Suburban girl, immigrant, domestic abuse survivor, furloughed workers at State of the Union
A 7-year-old Naperville girl, an undocumented immigrant from Waukegan protected through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, federal workers who were furloughed and suburban advocates for domestic violence survivors, the hungry, Native Americans and veterans are attending tonight’s State of the Union address.
They were invited as guests of suburban members of Congress, all of whom are Democrats, and will be there as President Donald Trump speaks at 8 p.m. before a joint session of Congress in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington.
Advocate for domestic abuse victims: The executive director of the Family Shelter Service of DuPage County, Judie Caribeaux, will be U.S. Rep. Sean Casten’s guest.
Caribeaux is a survivor of domestic abuse and has spoken publicly about the negative effects of the partial government shutdown on abuse victims who depend on federally supported programs.
Casten, of Downers Grove, says advocating for women’s rights and protecting women from domestic abuse is one of his key goals.
“It is clear that the congressman wants to leverage his office to elevate the voices of those that are often marginalized,” Caribeaux said in a statement.
Union apprentice: Lily Wu of Chicagoan, a first-generation American and a third-year apprentice with IBEW Local 134 in Chicago, will be the guest of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates.
Duckworth said in a statement she chose Wu “to remind my colleagues about the critical need to invest in our communities, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and support apprenticeship programs that give workers the skills they need to succeed in high-demand industries across our country.”
She said Wu, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, also represents “the valuable contributions immigrant families make to our country.”
Air traffic controller: Longtime air traffic controller Toby Hauck will be the guest of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
Hauck, an Air Force veteran, is a controller at Chicago Center in Aurora, the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-distance flight center.
Hauck worked for 35 days without pay, which caused him to worry about paying for child care for his granddaughter while her parents are deployed overseas with the U.S. Army.
Hauck said in January said controllers were “doing what we do every day, and that’s being professional. But it’s a lot extra on controllers’ minds … when you’re talking to airplanes and trying to decide if you should pay your mortgage or have surgery,” he said, referring to the choice he said faced one colleague.
Durbin, the majority whip, said “federal employees — like Toby — never deserved to be punished and forced to work without pay while Washington squabbled over a political disagreement.”
Food pantry director: Marilyn Weisner, executive director of the Aurora Area Interfaith Pantry, will be U.S. Rep. Brad Foster’s guest.
The pantry provides food to an estimated 19,000 individuals each year. Weisner is the widow of former Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner.
Foster, a Naperville Democrat, says the pantry plays an important role in preventing families from going hungry. “No one should have to choose between paying rent, purchasing lifesaving medication and putting food on the table,” he said.
Trickster Art Gallery CEO: Joe Podlasek, CEO of the not-for-profit Trickster Art Gallery, a Native American arts and culture center in Schaumburg, will be the guest of U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg.
Through his work at the Trickster Gallery, Podlasek is an advocate for both Native American and veterans issues.
According to his online biography, Podlasek is a citizen of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribe in Northern Wisconsin and of Polish descent.
He has more than 25 years of experience in community development and social justice, including 12 years on the state of Illinois Veterans Council. He is a founding member and vice president of the National Urban Indian Family Coalition.
A spokesman for Krishnamoorthi said no taxpayer funds will be spent on Podlasek’s trip
Federal worker: Chante Copeland-Smith, who works as an individual tax advisory specialist for the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Assistance Center, will attend the State of the Union with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley of Chicago.
Copeland-Smith, a Maryland resident who is also vice president of the National Treasury Employees Union local IRS Chapter 86, was furloughed during the recent 35-day partial government shutdown. She said in a statement she was unable to pay her daughter’s college tuition, forcing the student’s classes to be dropped.
“I had to contact the university and beg them to reconsider because of the shutdown. I’ve had to haggle and make open-ended arrangements with bill collectors and didn’t have gas to put in my car,” Copeland-Smith said. “The list goes on and on, and we are afraid again about the (possibility of another) shutdown.”
Furloughed federal employee: Frank Lagunas, a Chicago resident who works for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 5 as a remedial project manager for the Superfund division, will be U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s guest.
Lagunas remains an active member of the Region Response Support Corps, having helped with the EPA’s response efforts in Flint, Michigan, and after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. He also served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.
“The recent shutdown exposed the fragility of federal employees’ economic security,” Schakowsky, of Evanston, said of why she invited Lagunas, a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.
No taxpayer funds will cover Lagunas’ travel tab to Washington, D.C., according to a Schakowsky spokesman
Immigrant from Mexico: Ivan Hernandez of Waukegan will attend the president’s speech as a guest of U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield.
Hernandez, 26, came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 12, according to a news release from Schneider’s office. Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, Hernandez acquired a work permit and works at a Waukegan bank, according to the release.
A graduate of College of Lake County and Columbia College, Hernandez also works with Hispanic American Community Education and Services, a group that helps immigrant families in Lake County.
“Ivan is an outstanding leader in our community, and the United States is unquestionably his home,” Schneider said in the release. “His dreams and aspirations are American dreams, and his success strengthens our state and nation.”
Taxpayer funds aren’t being used to cover Hernandez’s travel expenses, a Schneider spokesman said
7-year-old girl: Allie Bland of Naperville will attend the State of the Union as the guest of U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood.
Underwood, of Naperville, said Allie caught her attention by leaving handwritten notes and drawings of support for domestic violence survivors and their families at a local shelter.
“I am inspired by 7-year-old Allie’s efforts to lift people up,” Underwood said in a statement. “It was such a good reminder that our country is a better place when we all are doing our part to spread kindness and make positive change in our communities.”
PC: Trickster Art Gallery, 2013