Know Your Latina Congresswomen, Part Three: The Border Warriors

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Hispanic Heritage Month brings to the forefront conversations about the southern US border, which has been both an entryway and a barrier against the flow of cultures, languages, and people. 

While many of the Latinas currently in office have been critical of US border policy under the Trump administration, these Congresswomen either live in borderland districts or have been prominent figures in the conversations about border legislation.  

Rep. Veronica Escobar

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Along with Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas’s 29th Congressional District, Rep. Veronica Escobar became the first Latina to be elected into a seat in Congress in the state of Texas during the 2018 midterms. Her 16th District encompasses El Paso, butting right up against the US-Mexico border. An El Paso native, she served her community for years as a County Commissioner and County Judge before winning the seat previously occupied by Beto O’Rourke.

Being situated in El Paso means that Escobar has been vocal from the beginning of her term about her opposition to the Trump administration’s immigration and border policies. Speaking to Frontline last month, she discussed how the El Paso shooting has informed how she plans to move forward as a Congresswoman. “It’s my obligation, especially as an elected leader, to fight for change and accountability, and to ensure that this is not just a headline. That those 22 lives and the dozens of people injured are not just a headline,” she said, expressing her intention to protect other communities across the country as well. “[Until] the president becomes the moral leader that we need or until we have a new president, I’m very concerned about the increase in hate crimes and domestic terrorism.” 

To this month’s Democratic debate, she brought victims of the shooting as her guests. Expect to see her become a powerful advocate for gun safety in the months to come, and continue to push back against border policies that might hinder El Paso’s cultural and economic trade with Ciudad Juarez. 

Rep. Nanette Barragán

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Second-generation Mexican-American Nanette Barragán is serving her second term of office representing the southern reaches of Los Angeles in California’s 44th Congressional District. 

Rep. Barragán made waves in the headlines after laying into former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen for the Trump administration’s border policies. “Let me tell you, Madam Secretary, you’re either lying to this committee or you don’t know what’s happening at the border,” she insisted, after Sec. Nielsen denied that asylum seekers were being turned away at ports of entry. More recently, Barragán has been an advocate for restructuring the Department of Homeland Security. “[There] does need to be a serious look at how do we restructure this, how do we break this up, how do we make it so that it’s not so big and unmanageable,” she told Democracy Now! this summer.

Along with Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, Barragán is also one of two women playing on the Democratic Congressional Baseball Team, something that has been used to highlight her to fight for equal pay for women within the sports world and in the country at large. “I am so proud of women’s soccer and what they’re doing right now to be the inspiration for young girls across this country,” she told Democracy Now! “We are going to continue the fight in Congress for equal pay.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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With over 5 million followers on Twitter, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t need much of an introduction to any of us here. (By the way, in case you were mistaken, Ocasio-Cortez is not the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected into Congress — that honor goes to Rep. Nydia Velasquez, who represents the 7th Congressional District in New York City.)

While Ocasio-Cortez obviously does not represent a district on the US-Mexico border, she’s been a fierce critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Earlier this summer, AOC visited Texas detention centers in El Paso and Clint, sharing her observations with the public over the inhumanity that she witnessed, bringing the conversation to a forum where not everyone follows politics and current events so closely. Despite a year jam-packed with misinformation, racist-sexist hatred, and threats directed toward Ocasio-Cortez, she’s maintained her commitment to speaking out against injustice.