Miriam Tellez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals student at Cal State Fullerton, was invited by 39th District Congressman Gil Cisneros to the State of the Union.
The address was made on Tuesday, Feb. 5 by President Donald Trump.
Tellez worked with several departments on campus, such as the Diversity Initiatives & Resource Centers, Government Relations and Strategic Communications, which prepped Tellez and answered her questions before she attended the State of Union, said Martha Zavala Perez, coordinator of Titan Dreamers Resource Center.
Cisneros wrote in an Instagram post that he chose Tellez to join him at the State of the Union, because she was an inspiration for him to continue to support Dreamers and a reminder of why he ran for office.
Perez said members of Congress chose people like Tellez to be a guest at the State of the Union and wear a CSUF graduation Dreamer sash as a form of resistance.
“She is supplying the counter-narrative,” Perez said.
Honee Herrera, CSUF’s Outreach and Retention coordinator, is a friend of Tellez’s and an undocumented immigrant who works with both documented and undocumented immigrants to help get their GED certificates.
Herrera said Tellez is showing an act of resilience by attending the president’s address.
“Miriam is being brave enough to attend the State of the Union address in front of somebody who does not want her in this country and where she doesn’t feel welcome by half of the people attending,” Herrera said.
Tellez’s take on the President’s discussion of immigration, unlike the President, recognizes that legal status does not define what they contribute to America.
“It’s not the solution. He also mentioned how legal immigrants make this country great, and that’s like a half truth,” Tellez said. “At the end of the day everybody is just trying to be a part of society and be a good citizen and be a good American.”
Herrera also discussed how both she and Tellez participated in programs for undocumented students at CSUF.
“She has done a lot of advocacy work for the undocumented community and I am just so proud of her for being there and representing us,” Herrera said.
Trump addressed Congress members on issues regarding health care, jobs, foreign affairs and the border wall. Thirty-six new female congresswomen sat in the audience with some who were wearing white in solidarity to echo the suffrage movement, according to the Washington Post.
A few congresswomen like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore a pin with the face of a 7-year-old girl who died in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Trump referred to undocumented immigrants, like Tellez, as “illegal aliens” in his speech.
Scott Spitzer, a political science professor, said the term illegal aliens is a pejorative and that no person is illegal. Spitzer said Trump’s use of that language is a message that he doesn’t want undocumented immigrants to come into the country, his primary reason for building a wall.
“It made me very emotional. I started crying with my peers because he always tries to divide people,” Herrera said about Trump’s statement.
Tellez said she seeks to unify rather than divide.
“As far as the undocumented community and allied community coming together, I think it is dialogue and getting educated on how politics work. It’s looking at the past, understanding what has happened before with immigration and how we can move forward with that,” Tellez said.