Just over a month into office and having faced one scandal after another, the Trump administration is hoping to hit the reset button tonight with the president’s address to a joint session of Congress. Without a hint of irony, the White House reportedly plans to unveil a message of unity and “invite Americans of all backgrounds to come together” as Trump lays out a policy agenda.
But basic human decency prevents me from going along with this charade. It’s not just that the policies that President Trump and House Republicans are promoting—like stripping health care from millions—are shockingly cruel (although they are). It’s also because I simply cannot allow Trump to distract us with so-called “unifying” rhetoric when he has produced so much suffering, fear, and division across the country.
In a few short weeks, for example, Trump has “taken the shackles off” federal agents in charge of deportations. In February, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Virginia were lying in wait across the street from a church’s hypothermia shelter to perform early-morning arrests of Latino men who had sought refuge from the cold. In Seattle, ICE agents wrongfully detained a 23-year-old protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, claiming his tattoo, “La Paz”—or peace—was a gang insignia. Border agents in search of people to deport at New York’s Kennedy Airport stopped airline passengers arriving from San Francisco from disembarking, forcing them to present identification.
That’s why I’m honored to bring Lupe Salermón as my guest to attend President Trump’s speech tonight. Lupe, a freshman at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, is a remarkable young woman resisting Trump’s attacks on people like her and her family, who moved from Mexico City to Madison when she was just 6 years old.
Even in the face of the election of one of the most anti-immigrant voices in our country’s history, Lupe told me recently that we’re witnessing “an awesome movement that’s only building.” “We are coming out of the shadows,” she continued, “and our identity—undocumented and unafraid—is allowing us to confront the challenges under Trump with power and resilience.”