7 families who lost loved ones that Trump also should have invited to his joint address.

As controversy over Donald Trump's immigration executive order continues to swirl, in his first-ever joint speech to Congress, he addressed his personal guests Jamiel Shaw, Jessica Davis, and Susan Oliver — whose family members were killed by undocumented immigrants.

Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/Getty Images

"To any in Congress who do not believe we should enforce our laws, I would ask you this one question," the president said. "What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?"


It's impossible not to feel for those who have lost loved ones to senseless acts of violence.

The urge to make meaning and place blame in the wake of a tragedy is powerful. But for the president to exploit these families by grouping them together and focusing on the perpetrators' immigration status sends a dishonest and destructive message: that undocumented immigrants are inherently violent, criminal, and not to be trusted.

We can litigate this until we're blue in the face, but it won't change the fact that the president's message is not just damaging — it's wrong. Studies show that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S. citizens, and, more anecdotally, that the same goes for undocumented immigrants.

Not only are immigrant families touched by violent crime just as often as the families of those who are born in the U.S. — many are specifically targeted because of their immigrant status.

Srinivas Kuchibholta. Photo by Mahesh Kumar A/AP.

If President Trump truly wanted to use his first speech to Congress to honor families whose loved ones have died senselessly and tragically, he could have also invited...

1. The family of Srinivas Kuchibholta, an engineer from India who was murdered at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, last week.

His assailant allegedly yelled, "Get out of my country" before fatally shooting him.

Srinivas Kuchibholta's wife Sunayana Dumala. Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP.

2. The family of Luis Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was beaten to death by four high school football players in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, in 2008.

One purportedly told the 25-year-old factory and field worker to, "Tell your Mexican friends to get the fuck out of Shenandoah."

Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Photo by Rick Smith/AP.

3. The family of Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean graduate student, who was murdered by a white supremacist while pursuing a computer science degree at Indiana University.

Won-Joon Yoon's parents. Photo by Michael Conroy/AP.

4. The family and friends of Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, a Saudi student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, who died from his injuries after being attacked during a night out in October.

Students at UW-Stout hold a vigil for Hussain Saeed Alnahdi. Photo by Marisa Wojcik/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP.

5. The family of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant killed by teenagers in Patchogue, New York, in 2008, as part of a game called "beaner-hopping," where the group would hunt and beat local Latino men.

Photo by Craig Ruttle/AP.

6. The family of Arlindo Goncalves, a 72-year-old, homeless, Cape Verdean immigrant, who was killed by a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, in 2009.

Anabela Fernandes, niece of Arlindo Goncalves. Photo by Tim Correira/The Enterprise.

7. The family of Joseph Ileto, a postal worker originally from the Philippines, who was killed by a white supremacist during a shooting spree at a Jewish Community Center.

Photo by Randi Lynn Beach/AP.

For President Trump to highlight the few heinous crimes committed by a vanishingly small number of undocumented immigrants while ignoring the violence committed against the broader immigrant community is shameful.

"As we speak tonight, we are removing gang members, drug dealers, and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our very innocent citizens," President Trump declared. He went on to propose a new office — Victims of Immigration Crime Enforcement — to serve victims of violent crime committed by undocumented immigrants.

But immigrants, like the rest of us, aren't, for the most part, "gang members, drug dealers, and criminals" — they're just people. And just like U.S.-born citizens, a tiny fraction of them do horrible, unforgivable thingsthough, it bears repeating, at a lower rate than those who were born here.

Most immigrants go shopping, play basketball, go to work, fall in love, get bored, drink whisky, watch TV, hug their kids, and generally behave the way most normal human beings behave.

Relatives of Srinivas Kuchibholta attend his funeral. Photo by Mahesh Kumar A/AP.

Immigrants who commit deadly crimes don't represent the vast majority who just want to live their lives and raise their families in peace and security, and not be hassled — or worse — for it.

It's perfectly reasonable to argue for stronger enforcement of immigration laws — in a humane, fact-based manner.

It's not OK to implicitly label all undocumented immigrants "killers" and "thugs."

If President Trump truly wants to make America great, he can start by acknowledging that whether or not we were born here or came here with the right paperwork in order, we're all human. And we all deserve to feel safe.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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As it turns out, underdog stories can have cats as the main character.

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