Where our children attend school has a defining impact on their futures, and the future of our communities. Where not done carefully and deliberately, school districting has increased the racial, economic, and social segregation of our elementary, middle, and high schools. Stronger federal laws must be passed and implemented to further integrate our school systems so that our communities share resources, advocate for each other, and learn together.
Working class families often struggle to pay for the cost of Pre-K, which means lower-income children are limited in receiving early childhood education while their parents try to balance work with the exorbitant costs of child care. We need to invest in universal Pre-K so that children can get the best education and parents do not make difficult choices between putting food on the table and covering the cost of child care. The quality of a child’s education should never be determined by their family income.
College debt is dragging post secondary and graduate students into cycles of economic stress and poverty. The college debt crisis increases unjust wealth gaps and particularly affects students who are low-income, people of color, and first generation. According to Experian, the average student loan debt in 2019 is $35,359. From personal experience, student debt weighs on every decision in one's life, from where one lives to the job one accepts. We need to pass student debt relief legislation that focuses particularly on eliminating the debt for low-income individuals and families. We also need to pass legislation that will implement free public college programs that will cover both tuition and housing.
Our current education system is contributing to societal polarization. In school, students rarely learn about the history of institutional racism in the U.S. According to a study by Teaching Tolerance, only 8% of high school seniors could identify that the preservation of slavery was the reason that the southern states seceded from the Union before the Civil War. If we do not collectively understand the facts of our shared history, we will not be able to confront racism together. Our unity in this effort is important because the oppressive ideologies of xenophobia and white supremacy have caused and continue to cause racial injustice and further divisiveness. Therefore, we must teach ethnic studies, the history of racism, and social justice movements in our classrooms. Only then can we shift both culturally and socially toward a national dialogue that values justice, respect, and human rights.
Virginia lags behind with increases in school funding. The state hardly ever gives enough, so the federal government needs to step in to fill the gap.
Indigenous communities have long warned U.S. society about the dangers of polluting and degrading the natural world. As it stands, governmental and corporate destruction of the environment disproportionately affects those who already face societal marginalization. Politicians must acknowledge that racism, classism, and climate change are all linked together. We have seen countless examples of this, from the poisoning of Black communities in Flint, to the criminalization of indigenous groups in Standing Rock, to historic flooding where People of Color have a harder time receiving assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). To combat these intersectional forms of oppression, we need leaders who are willing to pass ambitious legislation that prepares our society for a better future.
I fully support the Green New Deal, which assures that as we are creating a new society, nourishing the natural world, and protecting ourselves from the worst impacts of climate change (global temperatures rising over 1.5 degrees Celsius). I support ending federal subsidization of the fossil fuel industry. I support getting corporate money out of politics so that industries that pollute our world and their representatives cannot buy political influence to stop necessary pro-environmental policies.
When it comes to environmental justice, incremental change is unethical and unjust. We are at the brink of an international crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns us that increasing global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius will cause droughts, food insecurity, and increased levels of poverty all over the world, particularly in places that currently face these issues. Therefore, we need leaders willing to work cooperatively on an international scale to learn from other countries and create multilateral plans for a better future focused on environmental justice.
I know firsthand how the changing environment affects people who are just barely making ends meet. To build a more environmentally just society, we need to listen to the voices of those who have the most to lose in the ever changing climate: indigenous communities, People of Color, those living in poverty, and living in areas that are at the forefront of environmental disaster. I will be a strong voice and advocate for environmental justice.
Systemic racism against Brown and Black people has devastated our country since its inception. Daily, People of Color confront societal oppression for their skin color, names, native language, and a host of other factors tied to racial identity. In essence, racism impacts the social, political, economic, and emotional lives of People of Color. To combat racism and white supremacy, there must be a cultural shift where our society collectively begins to recognize that Black Lives Matter, the need to respect indigenous rights, and the need to build an equitable country where our voices as People of Color bring about tangible change.
To create these societal shifts, we need to target core inequities. The Economic Policy Institute has shown that the median wealth of Black families is twelve times less than that of white families. As a direct result of the racial discrimination Black families cotinuously face disparities in to housing, income distribution, healthcare, education, and other factors while white families consistently obtain societal privileges related to these wealth indicators. Though the median household income is relatively high in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, there are huge racial wealth gaps that manifest in inequitable access to resources. The median household income for non-Latinx white people in the district is $120,000, which is around $15,000 more than the district in general. Every community of color in the district has a lower median household income. Self-identifying Asian and Asian-American households’ median income is approximately $16,000 less than white households, Black households earn about $35,000 less, and Latinx households make about $44,000 less, to highlight a few.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, Fairfax County has the highest cost of living in all of Virginia. Prince William County has the sixth highest. The Fairfax County NAACP has shown that the county is currently short 30,000 affordable housing units and around “fifty percent of the county’s African American community are currently categorized as housing insecure”. In VA -11, gentrification is increasing the cost of living and exacerbating income inequity, particularly for communities of color. As your representative, I will listen to the voices of People of Color and fight for equitable policies such as:
- Increasing affordable housing and instituting stricter federal regulations barring housing, interest rate, and mortgage discrimination;
- Supporting unions and a $15 per hour minimum wage;
- Expanding funding for HBCUs and MSIs;
- Standing against big money in politics, which consistently builds up the white wealthy class at the expense of working People of Color;
- Working with others, such as the NAACP, Urban League, National Action Network, Black Lives Matter, to investigate the best ways to pay reparations for slavery and systemic racism; and
- Unifying the voices of my constituents of color to inform progressive policies that combat racism.
As it stands, people living in poverty, particularly People of Color and low-income individuals, face the largest barriers to accessing reproductive care. In Virginia, Medicaid only covers abortion procedures in extreme cases, which means that every year thousands of low-income people are left on their own to come up with hundreds of dollars in order to access reproductive care.
The Trump administration's rolling back of Title X has caused more people to lose access to contraceptives, which means that the need for abortion care will rise at the same time that the right to choose is under threat. As your representative, I will work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, the Global Gag Rule, and pass a law to codify Roe v. Wade.
I will fight for Medicare for All to include complete access to reproductive health care, so that everyone has access to affordable abortion procedures. For those living in areas with limited access to abortion care, I will fight to include coverage of transportation costs within Medicare for All to help people get to their procedures.
Currently, Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) actively work to misguide the public about information relating to abortion and contraceptive care. Even though many CPCs do not require medical licenses to operate, they freely share medical advice and try to appear like medical professionals in order to deceive patients. CPCs tend to target low-income communities of color in order to spread misinformation about reproductive care. Currently, many pregnant people use CPC services to receive free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, and baby products, I will advocate to make these essentials affordable and accessible. I will fight for legislation that will force CPCs without medical licenses to disclose to patients that they are not medical professionals and cannot provide medical advice. I will fight for legislation that will require state governments to only give medically accurate information to patients before abortion procedures.
Some states go further to limit abortion access by instituting Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) Laws that place an undue burden on abortion facilities to meet governmental regulations that do not improve the quality of their medical care. The purpose of these laws is to place so many burdens on clinics and their patients that the state forces clinics to close. The Supreme Court recently found these types of laws to be unconstitutional, but the new conservative majority court will hear a nearly identical TRAP Law case in 2020. We need leaders who will pass legislation that federally eliminates TRAP Laws because they are unconstitutional in that they place an undue burden (as defined by the Supreme Court) on accessing abortion care.
Immigrants are vital members of our communities. We work some of the toughest jobs while contributing our values, perspectives, and cultures to the social fabric of the U.S. We are also a diverse group of people, with different experiences and priorities. To address the many needs of various immigrant communities, we need to take a variety of steps to improve life for immigrants.
We need to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which terrorizes communities, bends laws to its benefit, plants seeds of distrust between immigrant communities and the government, and tears families apart. We need to decriminalize crossing the border, so no one can ever be thrown in a cage, separated from their family, or detained indefinitely on the border again.
Private companies have no place in our immigration system, because no one should make a profit off locking up families and children. Moreover, we must expand our points of entry and immigration courts to ensure immigrants obtain their asylum quickly rather than waiting years for courts to render decisions. Moreover, there must be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people living in the U.S. so that people do not live in fear of deportation. We must also work to keep families together through expanding access to family visas so that siblings, parents, and children are never separated. As the richest nation in the world, we need to be a leader in addressing the international refugee crisis by accepting more refugees into the U.S.
Immigrants are capable of leading and speaking out on issues that affect their community. As your representative, I will work to center the immigrant voice to ensure that we receive respect throughout the political system.
There is an epidemic of violence against transgender people, particularly Black transgender women. These acts of violence are examples of the intersectionality of systems of oppression. Black transgender people confront societal marginalization because of their race and gender identity. It is unacceptable that while LGBTQ+ people face everything from microaggressions to murder, there are no federal laws to grant them civil rights. I fully support the Equality Act, which federally protects the rights of LGBT people. However, this act alone is not enough to guarantee that LGBTQ+ people gain full membership in U.S. society.
To combat violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, particularly Black transgender women, we need to create a new federal department which will focus on combatting domestic terrorism and hate crimes. The rise of white supremacy and other hate groups coincide with a rise in violence against groups who face societal marginalization. The government needs to stand up to fight for the rights of those who are facing murder and discrimination because of ideologies of hate. Creating a new federal organization to combat this violence would reduce the number of hate crimes, lower the impact of domestic terrorism, and provide more support for victims and survivors.
Transgender people and LGBTQ+ youth in general also face higher rates of self harm, attempted suicide, and homelessness. To best support these communities, we need to pass a comprehensive version of Medicare for All that covers hormonal therapy, surgical transition, and other forms of transgender related healthcare. We also need to expand access to affordable housing, long-term transitional shelters, and social support groups so that LGBTQ+ youth, particularly youth of color, don't face cycles of poverty, marginalization, and criminalization.
We need a leader who has a bold vision about how to center the experiences of LGBTQ+ people when creating public policy. We need a leader who will lead a cultural shift to bring about a more equitable world. As your representative, I will bring LGBTQ+ perspectives into the legislation that I propose and pass.
Small reforms of the policing and criminal justice system are not enough to alleviate the pain that these oppressive systems cause to communities of color, particularly Black communities. Police violence against Black people stretches far back to the creation of the police force in the U.S. We need courageous leaders to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement to call for fundamental changes to the police system in the U.S. In hiring, training, and evaluation of the police force, strong regulations must be implemented to train officers on implicit bias, fire racist officers, and prioritize community policing and de-escalation techniques. Moreover, we need unbiased third parties to investigate officer-involved shootings so that there is no bias in favor of the officer in the process. On a wider level, we need to demilitarize the police force because officers should not be using weapons of war to police, especially in communities of color.
Police should serve the communities in which they work, not criminalize and brutalize those they are meant to protect. More police officers should come from the communities they serve and demographically represent the neighborhoods in which they operate. Police need to be held accountable by community boards that are demographically representative of the neighborhoods in which they are located, and oversee and provide feedback on the actions and policies of the local police.
Not one more Black person should be murdered at the hands of the police. Not one more Latinx person should be interrogated because they are assumed to be undocumented. Raising our federal standards to protect the essential value of sanctity of human life is essential.
Using the term "justice system" to refer to the Prison-Industrial Complex is an oxymoron. Prosecutors often use their discretionary power to coerce People of Color, particularly Black and Latinx people into plea deals instead of going to trial. While everyone is theoretically guaranteed the right to a jury of one's own peers, plea deals take a person’s ability to appear before their peers completely out of the equation.
For those who do go to trial, but cannot afford a lawyer, public defenders are appointed. Typically, public defenders are underpaid and overworked, meaning that people often cannot obtain to quality legal representation. Moreover, juries are commonly very white, which means that People of Color often are not judged by a jury of peers. Once people are incarcerated, People of Color face high levels of violence and abuse in prisons and jails. Once they leave the Prison-Industrial Complex, many lose their right to vote, live in housing with federal assistance, and cannot get a job without disclosing their criminal history. Racial bias in the Prison-Industrial Complex means that People of Color, particularly Black people, receive harsher sentences for the same crimes as white people, are more likely given the death penalty, and held on a high cash bail. We are in a crisis and to put a bandaid on this complex issue is not justice for those who have suffered signficant consequences of racial discrimination at the hands of our prision system. .
To end the Prison-Industrial Complex, there must be a complete overhaul of the criminal “justice” system. That can be accomplished through some of the following:
ending cash bail;
focusing on rehabilitation programs while decriminalizing most drug offenses and retroactively reducing or ending drug related sentences; creating incentives to be public defenders;
creating strict federal anti-discrimination regulations in regards to sentencing and plea deals;
shifting the punitive focus of the Prison-Industrial Complex to restorative justice;
shutting down private prisons so that no one can profit by detaining people; ending forced labor in prison;
getting rid of questions relating to criminal history on job forms; and ending the process of denying civil and human rights to prisoners.
As your representative, I will fight for these substantial changes to the Prison-Industrial Complex and elevate activists to lead the conversations to create this social change.
Austistic people generally face distinct challenges based on the barriers set up in the educational, healthcare, criminal justice, and employment systems. Since Autism is a spectrum, not everyone with ASD has the same experience. For example, People of Color and low-income people with ASD face barriers to getting diagnoses and medical support while facing higher rates of discrimination. At the same time, there are issues that affect almost all people within the community. In District 11, we have seen discrimination that students on the spectrum face in the educational system. In Fairfax County, isolation policies led many autistic students to face grueling conditions that caused increased stress and anxiety. The unjust seclusion policies negatively impacted many students, families, and their loved ones. Incidents such as these indicate that we need to create more federal legislation that expands upon the rights of those with ASD.
The timing of when students are diagnosed with autism can affect when they get access to services that may be able to support their learning styles. Science Daily has posted research that shows that low-income students are less likely to be diagnosed with autism in comparison to their higher-income peers. This discrepancy means that students with ASD may go longer in the educational system without receiving specialized resources to support their educational development. The same study by researchers at the University of Madison, Wisconsin indicates that in some countries where there is universal healthcare coverage, discrepancies in diagnosis rates between low-income and high-income students disappear. These conclusions indicate that a universal healthcare program, such as Medicare-for-All, could help low-income students with ASD access more resources from a younger age.
At the same time, socioeconomic status isn’t the only factor affecting diagnosis discrepancies. The Center for Disease Control and Spectrum News have both reported about how particularly Black and Latinx students face lower rates than white students of ASD diagnosis, regardless of economic status. That means that a Medicare-for-All program, which provides free healthcare access to all people in the U.S., might not get rid of the disparities in diagnosing ASD in students of color, particularly those who are Black and/or Latinx. Since these students aren’t diagnosed until later in life, they may lose access to valuable resources that could have helped them develop individualized education plans from a young age. Moreover, Students of Color are more likely to be seen as misbehaving, rather than having a special need, which leads to the disproportionate disciplining of Students of Color. Along with Medicare-for-All, we need to pass new Civil Rights legislation, which provides stronger security against discrimination based on race in the healthcare and educational systems. This new legislation would also allow the Justice Department to assess healthcare access in communities and create action plans to reduce racial disparities by partnering with local stakeholders to create a system to reduce inequities. Our educational and healthcare systems need to be better at supporting ASD People of Color, and we can pass laws to live up to our values of equity and justice.