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State of the Union: a GOP congressman’s empty threat to have DREAMer guests arrested

No, Capitol Police likely won’t arrest DREAMers attending the address.

Republican Steering Committee Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

There are 24 young unauthorized immigrants known as DREAMers who will attend President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night at the invitation of senators and representatives.

But at least one lawmaker, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), sees them as a threat. On Tuesday afternoon, Gosar tweeted that he had contacted US Capitol Police and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask that they arrest any undocumented immigrants attending Trump’s speech.

Gosar, a conservative Congress member from Arizona, is fervently opposed to immigration reforms giving DREAMers a pathway to citizenship.

“Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress,” he said in a separate tweet Tuesday afternoon. “Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported.”

Let’s be clear: It’s highly unlikely that Capitol Police will comply with Gosar’s request, as all the young immigrants attending tonight are recipients of either the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status programs. As such, they are legally shielded from deportation.

Part of getting DACA and TPS is getting a work permit to work in the US legally. Those permits come with a Social Security number, and all states allow DACA recipients to apply for drivers’ licenses. Therefore, the 24 DREAMers who are in attendance at Trump’s State of the Union speech likely do not have to worry about getting arrested.

But it’s notable that a conservative Congress member is lumping DACA recipients in with “illegal” immigrants — this kind of rhetoric reveals how many conservative immigration hawks view the DACA debate.

Democrats and moderate Republicans have come to view DREAMers, many of whom grew up in America and think of themselves as American, as a sympathetic population that should be given a pathway to permanent legal status or citizenship. But hardline conservatives view this population as just one more group of unauthorized immigrants that should be deported. This is, fundamentally, the crux of Congress’s DACA debate, and why it is currently at an impasse.

This isn’t the first time that lawmakers have invited DREAMers to a president’s joint address to Congress, and it’s also not the first time that a conservative lawmaker has requested young undocumented immigrants on Capitol Hill be arrested.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced a bill that would have given Capitol Police the power to investigate and potentially arrest unauthorized immigrants who were protesting on Capitol Hill this summer. They currently don’t have the statutory authority to do so.

DREAMers and other immigrant rights activists have been arrested on Capitol Hill last year and this year, but have not been threatened with deportation from Capitol Police.

Vox emailed Capitol Police asking for information about their protocol on the issue, but did not immediately receive a response.

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