TURNOUT: Ana Sol-Gutiérrez Highlights Importance of Immigrant Rights, Latino Electorate
Latin Post presents "Turnout," a series featuring leading politicians, government leaders and advocacy groups discussing and debating the most important issues facing the Latino voting bloc.
Ana Sol-Gutiérrez is the first Hispanic elected to Maryland's legislature and has the chance to become the first Salvadoreña in Congress, where she wants to continue representing the voiceless and vulnerable.
Sol-Gutiérrez is presently a state legislator for Maryland's 18th legislative district, comprising of southern Montgomery County, which she described as wealthy but very diverse -- not only economically but in both race and ethnicity as it has the largest number of Latinos, born and naturalized. Sol-Gutiérrez also acknowledged the district has the largest number of undocumented immigrants, many of whom fled civil war, particularly from El Salvador.
The Salvadoreña is campaigning for Maryland's 8th Congressional District, currently held by Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who will not seek another House term since he's pursuing a Senate bid to succeed Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Sol-Gutiérrez does encounter crowded competition from within her Democratic Party as there are six other names challenging her for the House seat.
"What sets me apart is that I am not your traditional, conventional candidate," said Sol-Gutiérrez. "I am a unique voice in this race and I've been elected now six times by my constituents to be a voice for the many, to represent especially those who are more vulnerable who have no voice. But what I am now is the first Latina -- the first Salvadoreña -- to be going to Congress to represent a new changing demographic."
"I have the credentials. There are people running that have never, ever run for office. They have never cast a single vote, they have never written a single bill, they've never advocated, they've never seen defeat and success in what is our work to be done in Congress and that's to make fair and just laws," said Sol-Gutiérrez, adding that none of her challengers have experience, progressive ideals and real desire.
One of the issues Sol-Gutiérrez has championed is immigrant rights. At the state level, Sol-Gutiérrez said she has done everything possible to improve the quality of life for the immigrant community and her constituents, ranging from passing marriage equality, the DREAM Act, granting immigrants with driver's licenses and passing strict gun laws. She, however, said that Congress is "uniquely the place" where immigration can be addressed.
Latin Post spoke to Sol-Gutiérrez following an immigration-rights protest outside the White House on Jan. 15, calling for the end of the Obama administration's recent deportation raids.
"I am outraged by what is currently happening in the Obama administration. Outraged as a human being, seeing what is being done to families, innocent children and their mothers. I'm outraged also as a legislator and as a public official because this is public policy that is totally flawed. We have never used raids to enforce laws. Raids are not necessary and yet we see a president condoning the use of raids by the Department of Homeland Security. He, alone, has the power to make a phone call to say 'stop the raids.'"
Sol-Gutiérrez said the deportation raids are terrorizing communities and causing fear. She added that the DHS' claim that the immigrants in question are those who have exhausted their rights in immigration court is untrue. She said there is proof these immigrants' rights were violated, which includes the right to due process. Sol-Gutiérrez said Obama can grant Temporary Protective Status (TPS), which has been granted to Hondurans and Salvadorians based on previous situations.
"What could be more of a cause than the poverty, the violence [and] the fear that these families are seeing and are coming to seek refuge. They're not violating the borders," Sol-Gutiérrez said, adding that President Barack Obama can grant TPS "with one pen ... until we can change the hell that they are living in their own home countries."
Engaging the Latino Electorate
In regards to paving the way for fellow Salvadorians and Latinos to become politically active, Sol-Gutiérrez said she wants to help open the door and to be a role model for all, including the youth, to represent the Latino community for the long run.
"I don't want to be a 'first,' I want to be one of many. That is what I aspire to do. And if this is the first race that empowers our community to get out and vote -- if we are not voting, we're never going to make it but our numbers are already there, to ensure that we always have not one representative but many representatives speaking for our community and for our interests," Sol-Gutiérrez said. "That's my dream, and that's why I'm running."
Sol-Gutiérrez said change can happen with a vote. "Don't sit back. Don't say 'my vote doesn't count.' Your vote is the most important thing that you have because it's your voice to make change, and if you really care about our future in our communities and the future of our children, you get out there [and] you vote ... and that you're supporting the candidates that are going to make that positive change for our communities and for our future."
For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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