President Donald Trump, foreshadowing elements of a State of the Union address set against the backdrop of impeachment, will bring a top Border Patrol agent as one of his guests on Tuesday night when he addresses a joint session of Congress.
In addition to that agent, Raul Ortiz, who last week was promoted to the job of deputy chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Trump has also invited Tony Rankins, an Army veteran from Cincinnati who grappled with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and homelessness.
Rankins, who had been incarcerated, reentered the workforce after being trained as a carpenter and tradesman by a company called R Investments.
The practice of presidents using the State of the Union to showcase special guests goes back to 1982, when Ronald Reagan invited Lenny Skutnik to sit in the gallery of the House of Representatives with the first lady, Nancy Reagan. Skutnik, a Congressional Budget Office employee, had saved a woman from drowning in the icy waters of the Potomac River when an Air Florida flight crashed into the 14th Street bridge in Washington.
Since then, presidents have singled out civil rights leaders, shooting victims, wounded veterans and others during the State of the Union speech, attempting to humanize the words on a teleprompter.
Members of Congress each get one ticket to bring a guest to the speech — often a symbolic choice. This year is no different. Here are some of the people who have been invited.
— Courtney Wild, who said Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused her
Courtney Wild, who testified in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that disgraced financier Jeffrey E. Epstein sexually abused her when she was 14, will accompany Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., to the State of the Union address.
Wild’s name is on a bipartisan bill that Speier introduced called the Courtney Wild Crime Victims’ Rights Reform Act of 2019.
The measure would require prosecutors to notify sexual assault victims of precharging developments such as plea bargains and other agreements, like the one that allowed Epstein to plead guilty in Florida to lesser state charges of soliciting prostitution and serve 13 months in a county lockup as part of a highly criticized deal in 2008. Epstein, who had been facing charges of sex trafficking, took his own life last summer in a New York jail.
— Rushan Abbas, a Uighur human rights activist
Rushan Abbas, a prominent Uighur human rights activist, will be the guest of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is the co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
As many as 1 million members of Muslim ethnic minorities have been sent to detention camps and prison in China, including the Uighurs, a largely Muslim Turkic minority in Xinjiang, in northwestern China.
— Hatice Cengiz, fiancée of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., announced Monday that he would bring Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as his guest to the State of the Union speech.
Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident writer who wrote columns for The Washington Post, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Saudi Arabia sentenced five men to death and three to prison for the killing of Khashoggi. The Trump administration has faced sharp criticism for its reluctance to condemn Saudi leaders over Khashoggi’s death.
— Hailey Seals, daughter of a Jersey City detective killed in December
Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., will take Hailey Seals as his guest. She is the eldest child of Joseph Seals, a Jersey City police detective who was killed Dec. 10 during an anti-Semitic attack that the authorities have called an act of domestic terrorism.
Five people — including Seals, 40 — died during the chain of events, which ended with an attack on a kosher grocery store.
— Rachel Wilke, wife of Nebraska flood ‘hero’ who drowned
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., invited Rachel Wilke to be his guest for the president’s speech. Wilke’s husband, James Wilke, 50, a farmer, died last March when he tried to save a driver from floodwaters in Platte County, Nebraska, which is about 90 miles west of Omaha.
— Andrea Chamblee, whose husband was killed at The Capital Gazette
Andrea Chamblee lost her husband, John McNamara, who had worked as an editor and reporter for The Capital Gazette, in a June 2018 shooting at the Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper. He was one of five people killed by a gunman who had a long-running feud with the newspaper. In inviting her, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., cited her work on gun safety.
— Nathan Law, pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong
Nathan Law, a graduate student at Yale University and pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong, will be the guest of Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. Law’s Twitter biography said he was forcefully unseated as a Hong Kong lawmaker.
In October, he took part in a demonstration during a preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors at the Barclays Center that was organized by the group NY4HK.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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