At His Address to Congress, Trump Will Come Face-to-Face with American Diversity

Feb 28, 2017 Issues: Gun Safety, Immigration

In advance of President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress, Democratic Members of Congress came together to demonstrate the importance of inclusion and equality alongside community members who represent diversity in America. These guests, who will sit in the House gallery during Tuesday’s address, have overcome discrimination and made positive contributions to society, exemplifying the ideals of our great nation.

In a letter announcing the initiative to the Democratic Caucus, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and his colleagues co-leading the effort wrote, “People of all nationalities, colors, genders, orientations and faiths have contributed to the United States in countless, substantial ways. Arts, culture, industry, technology, innovation, education – all of these aspects of our society have been enhanced by diversity… It is our hope that their presence in the House Gallery will remind President Trump that he is not the arbiter of patriotism. This country belongs to all of us, and his rhetoric of intolerance will not stand.”

Congressman Jim Langevin, Rhode Island
Guest: Dr. Ehsun Mirza, Muslim American Immigrant

Dr. Ehsun Mirza was born in Pakistan and immigrated to the United States for his residency training after medical school. He is trained and board certified in internal medicine, nephrology, hypertension, and critical care. Now a critical care doctor at Kent Hospital in Warwick, Rhode Island, Dr. Mirza is a social activist who regularly travels internationally to provide relief services and medical care in rural areas of Nepal and Pakistan. He is also a member of Congressman Langevin’s Diversity Advisory Committee, and of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s Muslim American Advisory Board.

Congressman Joe Crowley, New York
Guest: Sarker Haque, Bangladeshi Immigrant Targeted

Sarker Haque is the proprietor of a store in Astoria, Queens and an immigrant from Bangladesh who has lived in the United States for three decades, building his business and raising five children. In 2015, Sarker was the victim of a hate crime in which he was beaten by an attacker claiming he wanted to “kill Muslims.” The community rallied around Sarker and his store, applauding his courage and strength in the face of intolerance and hate.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, California
Guest: Sara Yarjani, Iranian Graduate Student Impacted by Trump’s Executive Order

Sara Yarjani is a 35-year old Iranian graduate student studying at the California Institute for Human Science in Encinitas, California. Sara is a permanent resident of Austria who resides in the U.S. on a student visa. On January 27, just hours after President Trump signed his Executive Order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, Sara was held at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for 23 hours before being sent back to Vienna, Austria, where she had been visiting family. After a judge halted implementation of the travel ban, Sara was able to return to the U.S. where she was reunited with her loved ones 8 days after having been deported.

Congressman Nydia Velázquez, New York
Hameed Darweesh, Iraqi Immigrant Impacted by Travel Ban

Darweesh is an immigrant from Iraq who was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in early January because of President Trump’s executive order. He assisted US forces in Iraq and relocated to the US on a special immigrant visa with his family just as President Trump was beginning his presidency. Darweesh was among the first immigrants revealed to be detained under President Trump’s executive order and was part of a class-action lawsuit that led to a temporary block of the order. A federal judge in Washington later stayed the order pending an argument on the merits, a decision that was affirmed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Congressman Jared Polis, Colorado
Oscar Juarez-Luna, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient

Oscar Juarez-Luna was born in Toluca, Edo. Mexico and migrated to Phoenix, Arizona. While growing up in Phoenix, Oscar knew he wanted to one day enlist in the military, but when he entered his senior year in high school, he discovered he was unable to join the armed forces due to his legal status. In replacement of the armed forces, Oscar pursued a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Congressman David Cicilline, Rhode Island
Jeannine L. Chartier, Disabilities Advocate

Jeannine Chartier, a survivor of childhood polio, grew up in a working class Pawtucket family. In 1986, she worked with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts to found VSA arts Rhode Island, a statewide, nonprofit arts education organization providing programs by, with and for children and adults with disabilities to actively participate in the arts. Chartier has served as the Executive and Artistic Director of VSA arts Rhode Island for the past 21 years.

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Illinois
Guest: Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, Founder & Executive Director of the Syrian Community Network

Suzanne Akhras Sahloul is the founder and Executive Director of the Syrian Community Network, a community based refugee support network focused on supporting Syrian refugees in their resettlement into the United States. She holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Lewis University. Suzanne is currently pursuing a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership at the Kellogg School of Management. Additionally, Suzanne has also served as PTA President and as a board member at her children's school, the Universal School. Suzanne lives in Chicago with her husband and together they have three children.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, Florida
Guest: Dr. Marc Levy, M.D., Pediatric Surgeon on Call during Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Dr. Levy was on call at the Orlando Regional Medical Center during the Pulse nightclub shooting and has been credited with saving several lives that night. Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more injured during the mass shooting. Levy has been an advocate for more research on gun violence.

Congressman Henry “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Georgia
Guest: Asma Elhuni, Student and Activist

Asma Elhuni is a college student working towards her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies at Georgia State University. The recipient of the university’s 2016 MLK Humanitarian Award, Asma tries to listen to and uplift the voices of groups often times marginalized by society. Asma interns for Rep Brenda Lopez at the Georgia Assembly. She’s currently the Outreach Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Georgia and an organizer for the United Students against Sweatshops at Georgia State University. As a volunteer with GA Close UP, a nonpartisan educational organization, Asma helps educate students, teachers, and citizens about public policy in Georgia.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Washington
Guest: Aneelah Afzali, Founder of the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN)

Aneelah Afzali is the founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN), a new initiative of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) to respond to the challenges of our times. She also currently serves as a Board Member of the Faith Action Network and is the Director of Legal Clinic at the Muslim Community Resource Center. Aneelah is an attorney and graduate of Harvard Law School who made partner at a law firm and led as General Counsel of a local healthcare IT company. In addition to her legal practice, Aneelah co-founded MELAW – the Middle Eastern Legal Association of Washington – and served as inaugural president for two years. Three years ago, Aneelah took a break from her legal career after a spiritual awakening and given the growing divisiveness in our country. Since then, she has served as a community activist, interfaith leader, and seeker of knowledge.

Congressman Mark Pocan, Wisconsin
Guest: Lupe Salmeron, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient

Lupe Salmeron is a graduate of Madison East High School where she was class president. Born in Mexico City, Lupe immigrated to the United States twelve years ago in pursuit of the American Dream. She is currently a Freshman at Edgewood College in Madison, pursuing a degree in Political Science, with hopes of one day becoming an immigration lawyer and helping people who are struggling with the immigration process.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, New York
Guest: Martin Batalla Vidal, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient

Mr. Batalla Vidal came to New York from Mexico at 7, settling with his parents and three younger brothers in Jackson Heights, Queens. In August 2016, Mr. Batalla Vidal filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn claiming that officials of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services had illegally revoked his work permit by adhering to a 2015 ruling by a federal judge in Texas that halted an expansion of President Obama’s signature immigration plan called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals known as DACA. Mr. Batalla Vidal was the first person in the country to challenge the decision, which was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in June 2016.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Maine
Guest: Banah Al-Hanfy, Iraqui Immigrant Impacted by the Travel Ban

Banah Al-Hanfy, a 20 year old Iraqi immigrant whose father served as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Iraq, was unable to board a flight from Baghdad in order to resettle with her family in Maine because of President Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban. Worried about his eldest daughter, Labed contacted the Portland Press Herald for help reconnecting with his daughter. After reading the Press Herald’s story, Congresswoman Pingree’s staff and several Portland residents worked with airlines and various Federal agencies in order to reunite Banah with her family in Maine on February 3rd.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, Michigan
Guest: Fatima Salman, Executive Director of Muslim Students Association

Fatima Salman, LMSW is a social worker and community organizer. She is currently the Executive Director of Muslim Student Association (MSA) National, and a board member of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. She is a native and proud Michigander and involved on several local and national boards.

Congressman Peter Welch, Vermont
Guest: Ahmed Alsaeedi, Employment Counselor at Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program

Ahmed Alsaeedi lives in Burlington, Vermont, and is currently an employment counselor at Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP). Mr. Alsaeedi served our country as an interpreter during the war in Iraq, and now lives in Vermont thanks to a Special Immigrant Visa. He is an example of someone that wouldn’t have been able to come to the U.S. on a visa due to the President’s January 27 the executive order. Coinciding with the speech, Peter will introduce legislation today to ensure translators like Mr. Alsaeedi and other interpreters who served American troops during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars can’t be barred from coming to the United States due to future executive orders.