On Feb. 8, Sameena Mustafa appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for the Democratic seat in the 5th Congressional District of Illinois in the March 2018 primary:
I’m Sameena Mustafa. My background is I’ve worked in business, non-profit and the arts. Most recently I was a commercial real estate tenant advocate for 13 years representing groups, non-profits, small business that represent the most marginalized in our community, so women and girls, the LBT community, immigrants and refugees, and that has been my life’s work. I’ve been on boards, I’ve been a volunteer for domestic violence shelters, it is my passion to work for the community, and this is a continuation of that.
My top priorities are medicare for all, as someone who has worked in a federally funded healthcare clinic I feel like healthcare is the most important issue to transform not only our wellbeing and it could also transform our economy. It will be a major game changer and will also require a change in our tax system.
To me economic justice is what is driving me to run for this office, we have a representative right now who does not stand for these principals and does not support medicare for all. The other thing that’s really driving me is getting money out of politics, our current representative gets almost half of his money from corporate PACs and special interest and I think it’s had a corrosive effect on our democracy. It’s time to have uncompromised progressive leadership for the 5th district.
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. Sameena Mustafa 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: I will fight for the causes that are important to the people of the 5th District and work to resolve the issues that affect the American people most. We are living in a critical time in our history and the need for representatives who are not beholden to corporate donors and lobbyists has never been greater. This is why I will push for a constitutional amendment to ensure free and fair elections to address the corrosive effect of money in politics. I will also fight for the right to healthcare for all by co-sponsoring Medicare for All. I will work to protect immigrants by passing a clean DREAM act, expanding DACA and DAPA, and creating paths to citizenship for all immigrants regardless of status. I will fight for criminal justice reform by ending money bail and increase Justice Department resources to investigate civil rights violations across this country. I will also work to combat climate change and preserve our planet for generations to come. I support passing the Congressional Review Act to overrule the FCC vote against net neutrality and enact legislation to protect free speech and foster innovation.
District running for: 5th Congressional district (Illinois)
Political/civic background: For 25 years, I’ve been a leader in the business, the arts, and the nonprofit communities, having worked with people from all backgrounds and income levels. I’ve founded and led organizations, managed teams, and hired and fired people. For the last 13 years, I’ve counseled and negotiated on behalf of small businesses and nonprofits against landlords and financial institutions as a commercial real estate tenant representative and advocate. As a former Planned Parenthood manager, I’m the only candidate in this race with direct healthcare experience in a federally-funded clinic. I know how policy and funding affect real people. I also know the kind of advocacy we need in Washington to address issues, because I’ve gone to Capitol Hill to advocate for legislation. I’ve pushed for representation for women and people of color throughout my career and fought discrimination by building community forums locally. I have the experience but, rooted in that experience, I have the values we need today to truly advance a progressive agenda.
Occupation: Commercial real estate broker (on leave)
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Northwestern University
Campaign website: sameenaforcongress.com
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: The 5th District includes one of the busiest airports in the world, O’Hare International Airport. Over the last decade, O’Hare has failed to keep up with the growth of other international airports. O’Hare is a vital part of the Chicago economy, so we must implement the O’Hare Modernization Program and NextGen while minimizing the impact to residents around O’Hare.
We’ve already seen many noise complaints because of OMP and NextGen. This is due to a lack of full transparency and studies that should have been completed by the City of Chicago and the FAA. Typically, lower-income communities and municipalities fare poorly in such studies and subsequent negotiations, when officials, like Mike Quigley, are pressured with donations from airline PACs looking to expand their services and increase their revenue. I will work with the members of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission, the Department of Aviation, and the FAA to create solutions to this problem and hold each party accountable strongly and publicly in a way that empowers residents, so that we can continue to improve our infrastructure and grow our economy right here at home.
Reliable public transit will be the foundation from which we can drive further economic growth and attract residents who increasingly rely on shared services and public systems in order to protect the environment and use their limited resources as wages stagnate. To that end, we need to extend the CTA Blue Line and eliminate slow zones, which affects how residents reach one of our greatest assets and how visitors and businesses assess our region for livability and commercial viability. In order for residents of the 5th District to feel like they can live here safely and soundly with their families, all stations should be accessible by those with limited mobility, especially as our population continues to age. We foster and deepen inequity when we neglect seniors and people with disabilities. I will push for funding to expand access to transit for all residents.
Chicago’s gun violence and fractured criminal justice system must also be addressed. Mayor Emanuel has not done enough to reform Chicago police practices and push for community policing initiatives that will allow communities to work with the police to proactively create programs that will help reduce police abuse and crime. His administration has been able to wriggle out of the Justice Department’s consent decree and any real federal review of police practices and accountability. Democrats across the board, including Mike Quigley, have failed to really push a progressive agenda on criminal justice and hold their fellow political elites accountable. Specifically, Quigley dragged his feet on prison reform, by not co-sponsoring the 2015 Justice Is Not for Sale Act (HR 3543) proposed by Raul Grijalva and waiting months to add his name to the latest version, HR 3227. We need a representative that puts people in the most vulnerable communities in Chicago first.
RELATED ARTICLES: Sameena Mustafa
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: We currently have a representative, Mike Quigley, that works with the GOP on initiatives that hurt Americans and the 5th District by voting for deregulation, increased defense spending, tax cuts, and unfair trade practices. Bipartisanship with this current incarnation of the GOP hurts working Americans, period. Congress has stopped working on behalf of the American people ever since elected officials started putting wealthy and corporate donors before the voters. Like many of his colleagues–Republicans and Democrats–Quigley gets more than half of his money from corporate PACs and special interests. We have a legislative body that is essentially bought and paid for in order to protect the wealthy and well-connected.
I believe that, in order to get anything advanced in the House, you need the American people on your side. As elected officials, you represent the people, not your donors or your party. We need more leaders in office that are willing to side with justice – not wealthy donors and party elites – and make the morally right call for their constituents and the country.
We saw how the popular uprising against the ACA repeals stopped the GOP’s efforts, and I believe that if we want to make progressive and inclusive change for all Americans, then we need to speak directly to the American people, work to find our common ground, and build a coalition of support from the ground up. Last year, Mike Quigley refused to do a town hall when faced with a protest outside his Chicago office and only relented after repeated attempts by a small group of activists. We need a representative that is accessible and open to constituents at all times, not limiting meetings to small groups in mostly affluent areas. We need a representative that is willing to do the hard work of coalition and consensus building. Our democracy demands full participation and the voters deserve this level of service.
TOPIC: President Donald Trump
QUESTION: What do you make of President Trump?
ANSWER: President Trump and his administration are working every day to destroy our institutions and weaken our democracy. The methods that he uses in creating chaos and confusion with each executive order and bill that passes has resulted in the American public being confused and left behind by those in power. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the election of President Trump. Neither side did enough to speak out against Trump as a candidate, and the Democratic party did not seek to fully understand the frustrations of the American public going into the 2016 election.
Moderate centrist Democrats like Quigley misread the electorate because they are not connected to voters and do not push for policies that ultimately help working-class Americans. By ignoring or voting against progressive economic issues and being puppets of Wall Street, corporations, and special interests, Quigley and the Democratic Party establishment allowed Trump to control the narrative around defending working people.
We need leaders in government that will not only stand up to President Trump and his bigoted actions, but also work to bring together the American people and build a coalition of support for the changes we want Congress to make. We need to get back to legislating for the people, instead of legislating for the corporations and lobbyists that donate to control our current roster of politicians in Congress, which includes Mike Quigley.
QUESTION: Which three actions by the Trump administration do you support the most? Which three do you oppose the most?
ANSWER: Although it is difficult to fully support any of Trump’s actions, there are three in particular that I find amenable, even though my reasons for supporting them are vastly different than the reasons why the Trump administration supports these issues.
While the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) had benefits for agricultural exporters and it actively addressed the role of China in world trade, the Fast Track approval of the TPP, which Quigley voted for, ignored the potential negative impact on the environment, net neutrality and workers. I could not ignore those concerns amongst others voiced by advocates and activists, and found the lack of transparency with the investor-state dispute settlement tribunals especially troubling. Therefore, I support the repeal of the TPP. I would be willing to entertain a revised proposal correcting the very grave and damaging omissions in the previously secretly negotiated agreement.
President Trump also campaigned on banning government officials from becoming lobbyists for 5 years. The order he signed, however, relaxes some Obama-era rules, and has granted waivers to individuals with clear conflicts, like Andrew Olmem, a former MetLife lobbyist. The buying and selling of influence continues unabated in this administration. President Trump’s proposal made him more compelling to some voters, who are clear on the corrosive effect of money and influence in politics, regardless of party affiliation. However, since Trump’s words and deeds have a loose connection to the truth, it is not surprising that he failed in executing a meaningful reform on this issue.
While Trump’s attacks on Chicago’s gun violence have been based on incorrect information and clearly motivated by his animus towards the city and are racially-tinged, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Rahm Emanuel’s administration has been able to wriggle out of the consent decree and any real federal review of police practices and accountability. The White House could play a real role in pushing Chicago’s Mayor and other cities to confront issues with policing and violence, and the Mayor could hold himself and the Chicago Police Department accountable, but both sides are not putting the safety and security of the American people first.
I oppose the economic tax reform that was recently passed by Congress, as this will only add to the pain the majority of Americans feel. Quigley has supported corporate and personal income tax cuts as part of his “Reinventing Government” report. As a progressive Democrat, I believe in tax reform that supports and protects working families and requires wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes. We need a progressive tax plan introduced in Congress, one that benefits all Americans – not just those at the top.
The firing of FBI Director James Comey was an ill-advised move on President Trump’s part. We need to get to the bottom of the Russia investigation period. We will not do so if we continue to enable and empower Trump by giving him more defense money than he asked for via the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, or tabling impeachment votes when they were introduced in the House, as Quigley has done this past year. The impeachment vote was a point at which Quigley could have made the voices of his district and the American people heard, especially given the fact that he, through his role on the House Intelligence Committee, has seen the intelligence on Russia, and likely knows the extent of the information we have. Why then did Quigley vote to table the impeachment vote? We need a true, courageous voice of the people in Congress.
Discriminatory rhetoric and executive orders that divide us rather than unite us have no place in American society. That’s why I firmly oppose Trump’s transgender military and Muslim and refugee travel bans and his response to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville. When he took these unjust actions, we saw the resistance that rose up against the hate, racism, and xenophobia. Bans and discriminatory behavior against anyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or immigration status are in direct opposition to the American ideals that this country was founded upon. In the 5th District, we not only celebrate diversity, but view it as one of our strengths. In a meeting with the Muslim community in June 2017, Quigley conveyed a complete lack of awareness of Islamophobia, which is unimaginable for a representative in a city with religious diversity like Chicago. Quigley voted with the conservatives and the GOP and against progressives and Democrats to support HR 115, the Thin Blue Line Act, which makes it easier to impose the death penalty to those convicted of killing police officers, which the civil rights groups like the NAACP viewed as an anti-Black Lives Matter initiative. We need a representative that stands up for ALL people, speaks unapologetically against injustice regardless of which party or entity sponsors it, and fights the hatred and bigotry here in America.
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: Former FBI Director Mueller has my full support on investigating Russian tampering in the 2016 election, and understanding the links, if any, between Russia and the Trump campaign. Independent nonpartisan investigation is crucial so that the American people can understand the full extent of the tampering that was committed by the Russians in the 2016 election. We must work to protect Mueller and his team as they work to determine the full extent of the interference, and actively speak out against any attempts by the Republicans to undermine or question the legitimacy of the investigation. Allowing the Republicans to sow doubt into the veracity of our institutions only works to undermine the foundation on which this democracy was created.
We must continue to amplify our engagement in our democratic process, and remain active citizens in 2018, for our democracy is only as strong as the citizens that it serves. Hence, we need representatives that when presented with evidence of unfitness, illegitimacy, and injustice, will act to curb Trump’s power, not enable him as Quigley has done with his vote to give Trump a record defense spending budget and by thwarting impeachment efforts.
QUESTION: What should Congress do to reduce the threat of terrorism at home, either from ISIS or from others?
ANSWER: The threats of terrorism at home will rise under President Trump, as long as his administration continues the divisive rhetoric that only works to embolden terrorists, and continues pushing the bans on refugees and immigrants. These actions play right into the rhetoric that groups like ISIS use to convince their supporters that the United States doesn’t support or protect Muslims. Congress must become a stronger voice against the President and speak out against his regressive actions so that the world knows that America still stands by its ideals, even if our current leadership does not reflect the ideals our country was founded upon.
To truly reduce the threat of terrorism, we must support the important work of our intelligence agencies while also protecting innocent Americans from mass surveillance. The work our intelligence agencies do to gather information on potential threats is critical to our ability to protect our country, but it should never come at the cost of the privacy of our citizens.
America must also regain its position in the world as a human rights leader by working to close Guantanamo. Human rights organizations and even the former president knew that closing Guantanamo was in our national security interests. When the United States holds people indefinitely without due process, force-feeds hunger strikers, and tortures prisoners in the name of protecting our freedom, we no longer have the ability to call out human rights abuses in other countries around the world, as we undermine our American ideals right here at home.
We must also restructure our foreign aid package to help lift up the most impoverished people around the world, help to build schools, find solutions to water and food shortages, and rebuild critical infrastructure often destroyed by US military action. For every bomb that we drop, and every drone strike we use to take out suspected terrorists, we could help lift up those that are being oppressed by ISIS and other extremist regimes.
The very real and growing threat of white supremacy and hate groups in America that have committed violent acts, especially in the last year, must also be addressed. Attacks and deaths by these groups have exceeded attacks by agents of foreign terrorist groups. If we are to truly address terrorism, we cannot be silent and must respond strongly to the attacks committed by white Americans in the name of white supremacy. To do so would put our democracy in great danger and the American people at risk.
TOPIC: Guns and violence
QUESTION: What is the single most important action Congress can take to curb gun violence in the United States?
ANSWER: The single most important action that Congress can take to curb gun violence is to make sure that guns are never sold to individuals who are convicted on domestic violence or other violent charges. There is a clear link between the individuals that have committed the most horrific acts of violent gun crimes and domestic violence or other violent charges. Once someone has attacked the rights of even a single individual, that person should not be allowed to possess a weapon that could kill any individual.
To enforce this change, Congress would have to work to require criminal background checks for all gun sales. There are still too many guns that are sold without background checks. This is a common sense, bipartisan measure that has the support of a majority of Americans, and Congress should work over the next year to enact this change.
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: Bump stocks and any other enhancements that can be made to increase the firing speed of a weapon have no place in our cities and towns. There is no reason for a civilian to possess a military-style weapon or a modified weapon meant to fire like a military-style weapon. What happened in Las Vegas could have been prevented, but Congress has failed time and time again to stand up to the NRA.
I would push for a ban on the sale of military style assault weapons and bump stocks, or any enhancements that can be added to guns that turn them into mass killing machines. I would push to require background checks on all gun sales, include those guns sold at trade shows. Due to the clear link between domestic violence offenders and violent gun crimes, I would also ban gun sales to individuals who are convicted on domestic violence and other violent charges. Congress can do so much more than it has to stop gun violence and mass shootings. We just need the moral courage to stand up and fight for what we know is right.
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: The income and wealth gap in the United States is unlike any income and wealth gap seen in any country around the developed world. Over the last twenty-five years, only the most affluent families in America have added to their overall net worth. The middle class and lower middle class haven’t seen any rise in overall net worth since that time. It is no wonder then, that we are seeing the rising anger and frustration of Americans because they know that the American economy hasn’t been working for them for decades.
My father came here to pursue the American Dream after growing up in a one-room house in India, where he sometimes went to sleep hungry. From this very modest beginning, he traveled here to study engineering, where he joined a class of professionals in high demand in a booming American economy. Due to the hard work and education of both my parents, I grew up in a middle-class home with access to good schools. After college, however, the recession and stagnating wages meant that I spent the first 12 years of my career struggling to make a living wage as a healthcare worker, working jobs where I got paid less than my peers, and getting laid off after a corporate restructuring. My experience of unemployment, underemployment, and wage inequity is, unfortunately, all too common and many Americans also have student loan and credit card debt to shoulder, which makes their financial futures even more fragile.
I want every American to have the ability to pursue the American Dream that seems to be slipping away. For too many of us, it seems like we are just surviving to make ends meet, and that we can’t seem to save up for a rainy day, to get an education, or even see the doctor. That’s why I support initiatives like a living wage, fighting for equal pay for equal work, and demanding that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. Mike Quigley has pushed for tax cuts and financial deregulation and resisted supporting a living wage until he knew it would not pass. In order for our economy to work for every American, we need representatives in Congress willing to stand up to wealthy donors and corporations to make sure they are paying more to lift up and support those that are still struggling. The framers of the Constitution designed our government to “promote the general Welfare,” so it is incumbent upon our leaders in Congress to ensure the welfare of all Americans.
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: President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem was a bigoted and relationship-damaging move that will only undermine efforts to secure peace in a volatile Middle East. This decision and the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was not only rejected by the United Nations, but was also disagreed upon by Pope Francis and the Vatican, the head of the Church of England, and Egypt’s Coptic Church, all of whom warned the White House not to declare the move.
Furthermore, the rhetoric used by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley when speaking out against the UN vote only worked to distance the United States from our trusted allies around the world. The US cannot go it alone when it comes to resolving long-standing conflicts that we had a large part in creating. We need to build a coalition of support, and we will not gain that support if we force our way into a region where Palestinian people are being jailed and murdered every day as they fight for their right to their share of the land.
If we want to aim for peace in the Middle East, we must recognize the rights of the Palestinian people and help both parties work towards a two-state solution. We must work with the Palestinians and the Israelis to ensure that they have an equal voice in peace talks and mitigate any damage to relationships done by Trump’s dangerous rhetoric.
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: Like most Americans, I believe that military action must only be taken after diplomatic action and economic sanctions have been utilized in dealing with foreign conflict. The current representative, Mike Quigley, admitted that he’s “more of a hawk” and has voted for increased military spending in line with his defense contractor PAC donors. We cannot put our troops in harm’s way simply because we refuse to commit to the arduous work of diplomacy and geopolitical coalition building.
Instead of engaging in dangerous rhetoric with North Korea, President Trump should first reach out to our allies around the world and work to build a coalition of nations that will help to enact sanctions. The US policy of “strategic patience” obviously hasn’t worked to undermine North Korea’s ability to create and deploy long range missiles, but President Trump’s Twitter tantrums only inflame an already tense situation that will send our troops straight to war.
We must first use diplomacy, but, under President Trump, our State Department has seen a drastic reduction in the number of diplomatic and foreign officers, and this greatly impacts our ability to counter the threats we face using the tools of negotiation and diplomacy. In order to prevent escalation to military conflict, we must first support and engage in smart power with our allies around the world.
We could also increase our presence in the region to try and halt the receipt of any shipments that would help further North Korea’s weapons program. To have a coalition of troops for this effort would mean that the world agrees on the seriousness of the threat, and that the world is working together to stop it. Any option that we put forward should not involve the US acting alone. To do so would only put our troops at greatest risk.
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: The Muslim ban was one of the worst actions that President Trump committed in the first year of his presidency. To single out a religion and base entry into our country on that religion goes against the very ideals this country was founded upon. Xenophobia and hateful rhetoric coming from the highest seat in our nation has undermined America’s place in the world, and has left people of color, immigrants, refugees, and religious minorities (like Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus) feeling like they are not welcome in their own country. We must ask ourselves as a nation if this is who we really are. Are we a country that values diversity? Or are we a country that uses fear mongering, scapegoating, and fascist rhetoric to build walls, single out minorities, and undermine the very values that this country was founded upon?
If President Trump’s real reason for implementing the travel bans was to protect our country from terrorists, then why isn’t he focusing his efforts on the white nationalists we’ve seen rise up in the last year to commit violent acts of terrorism against Americans? Attacks and deaths by white supremacists groups have exceed those of terrorists that are working for foreign terror groups.
The threats of terrorism at home will rise under President Trump, as long as his administration continues the divisive rhetoric that only works to embolden terrorists, both here and abroad, and the bans on refugees and immigrants that play right into the rhetoric that groups like ISIS use with potential recruits. Congress must become a stronger voice against the President and speak out against his regressive actions so that the world knows that America still stands by its ideals, even if our leadership does not reflect the ideals our country was founded upon.
The 5th District stands strong against the discriminatory rhetoric, as I’ve seen in my 30 years here and having been born and raised in the Chicago area. I know who we are as Americans because, I too, am the daughter of immigrants, and a Muslim American. I know what it feels like to be welcomed into a community that views diversity as one of its strengths and continues to build upon it. The travel ban affected people just like me and my family – those that are trying to come here to start anew and make a better life for themselves and their children.
Unfortunately, the racial and religious profiling implemented in the travel ban has been in effect for years. I was detained in 2013 at O’Hare after returning to the US from India because of “my name and birthdate.” I noticed that all of my fellow detainees were either people of color or non-native English speakers. We as leaders need to recognize the damage such discrimination does to our own citizens and residents, and to America’s reputation around the world. Because of that, I cannot express my outrage enough at Mike Quigley’s lack of awareness of Islamophobia in a June 2017 meeting with the Muslim community, when we are faced with institutionalized discrimination at all levels of government and need strong defenders of vulnerable religious minorities. How could the world look to America as the arbiter of justice when it has clearly abandoned its principles to target a religious minority and we have representatives oblivious to their fate?
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: This question only works to inflame the already dangerous rhetoric around immigrants, and the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board should be cognizant of their responsibility in promoting rhetoric that separates immigrants from “the American way of life.” The first settlers here were immigrants. To call out this new generation of immigrants only works to separate them from a largely European/white wave of immigrants that landed here much earlier. It feeds into the white supremacist narrative and it is a question that should be reframed so that it doesn’t feed into the dangerous political rhetoric that is being advanced by this administration.
A more appropriate question might have been “Should the United States limit the number of immigrants that can come into the United States?” to which I would answer: instead of restricting the number of immigrants that can come into the United States, we need to reform our immigration system so that we can create a fair and equitable immigration policy for all immigrants that enter our country. We currently restrict immigrants on certain visas to lower wages, certain companies, and in some cases even restrict their spouses from working which benefits corporations over the people working for them. Congress needs to hold corporations accountable and demand fairer wages for immigrant workers, and loosen the restrictions on immigrant families and spouses.
We need to pass a clean DREAM Act. While that would address the 800,000 DACA recipients, we must also account for 11 million undocumented individuals. They are part of the fabric of our country. They want to be here and contribute, so let’s provide them with a path to citizenship.
Furthermore, we should demand more accountability for border patrol (HR 1608), keep ICE from seizing people at sensitive locations like schools (HR 1815), and give deported veterans a chance to reenter the US legally (HR 1405). While Quigley has generally been a good advocate on immigration, he has not lent his support to any of these bills.
QUESTION: Should the “wall” between the United States and Mexico be built? What might it accomplish?
ANSWER: During his 2016 election campaign, then candidate Trump stated that, “he would build a wall, and that he’d make Mexico pay for it.” More than a year later, the American people have learned that President Trump is still serious about building this wall, and it is very likely going to be the American people who pay for it – to a tune of approximately $21.6 billion.
This wall, like so many other campaign promises, was a tool used by Trump to play to his base, to strike fear and division in the American public, and to use that fear to enforce irresponsible policies that really won’t work to help secure the US-Mexico border.
If we really want to decrease the flow of immigrants into our country from the south, then we should use foreign aid to help fight violent crime and raise the living standards of those living in Central and South America. We also need to redesign and establish fair and equitable trade policies that put workers, not corporations first.
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: According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the repeal of the individual mandate clause, which would go into effect in 2019, would result in 13 million fewer Americans being insured in 2027 compared with the coverage that occurs under the current law. The CBO also predicts that premiums in the healthcare marketplace would increase by 10% without the individual mandate in place, due to the potential for less healthy people being forced to seek coverage, leaving an overall sicker pool of people that need coverage. In fact, this year alone we’ve already seen premiums rise due to the uncertainty the Republicans and Trump are creating surrounding the ACA. I agree with the CBO’s estimate and think that the repeal of the individual mandate will threaten the viability of the ACA, because people may not be able to afford the healthcare they so desperately need.
While some fixes to the ACA can improve access to care and reduce complexity, the only way to provide truly universal, affordable, and equitable healthcare is through a single-payer system, or improved Medicare for All, through the HR 676 and S 1804 bills. As a former manager at a Title X-funded Planned Parenthood clinic, I’ve seen firsthand the impact of people having access to federally-funded health services. According to Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), 31% of U.S. health spending is allocated to administrative costs. Enacting Medicare for All will save anywhere from $400-$600 billion. Mike Quigley does not support HR 676 and has sided with his insurance PAC donors instead of supporting a solution in Medicare for All that would completely eliminate our current dependency on health insurers providing fair and equitable healthcare to all Americans. I would push for the federal government to permanently cover the full cost of Medicaid expansion.
TOPIC: The opponent(s)
QUESTION: What is your biggest difference with your opponents?
ANSWER: While the 5th District is a strong, progressive district, Mike Quigley is a self-described moderate and centrist career politician who often votes with the conservatives and the GOP. Our country has been run by career politicians from both sides who have accepted donations and taken legislative direction from lobbyists and corporations, and are then beholden to them to maintain the status quo. I would have voted against the National Defense Authorization Act, a record defense spending bill which gave Trump more than he requested. Quigley voted with the GOP and the conservatives, and accepts donations from the PACs for defense giants, Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman. Congress should not be empowering an unstable, unfit executive in a fragile geopolitical environment and the voters of the 5th District should have a representative that understands that.
Past treaties like NAFTA failed to protect workers and the environment and led to massive manufacturing job losses and trade deficits. Quigley voted for “Fast Track,” which gave the Obama administration authority to negotiate TPP confidentially which raised concerns across the board, including but not limited to labor unions, environmentalists, and net neutrality advocates. Even more troubling, the resultant agreement made it possible for foreign corporations to sue the U.S. via investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals, putting the U.S. on the hook for legal costs and potentially huge fines. Quigley’s vote on Fast Track also put him at odds with environmentalists with the pact’s lack of climate protections, including opening the floodgates to fracking.
Quigley has taken PAC money from Goldman Sachs and JPM Morgan Chase and voted against increasing funding for the SEC and CFPB. It is critical to fund regulatory agencies and consumer advocates, especially in this environment of continued consolidation.
The lack of campaign finance reform is why our democracy is so fragile. More than half of Quigley’s funds in his most recent FEC filing came from corporate PAC and special interest sources including money from sources that push a right-wing agenda like Altria (formerly Philip Morris), which participates actively in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a powerful conservative legislative organization responsible for writing much of the damaging legislation over the last 40 years. We need a representative that pledges loyalty to voters, not donors, and will push a progressive agenda.
Earlier this year, Mike Quigley refused to do a town hall when faced with a protest outside his Chicago office and only relented after several meetings with a small group of activists. He schedules meetings with a limited number of constituents where ordinary citizens cannot attend if not pre-registered. He recently scheduled a meeting with the Muslim community on a Saturday night in Ramadan, when attendees would be fasting and likely have other family and religious commitments. We need a representative that understands it is part of the job to meet with constituents and to defend and protect marginalized groups.
I am not a career politician. I do not come from the political establishment nor do I have any connections to the “Chicago Machine,” where Quigley got his start as an aide to Bernie Hansen, one of the white aldermen that regularly voted against Harold Washington, Chicago’s first and only Black Mayor. He has walked in lockstep with the Chicago political establishment and upholds the status quo for fear of losing his job.
Unlike Mike Quigley, I am a progressive Democrat and declare so unapologetically. I have spent my life and career championing progressive causes and actively working to make things better for the community. The other challengers in this race have neither the experience, the history and relationships in the district, nor the operation to successfully defeat Quigley and his corporate backers. It’s time that the 5th District had a representative that voters can trust is really motivated to serve them, not just other political insiders, special interests, rich donors, and their own ambitions.