Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia
Running for: Congressman 4th Congressional District
Political party affiliation: Democratic Party
Political/civic background: Congressman, County Commissioner, State Legislator, Alderman, and activist and organizer in the non-profit space
Occupation: Congressman 4th Congressional District
Education: University of Illinois at Chicago (BA,MUP)
Campaign website: Chuyforcongress.com
Facebook: Chuy For Congress
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their districts and the country. Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia submitted the following responses:
1. Are you satisfied with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Why or why not? What grade would you give President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic, and why?
President Trump has botched the response to COVID-19, as evidenced by the 175k Americans who have died due to incompetence of the President and his team. I’d give the Administration an “F”. The President initially claimed that the virus was a hoax, and for months refused to wear a mask. The President and his administration have fueled conspiracy theories that contradict the advice of doctors. Countries with far less resources have demonstrated leadership resulting in fewer deaths and more effective containment strategies. The US now accounts for over 25% of total global cases while only constituting 4% of the world’s population. We still lack the testing resources needed for effective contact tracing and containment.
2. What should the federal government do to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic shutdowns?
First, the government must give working families and small businesses the assistance they need.
That involves the following:
1. Issue stimulus checks on a recurring basis for families who continue to struggle to make ends meet during the pandemic. Immigrants and children of undocumented parents should be elgibile for stimulus checks.
2. Cancel rent for workers who have lost their jobs, or provide at least $100B in rental assistance, as well as extend eviction moratoriums at the federal level.
3. Provide additional relief to small businesses, including restaurants and mom and pop shops, especially minority and women-owned businesses. Prioritize help for small businesses to keep employees paid and keep operations afloat through the end of the shutdowns.
4. Extend unemployment insurance at the full $600 a week. Anything less will hurt families and send harmful ripple effects throughout the economy.
In order to support economic recovery, the government must effectively manage the spread of COVID-19. We should advocate mask-wearing, support workers’ ability to isolate after being exposed, massively increase testing capacity and reduce testing result wait-times..
All of these initiatives were included in the HEROES Act passed by House Democrats on May 15. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s and the Senate Republicans could help the economy and families now by passing the HEROES Act.
3. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, President Trump signed an executive order on police reform. It calls for the creation of a database to track police officers with multiple instances of misconduct, federal grants to encourage police departments to meet higher certification standards on use of force, and the greater involvement of social workers and mental health professionals when the police respond to calls dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction. The order also calls for police departments to ban the use of chokeholds except when an officer feels his or her life is endangered. Will this be enough to address concerns about police brutality? If not, what other steps should be taken?
The policies included in the President’s Executive Order are also included in the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act which is a much more comprehensive policy framework. The executive order does not address the root issues of racial inequity, racial bias, or systemic disinvestment in communities of color, whereas the Justice in Policing Act addresses these issues more directly.
4. Also in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the House passed the Justice in Policing Act, which would ban police departments from using chokeholds, develop a national standard for use of force, limit the transfer of military weapons to police departments, define lynching as a federal hate crime, establish a national police misconduct registry, and limit qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits over alleged misconduct. Do you support this legislation? Why or why not? What other steps, if any, would you like to see the federal government take on police reform?
The Justice in Policing Act is an aggregate of many important steps in the right direction and serves as a starting point to address police brutality in America. We must do more to hold police officers who break the law accountable, including a clear end to the practice of qualified immunity. I support this bill.
In addition we must understand criminal justice and policing within the context of systemic racism. Addressing racial inequity requires a holistic policy framework. We must bring an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and give students in every zip code the tools to succeed. We need to address inequities in health outcomes, as my legislation the Health Equity and Accountability Act seeks to do.
The approach to criminal justice reform must be holistic and true equity cannot be achieved without addressing inequities in housing, access to capital and credit, education and so much more. The Justice in Policing Act is a strong step forward, but alone cannot end the scourge of racial inequity or police brutality in America.
5. What’s your view on President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone?
The pardoning of Roger Stone is in line with the pattern of President Trump demonstrating his willingness to engage in corruption to benefit himself, his family, and allies at the expense of the integrity of our democratic and legal institutions. For the same reasons I concluded that the President committed impeachable crimes. The commutation of Roger Stone affirms my belief that Donald Trump is unfit to discharge the duties of the President of the United States.
6. Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or other paid or volunteer work to improve your community.
Much like the work I have done my entire life, dating back to my time as a County Commissioner, State Legislator, Alderman, and even as an activist and organizer in the non-profit space — I have spent the last two years in Congress advocating for policies that will advance economic opportunity and prosperity for working people, immigrants, and small businesses.
The more than 20 pieces of legislation I personally sponsored, the dozens I have co-lead, and the hundreds I have cosponsored and voted in favor of — have all focused on improving the lives of everyday Americans, reigning in corporate power, and ensuring our government and economic institutions work for everyone.
My Health Equity & Accountability Act — co-lead by the chairs of the Tri-Caucus (Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus) seeks to bridge the gap of health outcomes and access to affordable, quality healthcare for people of color.
My Reward Work Act sought to empower working people to have a seat on corporate boards and end the practice of stock buybacks meant to enrich investors at the expense of employees.
My Promoting Equitable Transit-Oriented Development and Mobility Corridors Act was aimed at improving the future planning of our urban and rural developments to promote smarter, more sustainable and equitable growth to include affordable housing and provide more affordable mobility to millions so they can better access jobs and services.
My Systemic Risk Mitigation Act, Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act, and Bank Merger Review Modernization Act seeks to crack down on corporate power, market manipulation, and market concentration trends that ultimately harm working people.
Finally, my New Way Forward Act boldly tackles our broken immigration system by decriminalizing migration, and providing refugees and immigrants a fairer process to immigrate to the United States that maintains the human dignity that we all deserve.
7. What are your views on the decision by the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump? Was the impeachment process fair or not? How so? If, in your view, the president should not have been impeached, would you have supported censure? Please explain.
I voted to impeach President Donald Trump. No one, not even the President of the United States, is above the law. After weeks of deliberation I believe the facts were presented in a fair and transparent manner and showed that the President committed impeachable offenses. His actions before and after the impeachment vote affirm my assessment that Donald J. Trump is unfit to continue discharging the duties of the President of the United States of America.
8. How would you reduce the federal budget deficit, which now stands at about $1 trillion for 2020? What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?
First and foremost, our economy does better when working class American’s do better, not just those at the top. For that reason, I believe a full recission of the 2017 GOP tax reforms is a critical first step to reduce the federal budget deficit. Additionally, we must levy heavier taxes for those at the top, improve the EITC, and make sure we do not balance the budget by cutting vital social safety net programs OR earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare. We cannot succeed in reducing the budget deficit by cutting our way out — instead we must induce economic growth by making sure we give low-income and working class families a boost.
9. What changes would you like to see made to our nation’s healthcare system? Would you shore up the Affordable Care Act or work to repeal it in full? What’s your view on Medicare for All? And what should be done, if anything, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs?
I support a Medicare for All system. The insurance companies are profiteering off the backs of working people while leaving more than 20 million Americans uninsured. How many more are underinsured? Additionally, the Coronavirus pandemic has shown that tying workers’ health care to their employment undermines the health of the entire society. The US is one of the only advanced economies without universal health care coverage. Our people would be healthier and our economy would be stronger with universal coverage like Medicare for All.
The House passed a bill to bring down the costs of prescription drugs but it was too limited in scope. We should allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and prevent the kind of profiteering rampant in the pharmaceutical industry.
10. Do you support or oppose DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and why? Should a path to citizenship be created for the so-called DREAMers? Please explain.
I support the DACA program and supported HR 6, the Dream and Promise Act to provide a legal pathway to citizenship for DREAMers. We should also end the 5 and 10 year bars for legal permanent residency, decriminalize immigration (border crossings) and leave it to the civil code, not the criminal code. Immigrants come to our country to seek a better opportunity for their families and to seek refuge; we must stop treating migrants like criminals. That’s what my New Way Forward Act seeks to do.
11. What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?
1. We must enact significant immigration reform which must include a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals, and the decriminalization of immigration.
2. We must get a handle on COVID-19 which includes robust testing and contact tracing capacity, and a far more coordinated response and relief effort to the health and economic crisis that the virus has posed. This includes rent and mortgage relief, moratoriums, and extended unemployment benefits at the full $600 per week level. This also means we must significantly ramp up the availability and production of PPE and worker protections. Individual economic relief in the form of stimulus checks is also key for so many families in my district.
3. Finally, we must tackle the scourge of racial inequity that pervades our economy and society. This includes criminal justice reform and education reform to close the achievement gap and give all students a fairer playing field. It also means disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline to the criminal justice system. We must tackle the racial gaps we see in health outcomes and invest in more wealth building strategies in communities of color.
12. What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?
I live in the district, my opponent does not. I have lived in the 4th District my whole life, raised my family there, led a non-profit organization and represented my community in elective office. Unlike my opponent who supports Donald Trump, I have fought to advance policies that would strengthen and protect working families and immigrants.
13. What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?
Congress must end the Charleston Loophole, enact universal background checks, and take military-grade and automatic weapons off our streets. But much like my previous comments, reducing gun violence requires a holistic approach: we must address the opportunity gap we see so prominent across racial and socio-economic lines. We need to give people access to good education, jobs, and healthcare as part of a strategy to end gun violence.
14. Is climate change real? Is it significantly man-made? Is it a threat to humankind? What if anything should Congress and the federal government do about it?
Without any doubt — climate change is anthropogenic (man-made) and poses an existential threat to humankind. It also poses an immediate threat to communities of color and working class communities who are already facing the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice.
Low-income communities face significant health consequences from dirty air and water. They also lack the resources to recover from the increasing extreme weather events like the flooding throughout the Midwest, the fires in the West, and the devastating storms that battered Puerto Rico
The U.S. must lead the world in addressing climate change. We must implement plans to be carbon neutral and be leaders in the green economy to restart a manufacturing base and lead in green technology innovation and production.
As a member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, I am well aware that the transport sector is now the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. That is why I created the Future of Transportation Caucus, whose mission is to push for equity, access, and sustainability in transportation policy. Our caucus was instrumental in fighting for innovative reforms in the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2) including the unprecedented inclusion of a greenhouse gas emission performance metric to be used in constructing new roads.
15. What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?
Social Security and Medicare benefits are earned benefits.Much like someone’s pension, the government must ensure Americans get their earned benefit. We must first reverse the 2017 tax cuts which place an extreme burden on our federal budget, cut back on military expenditures and procurement, and make sure we stop President Trump from circuitously trying to cut these programs.
16. What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?
I support student loan forgiveness to end the student debt crisis our country faces. For too many, student debt is a crippling burden. Our nation needs a high-skilled workforce and we should invest in helping young people from all backgrounds to complete higher education. With the COVID-19 crisis in full swing, now more than ever, Congress must pass student loan forgiveness. We must give all students the opportunity to reach their highest potential without regard to where they grew up or who their parents are.
17. What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?
Russia has repeatedly demonstrated its intent to manipulate our elections and undermine democratic institutions. They are an adversary and should be treated as such. The US relationship with Russia has never been a partisan matter until the Presidency of Donald Trump.
18. What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.
I believe there is a time and circumstance to use tariffs in international commerce. They can serve as important diplomatic tools to advance American interests — however — misused, tariffs can have crippling effects on the global economy, our local industries and workers, as well as America’s standing in the world.
In the case of Donald Trump, tariffs have often been used to advance his own personal wealth and financial interests. For example, the tariff war the President engaged in with China had deleterious effects on US industry — especially on the agricultural industry on which Illinois’ economy relies heavily.
19. Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.
I believe the United States plays an important role in encouraging Democracy around the world, but it has a terrible track-record in doing so. Throughout the world, including Latin America, the US has manipulated outcomes and undermined democratic processes. Before seeking to repair the ills of other nations, it is critical that the United States first put effort into getting money out of our political process and ensure the right and access to vote for all Americans—provisions that the House passed in HR 1..
20. What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?
Congress must hold the Executive Branch accountable to maintain and play a key role in multinational organizations that seek to prevent the proliferation of nuclear arms. Instead of ceding leadership and participation from the world stage, America should be a leading voice in international talks and discussions. Whether it is counter-terrorism or the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear arms, the US must be seen a global leader and ally so that we can build the multinational colations it will take to tackle such global issues as these.
It is critical that Congressional leaders maintain pressure on the White House to remain in the New START treaty with Russia. Congress must also ensure the White House does not jeopardize our participation or leadership in multilateral organizations that help maintain world peace, like the United Nations.
21. Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.
None of my relatives are on my public or campaign payrolls.
22. What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.
US Senator Paul Simon. I admire the integrity he maintained throughout his career and his selfless commitment to advancing the causes for working people and his community. Senator Simon was a staunch advocate for labor unions and civil rights. He was a true public servant who always put his community first.
23. What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?
All-time favorites are tough but I don’t have cable and don’t watch streaming shows. That said, I’ll give you a two-fer on shows I’ve recently enjoyed. The Narcos series on Netflix was a fascinating look at the inner workings of Pablo Escobar and El Chapo’s organizations. I’m a history buff and getting an in-depth look was intriguing. Second, I recently enjoyed watching the short docu-series, the Taco Chronicles. There’s nothing like a good, authentic taco and the series, all in Spanish with English subtitles, was fascinating in terms of exploring various types of tacos and the history associated with regions throughout Mexico and Latin America.