The White House announced the First Lady’s box at the State of the Union will include Americans from middle class families whose day-to-day lives would benefit from the policy proposals the President will unveil, including jobs and the economy, veterans and military families, people championing immigration reform, among others.
“I am honored because of my history, but also for being recognized for my leadership and the issues I’ve been working on,” says one of the guests, Mayor of Avondale, Arizona, Marie Lopez Rogers. “I’ve been trying hard to make a contribution in cities across the nation. The economy, jobs, and immigration are huge for us in Arizona. We are all border cities, because the economy translates across the nation.”
Lopez Rogers, a former migrant farm worker from Avondale, Arizona, has been the city’s first Latina mayor since her inauguration in 2006. She currently serves as Chair of the Maricopa Association of Governments, and in December 2012, she was named president of the National League of Cities, an organization dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities.
“We’ve been working together, and we hope that we can create communities that help our economy and environment,” says Lopez Rogers about her work with President Obama.
She says she knows the economy will be a critical topic for the president this evening, as jobs are critical to cities, but she also knows immigration is a high priority for him as well.
“It’s a great honor to be invited to the State of the Union, especially because I am in the First Lady’s box,” says undocumented student Alan Aleman from Las Vegas, Nevada. “It is my duty to represent my community, especially the immigrant community.”
Aleman was born in Mexico City, Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. at age 11. Last year, when Alan heard about Obama’s Deferred Action for undocumented youth, he was one of the first to sign up and was among the first people in Nevada to get approved. Today, Alan is in his second year at the College of Southern Nevada, and thanks to Deferred Action, he’s able to have a driver’s license and a work permit to help him pay for school.
“If you don’t have money, how are you going to pay for your college tuition?” asks Aleman. “The first semester my parents paid for my tuition…Now I work at Hermandad Mexicana as a caseworker.”
He says he hopes to hear the president push for immigration reform tonight, and hopefully a path to citizenship.
“I’d love to be able to vote,” says Aleman sounding excitedly hopeful. “I want to be able to be a doctor and hopefully to join the Air Force…Most of the Dreamers feel like Americans…We like to contribute to this country.”
Wounded warrior Sergeant Carlos Evans was born in Puerto Rico and also lives to serve his country. While on his fourth overseas deployment in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps., he lost both of his legs and his left hand in 2010. In 2012, he received a custom home from Operation Coming Home and now resides in North Carolina with his wife and two young daughters.
“I feel very honored and very happy,” says the 33-year-old about receiving the call inviting him to the State of the Union.
He says he hopes the president will remember the armed forces and his fellow veterans tonight.
“When wounded veterans come back home, their fight continues,” says Evans who is currently working with Operation Coming Home — the organization which helped him when he returned from war. “They come back with injuries, and to help them and their families would be awesome.”