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LA Times: California members of Congress use guests to highlight Trump policies they oppose

Feb 28, 2017
News Articles
Sarah Wire and Seema Mehta

California Democrats chose their guests for President Trump's speech to make pointed criticisms of the new administration's policies. Among those sitting in the House gallery as the speech began were immigrants in the country without authorization, people who benefited from President Obama’s healthcare overhaul and refugees affected by Trump's travel ban.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) said before the speech that she planned to bring Sara Yarjani, a 35-year-old Iranian graduate student studying at the California Institute for Human Science in Encinitas. Yarjani was returning from visiting family in Austria when she was detained and held for 23 hours at Los Angeles International Airport the day Trump's ban took effect.

"Sara is an example of the human cost that there is to Donald Trump’s Muslim ban,” Chu said. “Why would she have to be deported out of all people? She had a legal reason to be here, she is a productive student.”

The temporary ban, which sought to block travel from seven majority-Muslim nations, has been halted by the courts. Trump’s administration is crafting a new order which could be issued as early as Wednesday.

Hoping to draw attention to the Syrian refugees affected by the order, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) brought Karnig Kalijian, a Syrian Armenian displaced by the conflict in Aleppo, Syria, who along with his wife and two children became U.S. citizens and live in Southern California.

Others focused on “Dreamers,” immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. Trump, who campaigned on cracking down on illegal immigration, has expressed some flexibility regarding the status of people who were brought here as children.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino) blasted Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants as he announced that he had selected Maria Barragan-Arreguin, who was brought to the country illegally as a child and now serves as the coordinator at the Cal State San Bernardino Dreamers Resource and Success Center, as his guest to the speech.

“Maria, and the Dreamers like her in our community, are a shining light for our region and nation,” he said. “… President Trump has spent nearly two years villainizing the immigrant community and stomping on the values that established this country. This evening, together, we will remind him that immigrants are what ‘make America great,’ not his flawed policies rooted in hatred.”

Sen. Kamala Harris brought Yuriana Aguilar, a Fresno native who is a biomedical researcher. Such research received additional money under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“Researchers like Yuriana are on the cutting edge of advancements that will make our nation healthier,” Harris said. “America is the world leader in biomedical research. We must protect that status by continuing to invest in biomedical research through laws, like the Affordable Care Act, and by fostering Dreamers like Yuriana.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo also focused on the Affordable Care Act, which Trump and congressional leaders have promised to repeal and replace. Her guest was Kathy Forte of Saratoga, whose son Tom suffered three strokes as a 24-year-old. He was covered by his mother’s health insurance because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allowed young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance until they are 26.

“Kathy’s employer-sponsored insurance covered Tom and provided the necessary treatment for him to survive and the necessary treatment to prevent another stroke from happening again,” she said.

Others focused on gun violence.

Members of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, led by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), brought law enforcement officers to draw attention to gun laws.

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) brought Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Andy Doyle.

“Besides the police, firefighters and other first responders are directly affected by loose gun laws. They treat gun victims and become targeted themselves,” Napolitano said in a statement.