When Donald Trump gives his State of the Union address, he’ll see the faces of 24-year-old Aldo Solano of Portland and at least 25 other “Dreamers” who could face deportation without congressional action.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenhauer, D-Oregon, was the first member of the House to announce he would boycott the president’s annual speech to the joint session of Congress Jan. 30. Instead, he is sending Solano.
Solano said he wants to attend the event to advocate for passage of immigration reform that will protect undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children and allow them to legally work and study here.
“We need to be able to share our stories in whatever way possible and provide more create more exposure for this issue. This is just another way to do it,” he said.
In a Facebook post Jan. 22, Blumenauer wrote that he was frustrated by the lack of progress in protecting “Dreamers.”
“Since I won’t be attend the (State of the Union), I’ll be sending an Oregon ‘Dreamer’ in my place to remind Trump that these are real people with families and jobs, who are vital to our communities. They deserve certainty and protection.”
Since then, at least 24 House Democrats plan to bring or send “Dreamers” to the event, according to ABC News. That number includes Oregon’s U.S. Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, the Pamplin-EO Capital Bureau has confirmed.
Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden also plan to bring recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as guests to the speech, their spokespeople said.
Solano said he is willing take the risk of negative attention from the administration to advocate for protecting the 800,000 DACA recipients from deportation. More than 11,000 of them live in Oregon. Ending DACA would cost the state more than $605.6 million annually in loss of gross domestic product, according to the Center for American Progress.
The program, established in 2012 by President Barack Obama, has allowed Solano to legally work and attend college in the country.
Solano studies at Portland Community College and works as the policy director for the Oregon Latino Health Coalition.
Solano’s parents, who were agricultural migrant workers, brought him at age 6 to the country from Mexico for a better life. At the time, his older brother was 8, and his younger sister was less than 1 year old. Both of his siblings also are DACA recipients.
He grew up and graduated from Woodburn High School. Like other DACA youth, he has almost no memory of a home other than the United States.
“This is my home,” Solano said. “There is nowhere else for me to go.”
Citing his “America First” theme, Trump announced in September that his administration would stop processing new applications for DACA but would renew permits for anyone whose status expired by March 2018. The latter provision was intended to give Congress time to pass DACA legislatively.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said the open-ended program was “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch.”
Without congressional action, DACA recipients face deportation.
The Trump administration’s immigration plan released Jan. 25 limits family-based immigration, among other measures, in exchange for preservation of the DACA, according to Bloomberg Politics.
It gives a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship to about 1.8 million DACA recipients, according to multiple news reports.
But Democrats and DACA recipients are wary of the proposal.
Since Trump took office, more than 2,000 of his statements have been fact-checked as either misleading or “in some cases, outright falsehoods,” Blumenauer said. “Words don’t seem to matter.”
Solano said he has lost trust in the president.
“It’s hard to wrap your head around it because he’s going to say something new tomorrow,” Solano said. “You just can’t honestly trust anything that he says.”