As he gives his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Donald Trump can expect to address furloughed government workers, climate change activists and scientists, a kid named Joshua Trump, and a woman who worked at his golf club for years while she was an undocumented immigrant.
That’s because the State of the Union has become as much about the address as the guests invited to make political statements.
If 2018’s State of the Union was any indication, the night will be filled with moments of protest and political posturing. Here’s a rundown of the president and first lady’s guests, as well as the stunt invites handed out by prominent Democrats and Republicans.
The president’s guests
The most prominent guest, to be seated in the first lady’s box, is Matthew Charles, who was released from prison years early after Trump signed the First Step Act. Trump’s signing of the law reduced mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. A Holocaust survivor who also survived the Tree of Life synagogue shooting is also scheduled to make an appearance. Trump has also invited the relatives of Gerald and Sharon David, whom authorities say were killed in their home by an undocumented immigrant. In all, there will be 13 guests of the president and first lady.
Social media has fixated on Joshua Trump, a Delaware sixth-grader who received an invitation because he’s been bullied for sharing a last name with the president. Joshua is not related to Donald.
“They curse at him, they call him an idiot, they call him stupid,” his mother, Megan Trump Berto, told ABC affiliate WPVI.
Many have pointed out the irony of Trump inviting a boy because he has experienced bullying. Trump is known to assign derogatory nicknames to his opponents in an attempt to degrade them.
Democrats have a slate of climate and immigration activists ready to attend the State of the Union address, but the stars of the night will be federal workers who were furloughed as a result of President Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in border-wall funding, which led to the longest shutdown in U.S. government history. 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have invited furloughed workers as their guests.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, has invited Luis Alcateur, one of more than two dozen Dreamers attending the State of the Union. Dreamers are immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children; President Trump has attempted to use them as bargaining chips for border wall funding. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas has also invited a DACA recipient, Texas A&M student Carlos Salinas Hernandez, as his guest.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez of California will bring Sandra Diaz, an undocumented immigrant who profiled by the New York Times because she worked for years at Trump’s National Golf Club in New Jersey. Diaz had numerous close-up encounters with Trump during her time working at the club and even had a positive opinion of the president — until she felt urged to speak out as a result of his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Washington Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is inviting a climate change scientist as her guest.
In an indication that the Sunrise Movement’s push for a Green New Deal — an overhaul of the U.S. economy to support green infrastructure and jobs to curb climate change — is gaining mainstream support, Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has invited the founder of the movement, Varshini Prakash, to be his guest.
The popular freshman class of the House have their own political statements in mind. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, has invited Ana Maria Archila, one of Ocasio-Cortez’s constituents who publicly confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, herself once a refugee, has invited a Liberian immigrant facing deportation to attend the State of the Union at her side.
Republicans have a far-more-focused approach to their State of the Union guests lists. Their invitees are people who have faced violence or crimes from undocumented immigrants, though the idea that undocumented immigrants commit more crimes has been frequently debunked.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas has invited Manny Padilla, a Customs and Border Protection agent, and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas has invited Brandon Judd, the head of the Border Patrol’s union. It’s a direct rebuke to Democrats: Judd was affected by the government shutdown, but he supported Trump during it.
Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Tim Burchett will bring the parents of Pierce Corcoran, a 22-year-old killed in a car accident by an undocumented immigrant, as their guests.
Another esteemed guest, Diamond (of Diamond and Silk fame), will attend because she won a coin toss. She nabbed a ticket from Iowa Rep. Steve King, who publicly pondered last month why white supremacy was considered bad.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 30, 2018. (Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)