By Karen Lee Ziner
When President Trump addresses a joint session of Congress for the first time on Feb. 28, Dr. Ehsun Mirza of East Greenwich will be Congressman James Langevin’s honored guest.
But not just any guest.
Mirza, a critical-care doctor at Kent Hospital who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan, has been a prominent voice in Rhode Island’s Muslim community. He is on Langevin’s Diversity Advisory Committee and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s Muslim-American Advisory Board.
Langevin has invited Mirza as part of a Democratic effort to show support for “marginalized communities” by inviting guests who have — despite discrimination — made positive impacts.
Joining the Langevin-led effort are Representatives David Cicilline (RI), Jared Polis (CO), Judy Chu (CA), Cedric Richmond (LA), and Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM). Cicilline expects to name his guest later this week or next, a spokesman said.
Langevin said, “As a candidate for President, Donald Trump mocked a reporter with a disability and made statements that were offensive to so many Americans, including women, members of the LGBTQ community, people of color, immigrants, and people of differing faiths. Once he assumed the highest office in the land, his first order of business was to close our borders to immigrants and refugees, particularly those from Muslim-majority countries.”
Langevin said diversity “makes our nation stronger, and I believe it should be celebrated. I am proud to call Dr. Mirza a friend, and I hope that his presence on February 28th will serve as a reminder to the President that true Americans come in every color and creed — and not all are born here.”
Mirza said Monday, “This is so historic. I don’t have words to describe that I will be part of history. It is truly an honor to be there regardless of what my position is.”
A U.S. citizen, Mirza said he and his family and friends in the Muslim community “are here trying their best to make a living and make this nation strong. We are dedicated Americans. Regardless of whether we are Muslims, conservatives, liberals or however we identify ourselves — there is one thing common in all of us; that is, we are loyal to this nation.”
Trump’s “dehumanizing rhetoric” hurts, Mirza said. “So that’s why I’m going. Maybe Mr. Trump will see me. Maybe he will shake my hand. Maybe he will change his mind. Maybe.”
Cicilline, who co-chairs the LGBT Equality Caucus, said Trump’s campaign for president, his Cabinet picks and first actions in office have left millions of Americans “fearful of what his administration will mean for their families and their communities.”
Cicilline added, “Our nation’s strength lies in its ability to accept and celebrate the differences among us, and it is my hope that our guests remind the President that, no matter what, we will always stay true to our fundamental values.”