Angel and Jacqueline Rayos-Garcia stood side by side outside the US Capitol on Tuesday.
The teenagers plan to be inside, in the same room as the president they blame for their mother’s deportation.
Two Arizona lawmakers invited them to be their guests when President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress.
The teens, who were both born in the United States, took their first-ever flight to be here.
It’s been less than three weeks since their mother, 35-year-old Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, was apprehended in Phoenix and deported back to Mexico.
Tuesday is her birthday.
“I’m sad that I don’t get to spend the day with her,” 14-year-old Jacqueline said, “but I’m proud to be here.”
Her 16-year-old brother, Angel, agreed.
“We’re the face of all those people who want to speak out, but can’t,” he said. “So we’re here, speaking for them.”
Did Trump’s policies spur deportation?
Garcia de Rayos’ case has drawn widespread attention. Protesters in Phoenix attempted to stop her deportation earlier this month by trying to block an Immigration and Customs Enforcement van.
Her lawyer argues that her deportation was a direct result of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, which prioritizes the deportation of undocumented immigrants who are convicted or charged with crimes.
Garcia de Rayos came illegally to the United States in the mid-1990s with her parents when she was 14. She was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid and convicted one year later of felony criminal impersonation.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have said there was nothing special about Garcia de Rayos’ case. She committed a crime, was placed under a deportation order and her time had come, they said.
She became the subject of a removal order in 2013 and was placed under court-ordered supervision. For years, she reported regularly to a local ICE office — until this month, when officials took her into custody and deported her.
Now she’s in her hometown of Acámbaro, in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.
On Tuesday night, she’s planning to watch Trump’s speech from there. But she’ll be focused on the audience, hoping to catch a glimpse of her children.
“I am very proud of them, because I know they are fighting so that one day we can reunite,” she said.
Garcia told CNN en Español that she’ll also be listening closely to what the President has to say.
“Whatever he says is the future for people like me,” she said.
Congressman: Their fight is our fight
Rep. Raul Grijalva and Rep. Ruben Gallego, both Democrats from Arizona, said they are honored to have Garcia de Rayos’ children join them at the Capitol for Trump’s speech.
The two teens are courageous for speaking out, Grijalva said in a statement last week.
“Their example is a bright light of hope for immigrant communities across this country who are fearful that Trump will come for them next,” he said. “Their fight is all of our fight, and I am proud to stand side by side with them in opposition to these atrocious policies.”
Trump insists his executive orders on immigration are aimed at people who have committed violent crimes.
“We’re getting some very, very bad players out of this country. Drug lords, gang members, heads of gangs, killers, murderers — we’re getting them out,” he said recently.
Taking in their first flight
Weeks ago, Jacqueline cried before television cameras as she described what it was like to see her mother’s face looking out at her through the ICE van window.
“No one should ever go through the pain of having their mom taken away from them,” she said, “or the pain of packing her suitcase.”
On Monday night, she and her brother both packed light. Each of them carried only a small backpack as they headed to the Phoenix airport for their first airplane flight.
Their father made signs of the cross over them before they went into the security line.
That’s something the teens say their mother used to do every night. Now, it’s become their father’s role to bless them before bedtime.
Angel was impressed by the security scanners at the airport. On the plane, Jacqueline sat in the window seat, gazing at the landscape below.
She wished her mother were still by her side, taking in the scenery.
“It’s not fair that she’s not with us,” Jacqueline said.