It took Sil Ganzo a moment to grasp what Rep. Alma Adams was saying.
Ganzo, founder and executive director of ourBRIDGE for kids, thought that Adams’ telephone call was an inquiry to learn more about the organization that provides an after-school program a welcoming environment to immigrant and refugee children from around the globe.
But it was about her background and history.
“I am what it means to be an immigrant,” she said. “I was born and raised in Argentina and I came here with nothing more than a dream. There were people who encouraged me to go for it. I improved my English and, here I am, doing what I always wanted to do. And now I feel it’s my responsibility to do that for others.”
Adams, D-N.C., invited Ganzo to be her guest inside the House of Representatives chamber Tuesday night for President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress.
Adams joins other congressional Democrats in bringing immigrants, refugees or advocates to Trump’s speech to protest his actions on immigration. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, Texas, has invited two Syrian refugees in a show of defiance against Trump’s temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
And freshman Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California has invited Yuriana Aguilar – a Mexican-born University of California, Merced, alumnus, who was brought to the U.S. when she was a child – to be her guest for Trump’s prime-time speech. Aguilar is now an instructor in the department of physiology and biophysics at Rush Medical College in Chicago. Her research focuses on the human heart.
“It took a while for it to sink in,” said Ganzo, 34. “Congresswoman Adams shared with me that she would like to have me as her guest to represent the importance of recognizing the immigrant and refugee communities, specifically in Charlotte. I screamed and I was so excited.”
Ganzo will meet Adams in her office on Tuesday and attend a reception hosted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in her office before Trump’s speech.
“This is very important to me, I think this will be a life-changing experience for me,” she said. “I cannot wait to look into the eyes of these people and say, ‘I need your help, we need your help.’ ”
Adams said she chose Ganzo as her guest to highlight Trump’s controversial immigration and refugee executive order and new rules that expand the Department of Homeland Security’s authority to detain and deport people who are in the country illegally.
“This administration’s hateful rhetoric and unconstitutional actions attack refugees and immigrants,” Adams said in a statement Monday, adding that “Her presence in the chamber will send a clear message that we will not tolerate bigotry and hate.”
I’ll continue to stand in solidarity with these communities as I welcome local immigrant and refugee advocate Sil Ganzo as my guest for the State of the Union address. Rep. Alma Adams, D-Charlotte
Ganzo said she’s thrilled to go to Capitol Hill to be a living testament to the positive benefits of immigration in the United States.
OurBRIDGE is a nonprofit organization that offers after-school and summer programs for newly arrived and first-generation immigrant and refugee children. The program gives students help with homework and provides English-language tutoring
In addition, the program has an advocacy component to help American-born citizens “understand what it means to be a refugee, what it means to be an immigrant and the contributions that we’re all receiving from their presence here,” Ganzo said.
Alex Daugherty and Michael Doyle contributed to this story.