met with silence,” the congresswoman added.
Tsongas, who has vigorously opposed efforts to repeal the healthcare law, said that wiping the Affordable Care Act from the books without a viable replacement would increase premiums and put coverage for many citizens at risk.
“Simply tossing aside the ACA is unwise and irresponsible,” she said.