When the President stands before Congress for his State of the Union address, an undocumented immigrant from Texas will be sitting in the audience.
Each member of Congress can invite one guest to sit in the House gallery during the speech.
Rep. Marc Veasey, a Fort Worth Democrat, chose Julieta Garibay. She was with her parents when they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and entered Texas two decades ago.
Julieta was just 12 at the time and has lived in the United States ever since, graduating from the Dallas County Community College system and the University of Texas in Austin.
Veasey says he invited Garibay because she represents the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform.
“She has Masters in nursing from universities in Texas. We have a shortage of nurses,” observed Veasey.
“There are too many examples of people who come here to do the right thing- get educated, contribute to our economy and to society. Yet still find themselves locked out,” he said.
Garibay says the United States is the place she calls home and becoming a citizen here is important to her and others in similar situations.
“We want it to be timely, take seven years at the most to be eligible to apply for citizenship,” she said.
Garibay now lives in Washington D.C. where she works with United We Dream, an organization that helps undocumented young people.
Garibay, 32, is too old to qualify for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which allows some undocumented children brought here by parents to remain in the country. That means she could be deported.
She says she knows that tonight she’ll be sitting among some staunch amnesty opponents who may believe she should be deported, but Garibay says being visible is important.
“It’s really historic to be there. Even if I would be at risk of deportation I would still do it because unless we take that step nobody else is going to do it for us,” she said.
“Nobody else is going to step up and say I am undocumented and I am going to fight back.”
At least two other undocumented immigrants will also be in the State of the Union audience. One will be the guest of Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat. The other has been invited by First Lady Michelle Obama.