Dems make statements with State of the Union guests

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Several Michigan Democrats are making statements against President Donald Trump’s policies by their choice of guests for Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Among the announced guests for the speech are the wife of a deported Lincoln Park man, a labor union official and the spouse of a detained Iraqi Christian.

A couple Republicans in the state’s delegation are bringing small-business owners to highlight the wave of companies initiating bonuses or other benefits for employees or planning to expand investment and jobs since the GOP-led Congress passed its tax cut bill.

Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, invited Ken Matheis Sr., who operates a family-owned business in Lake Orion called Complete Automation that develops and installs paint delivery systems.

Bishop said Matheis is an example of a business that decided to put more money in employees’ pockets as a result of the tax bill. The company is offering a new benefit for its 250 employees this year to match 401(k) contributions by 50 percent of their deferral up to 4 percent, according to Bishop’s office.

“This move will go a long way in helping hard-working Michiganders save for the future,” Bishop said in a statement.

Democratic Rep. Sandy Levin of Royal Oak will attend the speech to a joint session of Congress with Nahrain Hamama, whose husband, Sam, is among more than 100 Iraqi Christians from Michigan and 1,400 across the country arrested and detained last year by immigration agents.

Usama “Sam” Hamama is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit challenging the government’s attempt to deport the detainees to Iraq, where they say they would face persecution and potential harm. Hamama, who arrived in the United States at age 11, has not lived in Iraq for 40 years.

Federal immigration authorities have defended the arrests, saying those rounded up committed crimes and were subject to deportation under the law.

Hamama was convicted of a weapons possession charge after flashing an unloaded gun during a road-rage incident in 1988. He was sentenced to two years in prison and was ordered deported in 1994.

In recent years, the United States didn’t deport people to Iraq because of dangerous conditions there. But the Trump administration last year struck a deal with Iraq in which it agreed to accept Iraqis removed from America.

Deported man spotlighted

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, is hosting Cindy Garcia, the wife of the 39-year-old Lincoln Park man deported to Mexico earlier this month despite having no criminal record.

Jorge Garcia was a 30-year U.S. resident brought to the country at age 10. He was too old to qualify for the Obama-era program that protects the children of undocumented immigrants from potential deportation.

Dingell has said she wants Cindy Garcia to be a voice representing the immigrant families who “deserve a pathway to legal status in the country they call home.”

“The Garcia family’s story is heartbreaking and infuriating,” Dingell said in a statement. “It is both a symptom of a long-broken immigration system and a new rash immigration policy that does not recognize the difference between a hardworking family man and a criminal. This must change.”

Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, plans to bring the Rev. Jeffrey Hawkins Sr., an anti-gun violence activist and pastor of Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church. Both of Hawkins’ sons were gunned in Flint over a decade.

“Violence has a terrible impact on youth in the community. We must do more to prevent senseless gun deaths in communities like Flint,” Hawkins said in a statement.

Kildee last year introduced a bipartisan bill to regulate bump stock devices under the National Firearms Act — similar to the strict controls on machine gun ownership.

Bump stocks are the devices that allowed the Las Vegas gunman in October to modify his semiautomatic rifles to fire at a rate similar to a machine gun and kill 58 people. The devices are not prohibited under federal or Michigan law, and the U.S. House has not taken up the legislation.

With infrastructure legislation on the horizon, Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said he wants any proposal to incorporate protections for American workers, including laws that require contractors to pay workers no less than locally prevailing or union wages.

That’s why Peters invited Mike Jackson of Monroe, who is executive secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. The union represents more than 14,000 skilled carpenters and millwrights across the state.

“President Trump has repeatedly touted the need to invest in our infrastructure, but I’m concerned his proposal will leave Michigan workers behind by undercutting prevailing wage laws,” Peters said in a statement.

“I want to hear the president’s assurances that any infrastructure proposal will support skilled workers in Michigan and across the country, and I will work to hold him accountable if he fails to adhere to existing worker protections.”

Two Dems wearing black

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, and Dingell both plan to wear black during the State of the Union as a sign of solidarity with victims of sexual abuse, assault and misconduct.

Lawrence and other female members of the Congressional Black Caucus will don red pins as a tribute to Recy Taylor, an African-American woman from Alabama who was kidnapped in 1944 by a group of white teenagers and raped repeatedly at gunpoint.

Taylor reported her assailants, despite threats against her life and those of her family, and is credited with helping to start the civil rights and #MeToo movements. She died last month at age 97.

Lawrence said she’s bringing to the speech author and historian Danielle McGuire of Metro Detroit, who wrote about Taylor in the book, “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance: A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power.”

“Sexual abuse and failure of the judicial system in administering justice has been a reality for too many for too long, and we certainly cannot and will not stand for it,” Lawrence said in a statement.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, is bringing as her guest South Haven native James McCloughan, a U.S. Army combat medic who last year received the Medal of Honor — the military’s highest award — for his role during a two-day battle during the Vietnam War in 1969.

Legislation sponsored by Stabenow made McCloughan eligible for the medal, which typically must be honored within five years of the act that justifies the award.

“I invited Jim not only to recognize his acts of heroism on the battlefield, but for being a hero to countless young people over the years as a coach, teacher, mentor and community leader,” she said in a statement.

McCloughan was the first to receive the Medal of Honor from Trump, who hosted the July ceremony at the White House. McCloughan is credited with saving the lives of at least 10 men in his company.

Businessmen highlighted

Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, has invited Greg “Ryno” Rynearson of the Cops & Doughnuts bakery and doughnut shop in Clare, which was featured recently in Kiplinger’s magazine.

Rynearson and his co-owner, Alan “Bubba” White, are former police officers in Clare who bought the bakery with the seven other cops in their department in 2009. They have since bought five other bakeries in Michigan and Indiana.

“Main Street in Clare has made a comeback and Cops & Doughnuts has been a big part of that,” Moolenaar said.

Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, is bringing a fourth-generation barber, Zach Booker, a Hudsonville entrepreneur looking to add new locations beyond the several small businesses he owns because of tax reform, a Huizenga spokesman said.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, will escort Republican National Committeewoman Ronna Romney McDaniel as his guest to the State of the Union.

And Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, is bringing a police chief from his district — Jeff Patterson of the Cambridge Township Police Department.

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