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January 29, 2018

Stars and Stripes: Former deported Veteran to attend State of the Union address

Stars and Stripes: Former deported veteran to attend State of the Union address

 

By DIANNA CAHN | STARS AND STRIPES

Published: January 29, 2018

 

WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump looks out over the chamber of the U.S House of Representatives during the State of the Union address Tuesday evening, one of the faces looking back at him will be a man who, until a few weeks ago, could not have stepped foot in the United States, much less travel to the U.S. Capitol to attend the president’s speech.

 

Marco Chavez defies easy description. He’s the son of Mexican immigrants and grew up in the United States. He served honorably in the Marine Corps. Undocumented, he was deported after serving a prison term for animal cruelty. And, in December, 15 years after his deportation, Chavez was able to return home to the United States after California Gov. Jerry Brown pardoned him and an immigration judge ruled to restore his U.S. residency.

 

Chavez will be a guest on Tuesday evening of his congresswoman, Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, D-Calif., a freshman lawmaker who advocates for minorities in her district. Barragán is also a child of Mexican immigrants.

 

Chavez said his message is not political. He just wants to see others like him get their fair shot.

 

“Veterans should not be getting deported,” Chavez said. “Anybody picking up a firearm to defend this country shouldn’t be deported.”

 

But at the culmination of Trump’s first year in office, immigration has become a political lightning rod.

 

The president insulted Mexicans during his election campaign, calling them rapists and criminals and promising to build a wall between the countries. And he has insisted that immigrants from developing countries have little to offer the United States. He has made immigration reform a pillar of his agenda, promising to change the decision of who gets a visa from the neediest to a merit-based determination.

 

Barragán believes immigration will be a key theme in Trump’s State of the Union. She said Chavez’ presence should serve as a dual-pronged message to a president who has also pressed for expanding and strengthening the U.S. military.

 

“I think that certainly the message to this president is that we are a nation of immigrants and immigrants give to this country like so many others,” she said. “And, a lot of them – even Dreamers (children born in the United States to undocumented mothers) — serve in the military.”

 

“There’s a whole section of those who are serving that he is dishonoring and the message should be clear,” she added. “People like Marco and our Dreamers who are in the military deserve something better.”READ MORE