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A brief guide to the State of the Union guests

Trump’s State of the Union guests underscore his focus on border security and the economy.

Raul L. Ortiz, deputy chief patrol agent with the US Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector at the US Border Patrol Sector Headquarters in Edinburg, Texas, on June 20, 2018. 
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

For a preview of President Donald Trump’s message heading into his 2020 reelection campaign, just look at the guests he has invited to the State of the Union Tuesday.

From US Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz to contractor Paul Morrow, Trump’s invitees will allow him to tout some of his prized policy priorities — namely, border security, immigration, and economic growth.

The State of the Union guests have long been used to send a political message, and this year is certainly no different. Democrats, too, will be focused on making a statement: They are bringing more than 80 patients, physicians, and activists to illustrate their commitment to defending voters’ health care.

Trump’s State of the Union speech comes the night before the Senate is scheduled to vote on his conviction or acquittal of two articles of impeachment, timing that has Republican lawmakers hoping he doesn’t use the opportunity to draw attention to the trial.

His guest list, thus far, doesn’t yet nod to these ongoing proceedings.

Trump’s guests hint at a heavy focus on immigration

With this annual platform, Trump is expected to return to some of the themes he’s hewed to ever since he declared his candidacy. Several of the president’s guests underscore the recurring emphasis he’s put on border security and curbing unauthorized immigration.

Raul Ortiz: Ortiz is the recently promoted deputy chief of the US Border Patrol. He now holds the second-highest role in the agency, which is tasked with enforcing Trump’s policies on apprehending immigrants at the border and separating families. Ortiz is also a US Army veteran and previously oversaw border patrol operations in South Central Texas.

Jody Jones: Jones’s brother Rocky was killed by an unauthorized immigrant, who had previously been convicted of other criminal charges, in Tulare County, California. Jones has called for greater accountability of unauthorized immigrants who have committed crimes in the past, a call that Trump has also repeatedly emphasized when he’s made the case for curbing immigration.

Stephanie and Janiyah Davis: Stephanie and Janiyah, the White House says, were negatively affected by Pennsylvania’s decision not to increase the tax credits donors could receive when they contribute to scholarships for private schools. Stephanie is an advocate for school choice, a priority the White House has championed as well.

Kelli and Gage Hake: Kelli’s husband and Gage’s father, Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, was killed by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq. The White House alleges that his death was tied to weapons provided by Iranian leader Qassem Soleimani, whom Trump had assassinated earlier this year via a drone strike.

Tony Rankins: Rankins is a US Army veteran who served in Afghanistan who has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s since received construction training and works in an Opportunity Zone in Cincinnati, Ohio. In Opportunity Zones, first established by the 2017 Republican tax bill, businesses and individuals receive tax breaks in exchange for their investment in lower-income areas, a method that hasn’t exactly been found to improve economic growth.

Paul Morrow: Morrow is a contractor currently building a concrete plant in an Opportunity Zone in Montgomery, Alabama.

Robin and Ellie Schneider: Ellie was born prematurely at 21 weeks and six days and is now 2 years old. The White House is highlighting her health as an example of the efficacy of medical care in the US.

Ivan Simonovis: Simonovis is a formerly imprisoned Venezuelan law enforcement official. The Trump administration has previously backed the Venezuela opposition led by Juan Guaidó.

Democrats aim to send a strong message on health care

In 2018, Democrats campaigned on protecting people’s health care — and they won, taking back a majority in the House and flipping two Senate seats. With the presidential election looming this fall, it appears they intend to focus on a similar message, particularly as a challenge to the Affordable Care Act winds its way through the courts.

Health care: More than 80 Democrats will be bringing guests that speak to different aspects of health care policy including Kim Cesarek, a breast cancer patient; Bakari Burns, CEO of Health Care Center for the Homeless; and California surgeon general Nadine Burke Harris.

Democrats are eager to highlight the legislation they’ve passed that would maintain protections for individuals with preexisting conditions and reduce prescription drug prices.

Sexual assault: Courtney Wild, one of the women who have accused Jeffrey Epstein of abusing them as minors, will be the guest of Rep. Jackie Speier, who has long championed policies to combat sexual assault. Speier has introduced a bill called the Courtney Wild Crime Victims’ Rights Reform Act that would strengthen protections for victims as they use the judicial process to assert their case.

Gender equity: Virginia Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, a lawmaker who’s been integral in advancing the state’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, will be the guest of Rep. Carolyn Maloney. Presently, it’s up to Congress to decide if it intends to extend the ratification deadline of the ERA, which had expired decades earlier.

Foreign policy: Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, will be the guest of Rep. Gerry Connolly. “Saudi Arabia must be held accountable for the murder of this loving father and fiancé, respected journalist, US resident, my constituent, and reformer,” Connolly said in a statement.

Immigration: DACA recipient Maria Rocha will be the guest of Rep. Joaquín Castro, and Ismail Alghazali, a New York City resident who was separated from his family by the Trump travel ban, will be the guest of Rep. Judy Chu.

Gun control: Activist Andrea Chamblee, the widow of John McNamara, a Capital Gazette journalist who was killed in the Annapolis shooting in 2018, will be the guest of Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

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