Members of Congress are allowed to invite guests to attend the annual State of the Union address by the president. This year, when Donald Trump speaks to a joint session of the House and Senate, many Democrats will bring Dreamers to the Capitol in hopes that their presence will lead the president and his Republican allies to support protections for young people who were left in legal limbo by the president’s canceling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
But Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan (D-WI) decided to send an even blunter message about misguided Republican priorities. He invited Randy Bryce, a Wisconsin ironworker who is one of the Democrats running against House Speaker Paul Ryan, to be his guest. Bryce, the son of a Mexican-American father and a Polish-American mother, has been an ardent advocate for the Dreamers, highlighting their fight at campaign stops, at a town-hall meeting with Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and in repeated blasts at Ryan.
“Ever since Donald Trump announced his disgusting plan to rescind DACA, members of Wisconsin’s immigrant community have been asking to speak with Paul Ryan so they can personally urge him to support the Dream Act, to make DACA permanent, and to block federal budget spending to fund mass deportations,” says Bryce, who appeared with Wisconsin Dreamers last fall and recounted the story of their struggles to get a meeting with Ryan:
Fernanda and Valeria are two Dreamers who live in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District—and all they want is a meeting with their congressman. Paul Ryan refused to meet with them at his office, even after they went on a five-day hunger strike, and he refused to meet them at his Janesville church, even though the priest gave Fernanda and Valeria permission to be there.
But Fernanda and Valeria refuse to give up on their dream of living life in the only country they’ve ever known. Unable to get a meeting with Ryan in Wisconsin, they flew to New York to try and meet him outside the Al Smith Dinner, where he was giving a keynote address to the mega-donors in attendance.
It won’t surprise you to learn that he refused to meet them. He was too busy making promises to his corporate donors.
I guess I can understand why Paul Ryan thinks people should have to fly around the country to meet with him—since that’s what the special interests, lobbyists, and billionaires do. But constituents shouldn’t have to fly in a desperate attempt to meet their representative.
Bryce has attracted significant support for his aggressive run against Ryan—including endorsements from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Vote Vets and the Latino Victory Fund—and that has unsettled Republicans. So it should come as no surprise that they were upset by the news that Pocan would be bringing the union activist to Tuesday’s State of the Union speech.