In a time when many Democrats are supporting legislation in the corporate interest while eschewing investment in jobs programs and ignoring the continued foreclosure crisis, few representatives demonstrate compassion and understanding of majority of America. Raul Grijalva of Southern Arizona is one of those representatives.
Representative Grijalva was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. He has been a local politician since the 1974 when he was elected to the Tucson school board. From 1989 to 2002 he worked on the Tucson City Board of Supervisors. His work on the Board was essential in the development of the El Pueblo and El Rio neighborhood centers in Tucson. These centers have programs for seniors, childcare, house libraries and learning centers as well as health clinics and recreation facilities for adults and youth.
In 2002, Representative Grijalva was elected to the House of Representatives from District 7. His district includes South Tucson, Nogales, and west to Yuma. It abuts the 8th Congressional district of Gabrielle Giffords, one of Rep. Grijalva’s closest colleagues in Congress.
Representative Grijalva is truly representative of his community, defending the rights of Mexican-Americans, immigrants, promoting health care and being an advocate for the environment. He was at the top of President Obama’s list to run the interior department for his knowledge and support of the environment.
Raul Grijalva, Representative in Arizona, is working with Keith Ellison, Representative from Minnesota, on a progressive budget. Rep. Ellison and Grijalva co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Ellison and Grijalva said their plan…will adhere to the following five goals:
- Eliminate the deficits and potentially creates a surplus thereafter.
- Put America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
- Protect the social safety net.
- End the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Be FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)
Point one and two could get bi-partisan support if there wasn’t antipathy toward any idea from the opposing party, regardless of the content of the idea. Moreover, there are now Republicans that lean libertarian (more than Ron Paul) that believe the Iraq and Afghan wars should wind down. However, protecting the social safety net and fixing America’s inequality are two goals most in Congress are ignoring. Those goals are essential to turning around our economy and protecting our nation.
While studying at the University of Arizona, Representative Grijalva was a member of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, or MEChA. Their website states that, “Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) is a student organization that promotes higher education, cultura, and historia. MEChA was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of our people. We believe that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.” (MECha page)
Many on the right want to take advantage of Grijalva’s past association with a group that is involved in workers’ struggles, helps educate Chicanos and Mexican Americans, and works to preserve Mexican culture in the states. They call Representative a “MECha boy” much like racist southerners have called African Americans “boy” as a way to belittle him. (Racist website here).
The vitriol and hate speech from the conservative Tea Party groups came to a head before the 2010 elections. Grijalva’s office in Tucson was vandalized, as was Representative Gabrielle Gifford’s office, by frightened Republicans who know no other option than violence when those that disagree with them succeed.
Representative Grijalva represents the enemy for many Arizona Republicans who have become nationally know for passing racially charged laws like SB 1070. And while he has his detractors, those that he represents are more fervently behind him than other politicians in Arizona. Support page for Raul
Rep. Grijalva has a stellar record on Civil Rights, voting against the Patriot Act and in favor of Equal Rights for Gays and Lesbians including marriage rights. (link)
He also supports a woman’s right to choose and supports environmental protection laws.
For more about where Grijalva stands and has for a long time, see his page at OnTheIssues.
I sent some questions to Representative Grijalva and what follows are my questions and his responses. I leave it to you to interpret his responses.
1. What do you think of the Republican’s Budget?
Sadly — but not surprisingly — it looks a lot like the standard right-wing schemes that reward Wall Street while kicking more Americans out of the middle class. This budget punishes working families and puts more of our tax dollars in the pockets of the rich. Frankly, I think it’s a Republican Roadmap to Ruin. We know what happened during the 2000s, when Republicans failed to protect U.S. consumers, let Wall Street police itself and rigged the tax code in favor of a fortunate few. The Great Recession isn’t a coincidence — it’s cause and effect. This budget is part of that agenda. I support – and helped create – the progressive People’s Budget that’s been getting tremendous support from mainstream economists.
2. You wrote a letter against the bombing in Libya, or more correctly, asking Obama to explain this course of action. How would you approach Libya?
The U.S. was right to disengage from any combat presence. Military action on a third front is not something we can afford. I still have questions about what our strategy was in terms of starting a bombing campaign that had no end goal in sight. My approach would include a vigorous search for a country willing to take Gaddafi and then urging him to leave. He has lost legitimacy both locally and internationally and his exit is only a matter of time. Our role should be to find a constructive end game.
3. Republicans and even members of your own party said that your call for a boycott of the state over SB 1070 was wrong and ill timed. Do you have any regrets over that decision?
It was important to make sure the country understood the gravity of the situation, but I’ve said before that the way I initially pursued that goal was a strategic mistake. I believe the courts are the proper venue to determine the outcome of SB 1070, and I think everyone – whatever they feel about the bill – should support a process that will lead to a definitive ruling.
4. What do you think of the President’s performance so far?
Given the obstacles presented by this current House of Representatives, and the near-Depression he inherited, he’s done a good job. I wish the White House would be more vocal and assertive in defending and promoting policies that help working Americans. More forthright advocacy for the middle class could only help the president and the country.
5. What legislation and actions do you have planned in D.C. over the next year and a half?
I already mentioned the progressive budget, which I think is the best way to create jobs and create an economy that really works for the whole country. Life in the House minority can be tough, but I’m going to keep raising the issues of creating more solar power and infrastructure jobs in Arizona; making sure Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security aren’t damaged; education reform, especially changing the worst parts of No Child Left Behind; public lands protection; and sufficient oil drilling oversight, just to name some of the most important. The best I can do now is effectively promote good policies and see what catches on.
Grijalva’s Congressional Page
Progressive Budget from the Progressive Caucus press release
Grijalva on Facebook
Special thanks to Representative Grijalva and his communications director for their time and hard work.