In light of this year’s endless drama in the immigration department, 61-year-old senator Adriano Espaillat is just the fresh face we need. Favored in November’s general election after winning the Democratic primary in Harlem and parts of the Bronx, Espaillat has a high chance of becoming the first-ever Dominican-American in congress once Charles Rangel is retired.
An immigrant himself who lived in the United States undocumented like countless others in our society, Espaillat hopes his story will inspire and evoke change during such turbulent political times. Prior to his interest in congress, Espaillat had also taken part in the State Assembly and spent several years doing community service work.
In 1964, Espaillat took a “vacation” to New York City to visit his grandparents, but stayed past the expiration date of his family’s visa. His grandparents then requested for his family to finally become citizens, having lived undocumented in the United States for several months. Espaillat told Fox News Latino that he was cautious stepping foot into the streets of the Big Apple, admitting “there was a level of fear … that Immigration would come in, at any time.” As such, Espaillat considers his success to be a “strong message against the intolerance that’s being spewed by the Trumps of the world.”
Curious to see how his own story will sit with those opposed to the immigration reform in congress, Espaillat has no interest in making friends upon his arrival. “How will they feel knowing that I have the same vote as they have on the floor of Congress?” he asked. “I would love to see what the reaction is.” According to FNL, out of more than 12,000 people who have served in Congress in the history of the United States only 407 were foreign-born.
Slowly the number of minority representatives are increasing and there’s no doubt it has to do with the diversity our nation is seeing today. “The election is a reflection of how the reality of the district has already shifted,” Espaillat said, “and whatever symbolic significance it has is because of Harlem’s place in black culture.” In the general election this November, Espaillat will face Republican candidate Tony Evans and Green Party candidate Daniel Vila Rivera.
“I’m not a stranger to Harlem,” he continued. “I don’t think there should be any fear, because I am a New Yorker.” Whether he becomes the first Dominican-American in congress or not, here’s a toast to diversifying our nation’s political landscape.