Press Releases

Sen. Warner Invites Immigration Reform Advocate to State of the Union

College student Ambar Pinto of Fairfax attends NVCC

Feb 06 2013

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) announced today that his special guest at next Tuesday’s Presidential State of the Union address to a Joint Session of Congress will be immigration reform advocate Ambar Pinto, 19, of Fairfax County. Pinto, an undocumented immigrant from Bolivia, arrived in Virginia seven years ago, along with her parents and younger brother. She graduated from Fairfax High School, and currently is a sophomore majoring in international business at Northern Virginia Community College.

“Ms. Pinto’s dreams and her drive represent the promise of so many young people across Virginia,” Sen. Warner said. “Her story reminds each of us that our commonwealth will become stronger when we create a responsible pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants and their children.”

Sen. Warner said he was moved to invite Pinto to the State of Union speech after reading her story in the Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch last week.  “I was moved by her obvious love for this country, and by her willingness to work extra hard to have a shot at achieving the American dream,” Sen. Warner said.

Paying $2,500 per semester at community college, Pinto had advocated for passage of the 2013 Virginia DREAM Act, a General Assembly proposal that would have allowed eligible undocumented immigrants to pay lower in-state tuition rates. Thus far, the proposal has been sidetracked during this year’s session of the General Assembly.

In 2003, then-Gov. Warner pursued a similar effort through amendments to legislation banning lower in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. Gov. Warner’s amendments would have authorized in-state tuition for students who, among other specific requirements, had arrived here as children, resided in Virginia for at least five years and paid taxes for at least three years, graduated from a Virginia high school, and who could demonstrate they were taking steps to legalize their immigration status.  After the legislature rejected these amendments, Gov. Warner vetoed the legislation.

Pinto says she is excited to have an opportunity to attend next week’s State of the Union address as the special guest of Sen. Warner. “This is such a big honor,” Pinto tells the Times-Dispatch. “I am very involved in my community, but I never expected to get something back in return. It will be an unforgettable experience,” Pinto said.

Since joining the Senate in 2009, Sen. Warner has established a tradition of extending similar opportunities for notable Virginians. His guest at last month's presidential inauguration was Sara Jane Arnett of Newport News, an Army spouse and a leading advocate for Virginia's military families. Similarly, former Hopewell Mayor and civil rights leader Rev. Curtis Harris, Sr. was Sen. Warner's invited guest at the 2012 State of the Union address.  

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