The new Congressional class has been sworn in and Latinos can celebrate some historical firsts. There are eight new Latino politicians walking the halls of Congress and among them are the first Latina Senator ever elected and the first Dominican-American Congressman ever elected. Here are the eight new Latinos ready to work for their constituents.
1. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.
Representative Darren Soto made history by becoming the first ever Puerto Rican elected to Congress from the state of Florida. Soto is representing Florida’s 9th district, which covers parts of southern Orlando, Kissimmee, and Winter Haven, and has a large Puerto Rican population. According to NBC News, the demographic for Florida’s 9th Congressional district is about 40 percent Puerto Rican.
“I talked about the things we care about,” Soto told FOX News. “The whole Central Florida community wants to see recovery in Puerto Rico. They are a strong trading partner with us. We believe that increased prosperity in Puerto Rico will increase prosperity in Central Florida.”
2. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-NY
Representative Adriano Espaillat has made history by being the first elected Dominican-American to Congress in U.S. history. Espaillat is also the first formerly undocumented immigrant to ever be elected to the U.S. Congress. Espaillat will be representing New York’s 13th Congressional district, which is a very diverse district covering Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood.
“I will become the first Dominican-American to ever serve in the U.S. Congress,” Espaillat told that crowd at the Democratic National Convention. “Perhaps even just as important, I will be the first member of Congress who was once undocumented as an immigrant. You take that, Donald Trump!”
3. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto has the honor of being the first Latina ever elected to the Senate. During her campaign, Cortez Masto spoke passionately about immigration reform and standing up for working families.
“To me, it’s having a seat at the table,” Cortez Masto told NPR about being the first Latina Senator after her win. “It’s being a voice and having a different perspective and bringing that voice to the table to fight for issues that I know are important for not just people in Nevada but across this country. It is young women, young girls, that now know and see somebody in a position that they think that they can achieve.”
4. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas
Representative Vicente Gonzalez was elected to represent the 15th district of Texas, which stretches from Seguin to McAllen. Gonzalez beat Republican Tim Westley for the Texas Congressional seat 57.3 percent to 37.7 percent. For Gonzalez, the greatest issue is making sure college and higher education are affordable and attainable for all.
“We need to find a way to let them go to school and not come out with the burden of debt,” Gonzalez said, according to RGVProud. And I have a plan for the first two years of college to be debt-free, and you get a great return nationally, by having this brain power that we create. So I encourage that. And we need to find ways to have head start and Pre-K programs fully funded.”
5. Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif.
Representative Nanette Barragán won a very hard fought election against Isadore Hall who had the backing of Governor Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In the end, Barragan beat Hall by earning 51.2 percent of the vote. Barragán is representing the 44th congressional district of California which includes Compton, Carson and San Pedro.
“I think the first thing I feel is pride that, once again, I beat the odds,” Barragán told Daily Breeze, referencing her upbringing by undocumented immigrant parents. “That’s been my life story. It’s even more meaningful to be able to go serve in Congress at a time when we have a new president coming who doesn’t think immigrants provide value.”
6. Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif.
Representative Lou Correa will be representing California’s 46th Congressional district, which includes Santa Ana and Anaheim. Correa is going to Congress prepared to fight against Trump’s plans for mass deportations. But, more importantly, Correa wants his story to be one of hope to anyone in the nation that is growing up in a lower socio-economic standing to know that nothing is out of reach.
“To me, it’s a testament to the greatness of this country, where a person that grew up in this neighborhood can actually make it to the U.S. Congress,” Correa told the LA Times about the Penguin City barrio, the neighborhood in which he grew up.
7. Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev.
Representative Ruben Kihuen is a Mexican immigrant born in Guadalajara who moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old. Kihuen is another first as he takes to Congress as the first Latino elected in the state of Nevada for such a position. He will be representing Nevada’s 4th Congressional district, which covers most of southern Nevada.
“It’s my job to continue to fight to make life better for working families and people like my parents so that everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream,” Kihuen said in a statement, according to News 3 Las Vegas.
8. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif.
Representative Salud Carbajal will be representing California’s 24th Congressional district, which includes Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. Since the beginning of the legislative session, Carbajal has already voiced his belief in political accountability by voting against the gutting the Independent Ethics Committee.
“As this session of Congress is called to order, I’m incredibly honored and humbled to have the opportunity to represent the hardworking families of California’s 24th Congressional District,” Carbajal said in a statement, according to Noozhawk. “This Congress brings with it an unprecedented set of challenges, but I am committed to providing increased economic opportunity and a better future for communities across the Central Coast.”