It is seemingly customary that the President invites certain people to be special guests at his State of the Union Address. Yesterday, the White House published its list of President Obama’s guests for this year’s address. Most of them are relatively uncontroversial, such as Alan Gross, the US citizen freed from a Cuban prison; astronaut Scott Kelly, who is about to spend a year aboard the International Space Station; and Dr. Pranav Shetty, one of the doctors working to fight Ebola. Of course, many of these guests usually serve to highlight the political initiatives the President will be pushing over the next year, so it should be unsurprising to know that some of his guests will be there in connection with Obamacare. However, one guest stands out among them. This year, the President has invited 20 year old Ana Zamora to attend his address. According to her profile on the White House’s website, Zamora was brought to the United States by her parents just before her first birthday. They did not come legally. As the profile explains:
This is the only country Ana has ever called home. So when the President took action to give children who grew up in the U.S. temporary status in 2012, she was overjoyed. “I am finally a person in the United States,” she wrote the President. “I have a social security number, an employment authorization card and a driver’s license to drive the car I pay for with my own money (which I earned working with my employment authorization card) and pay taxes as any law-abiding U.S. citizen. I could not be more proud of myself!!!”
Ana’s life has fundamentally changed. And because she has siblings who are U.S. citizens, her parents — a small business owner and a construction worker — are among the millions of people who are potentially eligible for the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program the President announced last November. Now, Ana plans on going after a masters degree in business administration while helping to mentor students in situations just like hers. “The United States is my country,” she wrote. “It is where I grew up, took my first steps, learned to read, write, play, graduated from high school, and will graduate from college.”
Frankly, I’m not a hardliner on illegal immigration, but it profoundly disturbs me to see people who are technically lawbreakers, even if they came here as infants or children, celebrated at an official government function like this. Cases like Zamora’s–and she is far from the only one in her situation–present a rather complicated situation to policymakers, but our government should not be in the practice of honoring people who aren’t here legally.
Also, since someone like Zamora will be at the State of the Union, it’s important to consider who hasn’t been invited. With the story of America’s most lethal sniper Chris Kyle being told in the recent movie American Sniper, it might seem like an obvious choice to have his family there to honor their son’s service in the wake of his murder in February of 2013. He snubbed them in his speech then, and he is still snubbing them.
While Zamora puts a pretty face on the issue of illegal immigration, we cannot overlook the dangers faced by the men and women who patrol our border. He could have invited one of the agents who serve on the border or one of the families of those who were killed in the line of duty, like the family of Brian Terry. The President tells us he is committed to border security, and there are few better ways he could make this point at the State of the Union.
At any rate, however I feel about illegal immigration or any of its related issues, I cannot condone giving a lawbreaker, even if she came here as an infant, such a special seat of honor at the State of the Union. It sends all the wrong messages about our commitment to border security, and it is an affront to those who came here legally.