The Washington Post

Gutierrez invites illegal immigrant to attend State of the Union

Many members of Congress are reserving their guest passes to Tuesday's State of the Union address for victims of gun violence to serve as an emotional and visual example of the need for President Obama's gun-control agenda.

But Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez will use his invite to highlight another topic expected to get a mention in Obama's speech -- immigration.

Luis V. Gutierrez (Helayne Seidman -- For The Washington Post) Luis V. Gutierrez (Helayne Seidman -- For The Washington Post)

Gutierrez announced Monday that he's invited Gabino Sanchez, a South Carolina man who is fighting deportation from the United States, to attend the speech. Gutierrez has been working on behalf of Sanchez to help him secure legal residency in the United States, accompanying him to three Immigration and Customs Enforcement appointments.

Sanchez, who has two U.S. citizen children, has been living and working in the United States since coming here when he was 15. Last May, he secured a one-year deferral of his deportation which allows him to work legally. Sanchez has received misdemeanor charges for driving without license but otherwise has a clean record and, in a statement, Gutierrez indicated he sees Sanchez's case as a test case for Obama's stated policy to prioritize those who have committed serious crimes for deportation.

President Obama has said immigration is at the top of his legislative agenda for the year, and a bipartisan group of senators is working on a joint bill they hope to introduce next month. Sanchez's visit to the U.S. Capitol will come a day before the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing on immigration. Some Republicans have complained because the hearing will feature testimony from Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who acknowledged in a 2011 essay that he is an illegal immigrant who was brought to the country from the Philippines as a child. Vargas, who is now an immigration advocate, is a former Washington Post reporter.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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