Guest List: Who Members of Congress Are Taking to Trump’s Address

President to make first speech to joint session of Congress on Tuesday

The guest lists are out for President Donald Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The guest lists are out for President Donald Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted February 27, 2017 at 6:56am

President Donald Trump will hold his first joint session address to Congress on Tuesday and every member is able to bring a guest to sit in the gallery.

Oftentimes, those invited are a part of what is driving the news of the day.

Judging by those invited, Democrats are packing the house with immigrant success stories and those affected by the new president’s policies. They’re also inviting a number of people they say benefitted from the 2010 health reform law, which Trump and Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace.

Here’s the guest list:


Minister at ICE roundup church: Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is taking Reverend Keary Kincannon, who is a minister at Fairfax County’s Rising Hope Mission Church. On Feb. 15, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a group of undocumented immigrants as they were leaving the church’s overnight shelter program. Kincannon focuses his ministry around the homeless and those in need.

Muslim doctor: Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island is taking Ehsun Mirza, a critical care doctor and immigrant from Pakistan. Langevin is leading an effort among his Democratic colleagues in the House to invite guests who have, despite discrimination, made positive impacts on their communities, according to his news release. Mirza immigrated to the U.S. for his residency training after medical school and now is a citizen who works in internal medicine, nephrology, hypertension and critical care.

Immigration attorney: Democratic Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez of Illinois is taking Fidaa Rashid, an immigration attorney in Chicago who focuses on Middle East clients. Her parents were refugees from Gaza in the Palestinian territories. “I want Trump to see the face of a woman, the face of a Muslim, and the face of someone whose family has enriched and contributed to this country despite starting out as refugees,” Gutiérrez said in a news release.

Muslim interfaith leader: Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington is taking a Aneelah Afzali, who is the executive director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network, an initiative of the Redmond-based Muslim Association of Puget Sound. She is an activist and interfaith leader.

Iranian graduate student: Democratic Rep. Judy Chu of California is taking Sara Yarjani, a 35-year-old Iranian graduate student who is studying at the California Institute for Human Science in Encinitas. She is a permanent resident of Austria who resides in the U.S. on a student visa. On Jan. 27, Yarjani was held at the Los Angeles International Airport for 23 hours and sent back to Vienna, where she was visiting family. She was able to return to the U.S. eight days later.

Hate crime victim: Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York is taking Sarker Haque, a business owner in Queens who was the victim of an anti-Muslim hate crime. Haque immigrated from Bangladesh 30 years ago and is the proprietor of a convenience store. In 2015, he was beaten by an attacker claiming he wanted to “kill Muslims,” according to Crowley’s news release.

Children of an immigrant: Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego and Raul Grijalva of Arizona have invited Angel and Jaqueline Garcia de Rayos, the children of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos. Their mother voluntarily met with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and was deported, according to their news release.

Muslim community voice: Democratic Rep. Bill Foster of Illinois is taking Samia Abdul-Qadir, a high school student who participated in one of Foster’s community discussions on the effect Trump’s travel ban has had on the local Muslim community and the fear it provoked. Abdul-Qadir was an outspoken voice and Foster was impressed by her courage and conviction, according to his news release.

Green card holder: Democratic Rep. Norma J. Torres of California is taking Areej Ali, a Sudanese-born green card holder living in California. Ali was recently was visiting Sudan for the first time in more than 20 years to attend her sister’s wedding and prohibited from boarding a flight back to the U.S. Once she arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport, she was detained. Ali immigrated to the U.S. in 1993. 

Sister of Iraqi Interpreter: Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia is taking Farah Alkhafaji, the sister of an Iraqi interpreter initially refused entry into the U.S. due to Trump’s immigration executive order. Her husband was killed for working with the U.S. military, according to Connolly’s news release. In January, she passed her U.S. citizenship test. 

DACA beneficiary: Democratic Rep. Jared Polis will be attending with Oscar Juarez-Luna, a DACA holder whose family moved from Mexico to the United States when he was a child. “Oscar and other aspiring American DREAMers represent what hold dear in the United States — a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. We must show President Trump how aspiring Americans make us greater — if only we let them,” Polis said in a statement.

Muslim community leader: Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is taking Wajdi Said, who is the president and co-founder of the Muslim Educational Trust. He is also co-founder of the Oregon Coalition for Muslim Values, the Arab-Jewish-Muslim Dialogue, the Institute for Christian/Muslim Understanding and the Interfaith Council of Greater Portland.

Former State Department official: Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California is taking Tom Countryman, the former acting under secretary of state for arms control and international security. He was recalled from overseas travel and dismissed without explanation in January, according to Speier’s press release. 

Syrian refugee: Democratic Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas is taking Bothina Matar, a Syrian refugee who resettled with her family in the U.S. in 2015. Before the speech, Veasey is hosting a press conference with her at 3 p.m. to discuss Trump’s refugee policies.

DACA recipient: Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California is taking Yuriana Aguilar, a DACA holder and instructor in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics, at Rush Medical College in Chicago. He attended the University of California at Merced and her research focuses on the human heart.

DACA recipient: Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York is taking Martin Batalla Vidal, a DACA recipient. He will join other House Democrats bringing guests representing diversity for a news conference at 1 p.m. before the speech.

DREAMer: Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin is taking Illinois DREAMer Aaima Sayed. Aaima has temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and is a third-year medical student at the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago. She was brought to the U.S. from Pakistan at 3 years old.

Iraqi immigrant: Democratic Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez of New York is taking Hameed Darweesh, a recent Iraqi immigrant. Darweesh, who worked as a translator for U.S. forces and aid agencies in Iraq, was detained in January at John F. Kennedy airport. He was released after intervention from Velázquez and Nadler, according to the congresswoman’s news release.

DREAMer: Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is taking Astrid Silva, a DREAMer who came to the U.S. with her parents at 4 years old. She founded DREAM Big Vegas, an organization that advocates for undocumented families and was named Youth Immigrant of the Year for the American Immigration Council in 2014. She will also deliver a response to the presidential address and be the first DREAMer to do so.

Syrian-American activist: Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois is taking Suzanne Sahloul, founder and executive director of the Syrian Community Network, which supports many Syrian refugees resettling in the U.S.

Iraqi refugee: Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren is taking Tiba Faraj, an Iraqi refugee who came to the U.S. in 2010 and became a U.S. citizen in 2016. Faraj has worked as an intern for Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Brendan Crighton. She is currently a junior at UMass Dartmouth.

Iranian immigrant: Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross of New Jersey is taking Ali Houshmand, an Iranian-American immigrant who is the president of Rowan University. Houshmand lived in poverty in Tehran and his journey “represents everything that is great about our country,” according to Norcross’ press release.

Citizenship advocate: Democratic Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts is taking Veronica Serrato, the executive director of Project Citizenship. Her organization works to increase the naturalization rates for legal permanent residents and she is the daughter of Mexican immigrants.

DREAMers coordinator: Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California is bringing Maria Barragan-Arreguin, a deferred action for Childhood Arrivals recipient and coordinator at the California State University, San Bernardino DREAMers Resource and Success Center.

Daughter of Vietnamese refugees: Democratic Rep. Susan Davis of California is taking Quinn Dang, the daughter of refugees from Vietnam who arrived in San Diego when she was six years old in 1993. Her father spent over five years in a Vietnamese prison camp because of his political beliefs, according to Davis’ press release.

Immigrant doctor: Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen of Nevada is taking Zia Khan, an interventional cardiologist. He was born in Indiana, moved to Africa and England and immigrated to the U.S. to pursue his medical degree in 1991. In 2016, he was named top cardiologist in Las Vegas.

Transplant surgeon: Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts is taking Babak Movahedi, a transplant surgeon at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center and former Iranian refugee in Belgium. He is worried about how Trump’s Muslim Ban can impact his family, according to McGovern’s press release.

Student helping refugees: Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of Florida is taking Oliver Hess, who is in 8th grade at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg. As part of school project, he is helping a Syrian refugee family fleeing persecution resettle in Florida. 

Refugee counselor: Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont is taking Ahmed Alsaeedi, an employment counselor at Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. He was an interpreter during the war in Iraq and lives in Vermont thanks to a Special Immigrant Visa, according to Welch’s office. Welch introduced legislation Tuesday morning to ensure translators and other interpreters who served American troops during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars can’t be barred from coming to the U.S. due to future executive orders.

Police-community relations

Widow of fallen police officer: Republican Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois and Ann Wagner of Missouri are teaming up to take Elizabeth Snyder, the widow of fallen St. Louis County Police Officer Blake Snyder, and her police officer brother Justin Sparks. Snyder, 33, was killed in October 2016 while responding to a disturbance call. The Snyders have a two year old son. Snyder was the 97th law enforcement officer killed in 2016, according to Davis and Wagner’s news release.

Police chief: Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California is taking Andrew Bidou, chief of the Vallejo Police Department. The congressman wants to make it clear that he stands with law enforcement, according to his news release. He will be joined by Bidou, other members, and other police officers for a news conference before the address.

Police officer: Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey is taking Angel Padilla, the first law enforcement officer to discover terrorist Ahmad Khan Rahami in Linden, N.J., after the Chelsea bombings in September. Rahami shot Padilla in the abdomen.

Gun issues

Mother of Pulse victim: Democratic Rep. Val B. Demings of Florida is bringing Christine Leinonen, the mother of Christopher Leinonen who was killed at the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. Christopher died alongside his boyfriend and 47 other victims. Leinonen wants to send a message to Trump that her son was not killed by an undocumented immigrant or an immigrant from one of the countries included in his Muslim Ban, Demings’ office said in a statement.

Repeal and replace

Affordable Care Act beneficiary: Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is taking Shannon Linford, who has had a neurological disorder since she was 10. Linford benefited from provisions in the 2010 health care law that prevent insurance companies from denying services due to preexisting conditions and it also allows her to stay on her parents’ insurance plan until she turns 26. She is currently 24.

Vet concerned about Medicaid: Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania is taking Joe McGrath, a Marine veteran with Parkinson’s disease who has a teenage daughter with Down syndrome. He reached out to Casey’s office about his serious concerns with Republicans’ plans to change the Medicaid program his family relies upon, according to the senator’s press release.

ACA success story: Democratic Rep. Sander M. Levin will be bringing Lindsey Helfman, a woman whose family has health insurance because of the 2010 health care law. “Her story demonstrates the vital role the ACA has played in helping working families obtain health insurance. She is a personal reminder of how much is at stake with Republican efforts to repeal the law,” Levin said in a statement.ACA beneficiary: Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois is taking Emily Carlson, who has Multiple Sclerosis. Since the 2010 health care law, she was able to add to her family and be able to afford her insurance, according to Bustos.

ACA beneficiary: Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida is taking Lauri Major Tillman, the grandmother of Jackson, who has severe health complications. Jackson is 2½ years old and his family can afford his medical bills because of the 2010 health care law.

ACAbeneficiary: Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida is taking Sherry Riggs, who has a life-threatening heart condition. She is the mother of three and would not be alive if not for the 2010 health care law, according to Frankel’s news release. Riggs is 55 years old.

ACAbeneficiary: Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon is taking Marlene Barbera, who has  Hepatitis C. Both her and her son, Michael, became ill in 2010 and needed liver transplants to survive. They were able to receive them because of the 2010 health care law, according to Merkley.

ACAbeneficiary: Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester is taking Kerry Orr, who was diagnosed with state III colon cancer. The 2010 health care law gave her the push to look for a policy and her cancer was discovered while going through a routine test. Her treatments, surgery and six months of chemotherapy were covered.

Health care and LGBT rights advocates: Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is taking Marci Owens, a high school student and advocate for greater access to affordable health care, and Danni Askini, a founder and executive director of Gender Justice League and Trans Pride Seattle Education. Owens was the senator’s guest to the signing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

ACA beneficiary: Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland is taking Ola Ojewumi, who had a heart and kidney transplant and cancer. When her cancer developed, she was able to stay on her parent’s coverage until the age of 26. She is a community organizer and women’s health advocate and worked to expand access to Medicaid in Maryland.

ACA beneficiary: Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas of California is taking Karen Brooks, who received an emergency C-section two years ago so she was endangered if she were to get pregnant again. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she was able to acquire an IUD, according to Cárdenas.

ACA beneficiary: Democratic Rep. Denny Heck of Washington is taking Kelty Pierce, a University of Washington freshman. “She will be there to find out what President Trump and the Republicans plan to do for the millions like her who have received affordable, lifesaving care due to the ACA,” according to Heck’s office.

ACA beneficiary’s wife: Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois is taking, Tracy Trovato, whose husband, Carlo, has a rare form of leukemia. He was protected from lifetime insurance caps due to  the Affordable Care Act and entered into remission.

ACA beneficiary: Democratic Rep. Nita M. Lowey of New York is taking Noah Buyon, who has Crohn’s disease. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, he might not be able to secure insurance coverage once he turns 26 because of his pre-existing condition, according to Lowey’s press release.


Community college president: Democratic Rep. Suzanne Bonamici has invited Mark Mitsui, the president of Portland Community College in an attempt to bring more attention to the needs of community colleges and their students. It’s an issue close to Bonamici’s heart — she herself is a community college graduate.

Elementary school principal: Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut is taking Valerie Nelson, a retired elementary school principal. Nelson left the Charles Barnum Elementary School in June 2015 after 25 years. In 2017 the school received a National Blue Ribbon Award from the Department of Education for exceptional performance in closing the achievement gap. 

Substance abuse

Substance abuse treatment advocate: Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire is taking Ashley Hurteau, who is in recovery from a heroin addiction and is now a substance abuse treatment advocate. Hurteau was able to receive treatment because of New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan, according to Hassan’s news release. The two met in January at a panel about the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Substance abuse prevention advocate: Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan is taking Mike Hirst, the founder of Andy’s Angels, a non-profit which educates the community on opioid and heroin abuse and provides support for families and individuals suffering from addiction. The organization is named after his son, Andy, who died of a heroin overdose at 24.


Montana attorney general: Republican Sen. Steve Daines is taking Tim Fox, Montana’s attorney general. Fox is in D.C. for the National Association of Attorneys General annual winter meeting. He has led the fight to push back on “overreaching Obama administration regulations,” Daines said in a press release.

Flint pediatrician: Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan is taking Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician in Flint who helped to expose the water crisis there. Mona is the daughter of Iraqi-American scientists and immigrated to the U.S. as a child. She helped uncover the lead levels in Flint children and persisted until Gov. Rick Snyder admitted her findings were accurate, according to Kildee’s news release.

Wisconsin worker: Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin is bringing Roddy Rice, who worked at Neenah Foundry for 38 years. The senator hopes her guest will  highlight the need for a strong Buy America commitment from Trump and Congressional Republicans to Wisconsin workers, according to her press release.

Women advocates: Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly of Illinois is taking Donna Miller, vice chair of Planned Parenthood Illinois, and Matt McGill, host of WVON’s Matt McGill Show. Her two guests represent Republican’s war on women and the president’s war on the media, Kelly said in a press release.

DNC chairman: Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota is taking Democratic National Committee’s new chairman Tom Perez. The former Labor Secretary defeated Ellison, 235-200, to the chairmanship on Saturday.

New Hampshire worker: Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire is taking Paul O’Connor, the former president of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s Metal Trades Council. He retired after 40 years of civilian service and will highlight the harm to workers caused by Trump’s federal hiring freeze and anti-worker agenda, according to Shea-Porter’s press release.

Ohio teamster: Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is taking Nicky Nardi, president of Teamsters Local 416. He has been a teamster for 35 years and will highlight the need to protect workers and stop retirees from facing pension cuts as large as 70 percent, according to Portman’s press release.

Indiana mayor: Republican Rep. Trey Hollingsworth of Indiana is taking Bob Hall, the mayor of Charlestown. The two look forward to discussing issues important to constituents, according to Hollingsworth’s press release.

Conservative talker: Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas is taking Sean Hannity, the conservative Fox News talk show host. Hannity has been a staunch Trump supporter through the presidential campaign and into the White House. 

Iowa Marine: Republican Rep. David Young of Iowa is taking gunnery sergeant Zach Burgart and his wife, Julie. Burgart joined the Marine Corps in 2004 and has been deployed seven times.

Immigrant and chef: Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas is taking Jose Andres, a celebrity chef and restaurant owner. He was born in Spain and backed out of plans to open a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel in D.C. in 2015.