More Latinos, more African Americans, more women and more open representatives of the LGBT community. The composition of the US Congress as it begins its 118th term this week is more mixed than ever. And for the first time, Hispanic deputies exceed 10% of the total seats, in a new sign of the growing importance of the burgeoning Hispanic electorate in the US.
In the inaugural session of the House of Representatives this Tuesday, while the rounds of voting were taking place in which the Republican Kevin McCarthy tried again and again without success to be elected president of that assembly, an unprecedented number of legislators had Hispanic roots.
In this legislature, 47 representatives in the lower house identify themselves as Latino. A figure that represents almost 11% of all legislators. Still below the proportion represented by the Hispanic population in the US (19% of the total, or 62.1 million people) but a quota that had not been reached until now. It is foreseeable that the number will continue to grow as the proportion of Hispanic voters in the US electorate increases: in the last decade this community has expanded by 23%. According to data from the Pew Research Center, Hispanics represent 51% of the increase in the population in the United States.
“Invest in the Latino vote. Talk to Latino voters early on and have Latino and Latina candidates not just in Latino-majority districts. We have a lot of Latino members who won their respective elections, and not only in districts with a Latino majority,” insisted the president of the Hispanic caucus, Congressman Rubén Gallego, at a recent press conference with these new deputies.
Latino congressmen are as diverse as their community. Of the 47 representatives, 35 are Democrats, in an indication of the support that that party has traditionally had among the Spanish-speaking community. But the Republicans have beaten their own record in the last elections and will have twelve Latino deputies. An eloquent sample of the progress that the conservative party has been achieving among these voters in recent years.
They are generally young. His average age is 38 years, two decades less than that of the typical congressman in this legislature. The new batch tends to militate in the tougher wings of their respective parties. The Democrats support measures such as the increase in the minimum interprofessional wage or the creation of a path that allows the regularization of the close to eleven million undocumented immigrants who are estimated to reside within the US borders.
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The latter is a special priority for legislators like newly elected Delia Ramírez of Illinois, the daughter of immigrants who crossed the border illegally at the time and whose husband is a DACA recipient. This measure, approved during the term of Barack Obama, protects immigrants with irregular status brought to the United States as children and prevents their deportation.
They come from a wide range of states, and not always from areas where the Hispanic population is the majority. Among the districts to which they belong there are urban, suburban and rural areas. For the first time, Oregon and Washington have sent Hispanic representatives to the federal Congress. Juan Ciscomani will be the first Latino representative of the Republican Party for the state of Arizona. Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat, will be the first Latina to represent Colorado.
Their origins are also different. Rob Menéndez, a congressman from New York, is the son of Senator Bob Menéndez and will occupy the seat that launched his father into national politics. María Gluesenkamp Pérez, a Democrat of Mexican origin, gave the bell by prevailing in Oregon in a district with a long history of voting in favor of the Republicans. She owns an independent repair shop.
Ramírez’s Guatemalan mother crossed the Rio Grande River pregnant with future politics to reach the United States, where she chained together numerous minimum-wage jobs so her children could enjoy opportunities. Robert Garcia, the former mayor of Long Beach, California, came to this country from Peru at the age of five, and still vividly remembers the lines, bureaucracy and uncertainty of the process his family went through to obtain citizenship. García, 45 years old and from the most liberal Democratic wing, is the first congressman of immigrant and LGBT origin.
From the other side of the country, from Florida, comes the youngest congressman. Maxwell Alejandro Frost, of Afro-Cuban origin, 25 years old and for whom Spanish is his first language, is the first generation Z legislator in the US Congress. A legislator who during the electoral campaign prior to the November 8 elections drove Uber vehicles to pay bills and who, to cut expenses, has stayed at a friend’s apartment in Washington waiting for his delivery to arrive in February first pay as deputy.
Also in Florida, the veteran of the armed forces and Republican Anna Paulina Luna will be the first representative of Mexican origin sent by that state to the federal Congress. Luna, who declares himself to be radically anti-abortion, had the backing of former US President Donald Trump.
Also backed by Trump, a case apart among the new Latino legislators is Congressman George Santos. This son of Brazilian immigrants caused surprise by taking a seat in New York that had traditionally been held by Democrats.
But since then his star has lost much of its brilliance. She faces a barrage of investigations into her use of campaign funds and lies about her past, education and accomplishments. During the election campaign he declared himself a Jew and a descendant of Holocaust victims, when he is actually a Catholic. He boasted of a college degree and a successful career on Wall Street, both of which were non-existent. According to him, his mother died in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and several of his employees died in the shooting against an LGBT nightclub in Orlando (Florida) in 2016 that left 49 dead and 53 injured. Nothing was true.
In what should have been his day of glory, that of his inauguration as a congressman, Santos lived hours of bitterness. Trying to avoid the press in the halls of the Capitol, he came to a dead end corridor and was forced to pass among the reporters he wanted to avoid. In the plenary session of the House of Representatives in which the new president of the chamber was to be voted on, replacing the veteran Nancy Pelosi, nobody spoke to him. The screens showed him alone, looking at his phone sitting in one of the last rows of seats. And he was not even inaugurated: without reaching an agreement on the new president of the Chamber, the congressmen opted to suspend the session until the next day. The swearing-in ceremony of the new legislators had to wait.
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