WASHINGTON – It’s not easy to show up at the White House gates uninvited and score an audience with the president.
But Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham – wielding congressional clout and righteous indignation about President Donald Trump’s immigration policy – managed to pull it off on Tuesday.
The Albuquerque Democrat, who is chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, got social media buzzing Tuesday morning when word got out that although she wasn’t invited to a meeting with President Trump and congressional leaders to discuss immigration policy, she planned to show up anyway.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told Lujan Grisham on Sunday that she wanted her at the meeting, and Democratic leaders then asked the White House to add Lujan Grisham to the guest list.
The White House responded that the high-level gathering was already too crowded. Pelosi then encouraged Lujan Grisham to show up with the Democratic delegation anyway and force the White House to deny the leader of congressional Hispanics a seat at the table for an immigration discussion.
“They did the right thing and let her attend the meeting,” a spokesman for Lujan Grisham said.
The New Mexico congresswoman, who is running for governor in 2018, said in a phone interview afterward that she was among about 20 people at the table with Trump.
“They were very gracious once I was in,” Lujan Grisham said.
The congresswoman said she carried one objective into the meeting: to convince the president that he and Congress must reach agreement on a deal to give about 800,000 young immigrants – so-called “Dreamers” – who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents a chance to remain legally in the United States. In September, Trump announced he was phasing out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama-era policy that allowed them to remain legally. The program, known as DACA, expires March 5. Congress and the White House hope to strike a deal on the Dreamers as part of a spending package to keep government open beyond Jan. 19.
“For me, the most important thing to reiterate to the president and the White House was that we don’t have time on our side,” Lujan Grisham said. ” … We don’t have until March. We need to do this right now.”
Lujan Grisham said Trump seemed to get the message.
“The president said, ‘I think we can get this done by Jan. 19’ – and I’m quoting him – ‘You can keep this room if you want. Hell, I could be the mediator … and help you get it done,’ ” she said. “… I think that was an incredibly valuable place to get to with the White House and I’m gratified they see the urgency.”