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Undocumented immigrants to attend State of the Union

4:10 PM ET, Jan 23, 2014
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For the second straight year, undocumented immigrants will be in the chamber when President Obama makes his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

As Congress struggles to reach an agreement on a way to overhaul the nation's immigration system, immigration advocates are increasingly pressuring the president to act on his own to stop the deportations of some of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Several of those advocates, and at least two undocumented immigrants, will be able to hear the president firsthand when he is likely to urge the Republican-led House of Representatives to get moving on an immigration overhaul.

The group will be hosted by Illinois Democratic Reps. Luis Gutierrez, Mike Quigley, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Schneider and Bill Foster, all of whom have been pushing for the House to take up a Senate-passed immigration bill that would allow most of the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship.

"This year, we joined together to invite people whose stories illustrate the importance of immigration reform and to make clear that passing comprehensive immigration reform should be at the top of the to-do list," the members said in a joint statement.

The idea of undocumented immigrants sitting in the U.S. Capitol during the president's speech was insulting to some last year and continues to be this time around.

"It reinforces the one message that for this president is unambiguous: Violating immigration laws is just entirely inconsequential," said Bob Dane of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that wants to limit the number of legal and undocumented immigrants entering the country. "The laws aren't being enforced, and here you go, the public needs to get used to it. They can sit and stand anywhere they want, including next to me in the U.S. Capitol."

The two undocumented immigrants invited by the Illinois delegation — Estefania Garcia and Maria Torres — have both qualified for the president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program allows some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the USA as children to have deportation proceedings deferred for two years.

Immigration advocates want the president to extend similar deferments to the rest of the undocumented population until Congress passes a sweeping immigration overhaul.

Republican leaders of the House of Representatives have shot down the idea of taking up the Senate-passed immigration bill. Instead, they plan to release a set of immigration principles in the coming days with the hopes of moving their own immigration bills through the chamber.



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