Aurora immigration advocate to attend Obama’s State of the Union address
By Kalyn Belsha email@example.com January 24, 2014 4:56PM
Maria Torres, 25, of Aurora, was invited to attend the president's State of the Union address on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster. | Kalyn Belsha~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 28, 2014 6:15AM
AURORA — The last time 25-year-old Aurora resident Maria Torres visited Washington, D.C., was as a tourist earlier this month.
The time before that, she traveled there for civil disobedience training at which 41 activists were arrested as they protested lawmakers’ inability to pass immigration reform.
Torres’ next trip to the nation’s capital will be just as memorable — she’s been invited by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville) to watch President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Foster and four other members of the Illinois congressional delegation invited an immigration reform advocate to attend the address in the hopes of drawing attention to stalled legislation that would overhaul the nation’s immigration system.
“The idea of (inviting) a Dreamer seemed like exactly the right time for this moment in history,” Foster said in an interview Thursday, referring to the name used to describe unauthorized immigrants brought to the country as youth. “It’s a message that I hope the president will be presenting very strongly, the need for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Foster said he chose Torres as his sole guest because she is a role model for others. Torres moved to Carpentersville with her family from Mexico at the age of 15. She graduated from Northern Illinois University in December 2012 and now lives in Aurora and works at Family Focus Aurora as an immigration and outreach specialist.
About a year ago, Torres was accepted into a special program for immigrant youth, known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows her to legally work and drive, but she cannot seek citizenship. At Family Focus she helps others fill out DACA forms or apply for citizenship.
“She’s sort of famous for just pushing in all kinds of good directions,” said Foster, who met Torres over the summer at an immigration event held by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Foster is personally paying to fly Torres to the event.
“I feel extremely privileged and it’s bittersweet because I know many … people who are a lot more deserving to have the opportunity to witness history directly and they won’t ever be there because they don’t have the access,” Torres said.
Torres is staying humble about the honor. She hasn’t told many people that she’s going to the State of the Union, she said, and in some ways she wishes she could send her parents in her place.
But Torres doesn’t have much time to dwell. Until her plane touches down in Washington she’s going to be hard at work giving presentations, helping clients and hosting a citizenship workshop this weekend.
“This is not your 9-to-5 job at all,” she said. “It’s work and it’s hard, but I love it, love it, love it. And then opportunities like this, they are very rewarding.”