An Arizona congressman known for his hard-line views on immigration called on the U.S. Capitol Police to arrest any undocumented immigrants who attend President Trump's State of the Union address, after at least two dozen Democratic lawmakers said they would bring "dreamers" as guests to Tuesday night's speech.
Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) asked the Capitol Police and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to "consider checking identification . . . and arresting any illegal aliens in attendance" as well as detaining anyone using "fraudulent social security numbers and identification to pass through security." His tweets on the subject caused a wave of online outrage roughly seven hours before the speech was scheduled to begin.
The young people protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would not be affected by an ID check because they have social security numbers and legal work status, according to aides who helped organize their attendance. Some lawmakers might have invited immigrants without these documents to attend the speech, said the aides, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the legal status of some guests.
"Of all the places where the Rule of Law needs to be enforced, it should be in the hallowed halls of Congress," Gosar wrote on Twitter. "Any illegal aliens attempting to go through security, under any pretext of invitation or otherwise, should be arrested and deported."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is among the Democratic lawmakers who plan to bring a DACA recipient to the speech, said Gosar's comments were "outside the circle of decency."
"Our members all profess to be people of faith, that we believe that we're all children of God and that we have a spark of divinity in us. For him to make that statement is to dishonor the God who made us. It's just shameful," she told reporters.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said that lawmakers "have constitutional protections to do our jobs for every constituent that we have."
"I find it personally offensive that that member of Congress is interfering with my ability to do my job," she said.
Congress is working to negotiate an immigration deal that would protect "dreamers," children who were brought to the United States illegally or who overstayed their visas, after the Trump administration announced an end to the program in September.
Pelosi, who will bring DACA recipient Melody Klingenfuss as a guest Tuesday night, said Tuesday afternoon Trump will "see the dignity, courage and patriotism of dozens of dreamers" when he looks into the House gallery during his speech.
Klingenfuss, a professional organizer with California Dream Network, was born in Guatemala and joined her mother in Los Angeles at age nine. She holds a bachelor's degree from California State University, Los Angeles and a Master's degree from the University of South California, according to a memo from Pelosi's office.
A request for comment from the Capitol Police was not immediately returned.
With tensions running high ahead of Trump's speech, it was unclear what kinds of outbursts or demonstrations the evening might produce. It is considered gravely disrespectful for lawmakers to disrupt presidential addresses, but some — such as Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who yelled "You lie!" at President Obama in 2009 — have done it anyway.
Pelosi told House Democrats Tuesday not to interrupt Trump and instead "let the attention be on his slobbering self." She said if Democrats want to protest, they should join the group that will not attend at all.
"If you want to walk out, don't come in," Pelosi told Democrats during a closed-door caucus meeting.
The comments, first reported by Politico, were confirmed by a person familiar with the meeting.
Pelosi also suggested Trump will benefit from low expectations.
"If his nose isn't running, and he isn't burping, he did a great speech," she predicted.
Pelosi also plans to bring Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, who will deliver Democrats' Spanish-language response to the speech, as well as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D).
Erica Werner contributed to this story.