What are specific ways you have helped people of color and/or the immigrant community?
As one of the most diverse districts in the country, our 9th Congressional District is the only majority-minority district in the state. I make it a point to engage with the local community by being as present as possible at community events and supporting immigrants and people of color by listening to what their specific needs are and then advocating for those needs. I have worked closely with various communities to address the specific issues they face, including with the Somali community to ensure that they are able to send remittances back home, the small business immigrant community in SeaTac that is being displaced, and with the National Association of Minority Contractors to ensure they maintain a strong presence in the state and, as called for by law, a prominent place in the makeup of our state’s contractor base. Additionally, I have consistently supported immigrants and people of color in running for office. I have supported amazing candidates like Zak Idan in Tukwila, Janice Zahn in Bellevue, Satwinder Kaur in Kent, Jesse Johnson in Federal Way and many more. I believe it is critical that we elect more people of color and immigrants to better represent our local communities.
What is the biggest legislative priority for communities of color and the immigrant community in the next few years? Do you think there are legislative concerns that are unique to these communities?
There are many major legislative priorities that are of key importance to communities of color and the immigrant community in the coming years. Education and income inequality are areas that we must address for all people, including people of color. In order to address the wealth gap, we must stop and prevent racism. I support legislation that would stop employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history, as people of color are disproportionately incarcerated. Workers must make a living wage of $15/hr, and more must be spent on quality education for all. Everything possible must be done to prevent Americans from crippling debt by enacting College for All and Medicare for All to prevent financial distress caused by pursuing medical and educational needs. Additionally, loan policies should not be allowed to be predatory, particularly high interest rates and other bank-friendly policies must be prevented.
Additionally, I am a strong advocate of investing in our education system through policies that ensure that the achievement gap between people of color and others is closed and education is more equitable for all students. First, higher education must be accessible and affordable. Currently, I am a cosponsor of the College for All Act, which would provide free community college for all students and eliminate tuition at public colleges and universities for families earning less than $125,000 a year. Additionally, I have voted for legislation to increase the availability of federal student loans for college and to create the Helping Others Pursue Education Scholarship, which provides a tax credit for families who have children in college.
I am a strong supporter of job training and the role that career and technical education plays in preparing students to enter the workforce. I am an original cosponsor of the Youth Access to American Jobs Act, which would create partnerships between high schools, community colleges, and state apprenticeships to help students access good-paying jobs. I advocated for strong funding for the Carl. D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides funding to secondary, postsecondary, and adult technical education programs. I also supported passage of H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which would reauthorize the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act through 2023. I believe that supporting policies like these will work to close the achievement gap and ensure that educational and career opportunities are available and accessible to all.
Further, our broken immigration system must be fixed, and I’m committed to keeping families together and establishing a pathway to citizenship. It’s vital that we comprehensively address immigration reform to ensure that immigrants don’t live in fear. Increased levels of deportation have had a devastating impact on our community and I’m working to take action to provide greater and more consistent prosecutorial discretion. I have introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, H.R. 3923, to limit the use of detention, and ensure due process is provided and people in detention facilities are treated humanely. I’ve introduced legislation to dismantle ICE, and have cosponsored the American HOPE Act and the Dream Act.
What are specific ways that the office you seek would affect communities of color and the immigrant community, if you are elected?
We must ensure equal opportunity for all. Eradicating the racism that persists through our society and institutions is critical to ensuring all individuals have an equal opportunity in this country. Right now, that is simply not the case. I’m supportive of restoring the Voting Rights Act and protecting anti-discrimination laws in accessing housing and credit. We must also completely overhaul our criminal justice system to make it equitable and to ensure that people of color are not unjustly targeted by the police or unjustly treated by our justice system. I support legislation that would reduce over prosecution for minor offenses, prohibit law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling, and end private prisons. I will continue to reach out to the diverse communities in the 9th district, and hope they will continue to engage with me and my staff, to ensure I understand the challenges facing people of color in order to advocate for solutions to end racism and achieve equality for all.