On Jan. 10, Sol A. Flores appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic seat in the 4th Congressional district of Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
My name is Sol Flores and I’m running for the Congress of the 4th Congressional District. I’ve been raised in this community and for the last 15 years I’ve committed myself as a member of a nonprofit organization, working and helping the people of my community. I’ve also been very engaged civically, I’ve served on the board of numerous other organizations and I’ve worked hand-in-hand with other organizations, communities of faith and business leaders as we work to collectively and collaboratively improve our community.
So, I built, created and started from the ground up La Casa Norte, an organization that has helped thousands of homeless young people and families escape poverty and homelessness. I will focus on the issues that I know the people of the 4th need. Which is access to affordable health care, affordable housing and a living wage. An opportunity to support themselves.
I will absolutely focus on affordable healthcare in our district and on immigration reform. I’m also very focused on bringing living wage jobs to the district as well.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations for Congress a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the state of Illinois. Sol Flores submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: As a member of the House from Illinois, please explain what your specific cause or causes will be. Please avoid a generic topic or issue in your answer.
ANSWER: My mother and extended family raised me in a way that developed my core set of values including foremost love and justice. From an early age, my mother taught me to see the promise of humanity and to fight for what is right and fair for others. We volunteered for programs that helped seniors and disconnected youth. I also began attending marches with my family when I was a little girl and soon learned the importance of helping others. I learned that it felt good to be of service and that, in fact, service was a demonstration of my love for people and for doing what’s right and what’s just for others. I have spent my life standing with and fighting for families, young people, and children who are who hurting and have been left behind. I’ve said publicly numerous times that it’s both an honor and privilege to serve and walk side by side as people lift themselves out of poverty.
I will bring these values and experiences to Congress to fight for causes that support our community and lift up the most vulnerable among us. This includes ensuring that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care by protecting the gains made under the Affordable Care Act and finding ways to increase coverage; creating jobs that provide a living wage; fighting for equal pay for women and paid family leave; providing real tax relief to the middle class not the super-rich and corporations; protecting women’s reproductive freedom by standing up to attempts to limit access and cut funding; strengthening safety nets to end homelessness for the millions of children, youth and families that experience it annually; and working toward real immigration reform that keeps families together and provides a pathway to citizenship.
Sol A. Flores
District running for: 4th Congressional District (Illinois)
Board Member for The Latino Policy Forum, The Chicago Low Income Housing Trust Fund, Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, and Kuumba Lynx.
Appointed member of the City of Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals.
Recipient of the White House Champion of Change Award, Chicago Neighborhood Development Leadership Award, German Marshall Memorial Fellow representing the United States, Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow, Chicago Community Trust Emerging Leader Fellow Award, and National Hispana Leadership Institute.
Served on the Chicago Minimum Wage Task Force.
Occupation: Executive Director of a non-profit organization
Education: Attended undergraduate at New York University and the University of Chicago
Campaign website: standwithsol.org
QUESTION: Please list three district-specific needs that will be your priorities. This could be a project that is needed in your district, or a rule that needs to be changed, or some federal matter that has been ignored.
ANSWER: A resolution to the DACA program to support the 800,000 young dreamers who are contributing in numerous positive ways across our country. These are future leaders, business owners, teachers and doctors, all of whom want nothing more than to be embraced by the country that they have lived in since they were children. They are committed to contributing to this country and improving it for all.
Ending homelessness. Which starts with: increased access to affordable housing, mental health services and addiction treatment. We can significantly strengthen our safety net system so that children, families and individuals don’t fall so deep into poverty and despair. Given the opportunity at healing, thriving and redemption, most people really want to positively contribute to their community, they want to be givers, and they want to help others just like themselves in similar situations.
Violence in the community. Children and young people should expect that adults and leaders will protect them, that we will create opportunities for them to grow, rather than allowing them to experience trauma, violence and death. We must create and empower stronger public and private relationships with the nonprofit sector (education, jobs, youth, and housing) to support innovative solutions that work in different communities across Illinois.
RELATED ARTICLES: Sol A. Flores
QUESTION: If you are running as a Democrat, what is your best idea for getting any initiative you may propose advanced if the House continues to be controlled by the GOP after the 2018 elections?
ANSWER: I have always strived to be a bridge builder in order to help the community and families that I have served. Too many lives are at stake to play the partisan card, which is all too pervasive in Washington and keeps Congress from getting things done. While I won’t compromise the values and principles I have as a Democrat, I will always try to work across the aisle with common sense advocacy on behalf of those I am serving.
In my own experiences, I have found that many people across the partisan spectrum have not been educated on certain issues in terms of how policies impact everyday people, nor have some of them had the opportunity to personally meet and hear the firsthand stories of folks struggling to survive. As a member of the Chicago Minimum Wage Task Force, I was one of the voices in the room fighting for $15. I argued vehemently that anyone who can vote or serve and die for this country and who is working as a necessity to contribute and care for their family has the right to earn a living wage. Although we still have work to do, I am proud that I was able to advocate successfully and work productively to make positive change for the many minimum wage workers in Chicago. Just as I have for the past 15 years, I will act as a bridge and facilitator to create opportunities to uplift and advocate for voices of the most vulnerable.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: I appreciate the honor and privilege of living in a democracy, where there are peaceful transitions of power from one administration to the next. I respect the office of the President of the United States and individuals who have stood up to serve in public office. However, I do not respect nor can I tolerate bigotry or disrespect for any member of our society, including immigrants, Muslims, people of color, transgender people, and people with disabilities. I’ve spent the last 15 years fighting for these very same people to create meaningful and impactful programs to help raise them and their families up. Trump’s public comments are inhumane and hurtful to so many hard-working Americans and they do not reflect the level of dignity nor stature of the office of the President.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: While I agree with some of the promises Trump made during the campaign like attacking the opioid crisis and standing against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the sad reality is that he has broken his promises now that he is in office.
Three of the Trump administration actions that I oppose the most are:
Immigration-related executive orders: I am the proud daughter and granddaughter of emigrants from Puerto Rico. I am the proud stepdaughter and stepsister of immigrants from Ecuador. I have worked with immigrants to help them have the life of their dreams in a new country where they are experiencing shame, fear and isolation. I am enraged by Donald Trump’s orders to begin constructing a border wall, double down on enforcement efforts that will instill fear and unjustly target immigrant communities, and threaten localities that understand the importance of working with immigrant communities instead of marginalizing them. His series of travel ban orders are also unconscionable and bad policy. We cannot erode this country’s history of welcoming immigrants and refugees; the ban alienates Muslim Americans, who are part of the solution not the problem. Finally, the uncertainty he has placed on the DACA program is wrong, shortsighted and put 800,000 young Dreamers in a gut-wrenching situation.
Ending U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord is irresponsible and reckless and shows a complete disregard for scientific evidence that the planet is getting warmer. It also compromises our position as a world leader and makes us a less trustworthy partner.
Efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act, including cuts to the marketing budget and subsidies for out-of-pocket costs for low income people. Health care is a right, not a privilege. In my work to fight homelessness, I have seen firsthand what it means for families and children to have access to quality, affordable health care. They are better able to find jobs, support themselves and their families, and find and maintain stable housing. The Affordable Care Act was enormously helpful in providing health insurance for millions more Americans. We cannot go backwards now. We cannot afford to kick 13 million Americans, including millions of Illinois residents, off of health coverage, which is what the Republican tax law does. I will fight to preserve the important parts of the ACA that promote increased access to quality, affordable health care, and I will work with my colleagues in Congress to find ways to lower health care costs for working and middle-class families.
QUESTION: What is your view of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by the Trump campaign. Does Mueller have your support?
ANSWER: Robert Mueller has my full support. For the United States to continue to be a world leader and to preserve our democratic values and national security, we must ensure that there is the utmost trust in the Office of the President. Mueller should complete a thorough investigation to determine if any crimes have been committed, whether by Trump himself or those who have surrounded him in his campaign and at the White House. Indeed, his investigation has already turned up some questionable actions and potential crimes. Mueller should complete his investigation without any interference from Congress or the White House.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: Unfortunately, terrorism continues to be a threat in the United States. We must remain vigilant and tough in protecting the American people. However, that does not mean eroding our country’s history of welcoming immigrants and refugees and recognizing the important role they have played in building our country. We cannot keep people out of the United States based solely on their country of origin or religion. Trump’s Muslim ban alienates Muslim Americans, who must be part of the solution and are not part of the problem. The ban serves only to empower ISIS and other terrorist groups. We also cannot alienate our allies, but rather, must stand together to share the burden of protecting civilians from terrorism. Rather than slashing the budget for United States diplomatic work, we need to reinvest in the people who are experts. Finally, we must also address homegrown terrorism, including White Supremacists.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: Gun violence is a complicated issue with many causes. Congress should address it in a comprehensive way, beginning with the recognition that gun violence is a public health issue and addressing access, licensing, trafficking, large capacity ammunition magazines, and child protection, among others. However, the single most important action that Congress could take to curb gun violence would be to require universal background checks to ensure that guns do not get into the hands of criminals, felons, domestic abusers, and other illegal purchasers. This means closing the loophole for unlicensed gun dealers, strengthening the federal background check system to ensure information is flowing in a timely and complete manner, and getting rid of the default approval if an FBI investigation is not completed within three days. States with universal background checks have lower gun death rates. Congress should take their lead.
QUESTION: Do you favor a law banning the sale and use of “bump stocks” that increase the firing speed of semi-automatic weapons? Why? Do you favor any further legal limits on guns of any kind? Or, conversely, what gun restrictions should be done away with?
ANSWER: Yes, I favor banning the sale and use of bump stocks, because there is no legitimate reason a civilian would need a bump stock and banning them could save lives. I also believe we need to ban assault weapons and place limits on high capacity magazines.
TOPIC: America’s growing wealth gap
QUESTION: As an editorial board, our core criticism of the tax overhaul legislation supported by the Republican majorities in the House and Senate is that it lowers taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans at a time of historic inequalities of wealth and income in the United States. We believe in free markets, but it does not look to us like the “silent hand” of the market is functioning properly, rewarding merit fairly. We are troubled that the top 1 percent of Americans own 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 90 percent own just 22.8 percent of the wealth.Tell us how we are right or wrong about this. Does the growing income and wealth gap trouble you?
ANSWER: I have spent the last 15 years standing with and fighting for families, young people, and children who are who hurting and have been left behind. I have witnessed firsthand the impact a lack of sufficient income can have on a family’s ability to have stable housing, healthcare and access to higher education.
I have publicly stated that homelessness and poverty are not identities but rather circumstances that can be changed. I’ve never met any child or young person who told me they wanted to grow up and experience homelessness. We live in one of the richest nations, yet nearly 20,000 Chicago Public Schools students experienced some form of homelessness in the last school year. We must stop criminalizing the poor. We must stop delivering false promises to our children and young people that they too can achieve the American dream if we are not willing to step up and create true moral and political will to change.
I am concerned that the Republican tax legislation helps the top 1% at the expense of millions at the bottom who I know are suffering. We need to implement progressive tax policy that ensures those who can afford it pay more, provides relief to working and middle-class families, and allows support for those at the bottom.
The growing income and wealth gap troubles me because it pits people against each other and creates greater inequality. We need policies that lift all people. What we absolutely did not need was a tax plan that benefits the wealthy and corporations. What we absolutely do need is common sense tax reform so that the wealthy pay their fair share and we do not unfairly burden middle class and working families who are already struggling.
TOPIC: International affairs
QUESTION: Do you support the Trump administration’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? How will this help or hinder efforts to secure a lasting peace between Israel and its Middle East neighbors?
ANSWER: I strongly support the state of Israeli and the Israeli people as one of our most critical allies in the world. A lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians must be a top priority and for that reason I do not support President Trump’s decision to move our embassy to Jerusalem because it has already threatened negotiations.
QUESTION: Is military action by the United States a plausible response to the nuclear weapons threat posed by North Korea? How might a U.S. military response play out for South Korea, Japan and China? What alternative do you support?
ANSWER: A military response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons threat should be a response of last resort. Instead, the United States should rely on the advice of its diplomatic community and should work with a coalition of other leaders in the region who face a real threat from North Korea. We have a shared interest in containing North Korea’s access to and use of nuclear weapon technology and must stand strongly together to ensure that war is not the answer.
QUESTION: The Supreme Court has ruled that the third version of the Trump administration’s travel ban on eight countries with predominantly Muslim populations can go into effect while legal challenges against the ban continue. What is your position on this travel ban?
ANSWER: I am the proud daughter and granddaughter of emigrants from Puerto Rico and the proud stepdaughter and stepsister of immigrants from Ecuador. I recognize and celebrate our country’s history of welcoming immigrants and refugees and understand the important role they have played in building our diverse country. I have worked with immigrants to help them have the life of their dreams in a new country where they are oftentimes experiencing shame, fear and isolation. I am absolutely opposed to the travel ban, which amounts to a Muslim ban. It alienates Muslim Americans, who are part of the solution not the problem, and further inflames ISIS and other terrorist groups.
QUESTION: Has the United States in the last decade been accepting too many immigrants, and does this pose a threat to the American way of life?
ANSWER: No, the United States absolutely has not been accepting too many immigrants in the last decade. Day in and day out, I’ve met and worked with immigrants across Chicagoland and am consistently humbled by how hard they work to provide for their families, how much they contribute to our community and what they have endured and continue to endure in order to live in the United States. Our country’s strength has always been its strong immigrant foundation. I’ve traveled around the world meeting with different types of communities and have seen and experienced firsthand the privilege of being an American and why people choose to live in the United States. Closing ourselves off to the world will only serve to hurt our country in the long run. We especially cannot keep people out of the United States based solely on their country of origin or religion. Trump’s Muslim ban alienates Muslim Americans, who must be part of the solution and are not part of the problem.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: No, the wall should not be built. It will simply siphon resources that would be better spent improving our immigration system and will not effectively stop undocumented immigrants or terrorists from entering the United States.
TOPIC: Affordable Care Act
QUESTION: The tax reform plan created by Republican majorities in the House and Senate would eliminate the Obamacare “individual mandate” that most Americans must have health insurance or pay a fine. Does this threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act? What more on this, if anything, should be done?
ANSWER: Elimination of the individual mandate certainly threatens the viability of the individual marketplace and could threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act. In the short term, it will cause uncertainty and confusion and likely cause premiums to go up. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million people could lose insurance and premiums could go up by 10 percent. The mandate was a crucial part of the ACA, as it helped balance the base of consumers on the individual market. Congress must revisit how to ensure that the marketplace is stable in the coming years, whether by reinstituting the mandate or finding other ways to incentivize young, healthy people to get coverage.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponent(s)?
ANSWER: As a leader fighting for families, homeless youth, immigrants and other vulnerable populations, I have seen firsthand how policies and actions of the federal government have impacted their lives, sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse. I built my non-profit, La Casa Norte, from a two-person organization into an 80-plus employee, multi-million-dollar agency that delivers desperately needed housing and services to homeless families, single parents, victims of domestic violence and homeless youth in Chicagoland. And through that work, I have been at ground zero every day over the past 15 years working on behalf of and standing side by side with Latinos, African Americans, Asians, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community—all of whom faced tremendous challenges—and fought to give them a lift up in life. I’ve worked to create and implement programs that have saved people’s lives. And I’ve done this working in collaboration with all levels of government as well as the business, faith, public policy and human services communities. I will bring this experience to Congress and make sure that my colleagues understand these perspectives as we shape federal policy.
I am proud to run as a Latina. My mother, grandmother and aunts have set the example for me as strong and passionate women who stood up to serve their community. It is time for women to step up even more and engage because when women run and win, women and families fare better. We need more women in Washington, DC, at the table on critical issues facing our country, from health care to foreign policy and sexual harassment to job creation, and I am excited about the opportunity to serve.