WASHINGTON ― About 30 young undocumented immigrants are attending the State of the Union on Tuesday as guests of lawmakers ― and one of their colleagues wants to use the opportunity to have those guests arrested.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) contacted both the Capitol Police and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask them to consider checking identification of State of the Union guests and “arresting any illegal aliens in attendance,” he said on Twitter.
It was a clear threat to the so-called Dreamers, young people who came to the U.S. as children, whom Democrats invited to watch President Donald Trump’s speech. State of the Union guest lists are typically used to signal lawmakers’ priorities, and Democrats invited Dreamers to show their support for granting them legal status. Gosar showed his support for having them deported.
“Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress,” he said in a statement. “Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported.”
Gosar also asked police to arrest individuals who used fraudulent Social Security numbers and identification to go through security. There’s no reason to think Dreamers would have done so ― individuals with protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, can get legitimate Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses, not to mention other types of valid ID.
Capitol Police and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether Gosar made the request or whether they planned to act on it.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) spokeswoman AshLee Strong said that “the speaker clearly does not agree.”
But by the time Gosar fired off his tweets, Dreamers were already in the building. Many of them participated in a press conference inside the Capitol complex with Democrats to call for legal status for young undocumented immigrants, who are set to lose protections and work permits because Trump rescinded DACA.
They said they weren’t going to be scared off by the congressman.
“We feel confident that things are going to turn out for the best, and they can try to intimidate us in any way, scare us in whatever way, but we’re not afraid,” Aldo Solano, a Dreamer attending the address as a guest of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), told HuffPost after the press conference.
Astrid Silva, a Dreamer attending as the guest of Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.), said Gosar’s tweets made her wonder how he acts toward undocumented immigrants in the area he represents.
“If that’s what he’s doing to us who are here in the Capitol at the State of the Union, what’s he doing to people in his community? What kind of fear is he inflicting in the people that live in his town, in his state?” she said. “It shows a really horrible notion of what his power is ― or what he thinks it is.”
Democratic members who invited Dreamers were similarly undaunted by Gosar’s remarks. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said during the press conference that she found it “personally offensive” that Gosar would interfere with her ability to represent her constituents.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said during the press conference that lawmakers were doing their “duty” and guests should not be denied the ability to participate.
“I would say to the congressman, you try it,” she said.
Gosar even received a jab from a fellow Arizona Republican. Sen. Jeff Flake, who supports protections for Dreamers, retweeted Gosar’s comments with the message “This is why we can’t have nice things...” That led Gosar to jab back about the senator’s upcoming retirement.
This story has been updated to include a comment from Ryan’s spokeswoman.