We are in a fight for the soul of our country right now.
Donald Trump came into office scapegoating immigrants, bragging about sexual assault and making promises to “Make America Great Again.” He has surrounded himself with people who have no experience to lead their departments, and actually seek to destroy the very agencies they lead.
He ran on promises that he pledged to fulfill in his first 100 days. Now that he’s come up short on so many, the president is complaining that the 100-day mark is a “ridiculous standard” by which to judge. Isn’t that convenient for him?
Though the president has been dismissive about his time in office, I want you to know what I’ve been up to over my first 100 days as the representative for Washington state’s Seventh District—a district that strives to be a model of what a healthy, prosperous, and welcoming community looks like.
My priorities are clear.
First, be accessible and responsive to my constituents. Listening to and learning from their expertise and knowledge has been a top priority. My staff and I have spent time all over Washington’s Seventh, meeting with the mayors and councils of all the cities in the district, holding over 150 constituent meetings and organizing 14 roundtables with local stakeholders in business, labor, health care, education, and other fields.
We have a dedicated constituent services team, and we’ve already helped over 100 people on their individual cases around immigration, veterans’ services, Social Security, and health care. My job is to do everything I can to help you get answers from government agencies, to get you resources, and to help solve problems. In case after case, my team has been able to cut through red tape and get our constituents what they need. We filed an inquiry that allowed Arushi Kakkar to get a visa so she could stay here and keep her job at Amazon, we worked with Veterans’ Affairs to make sure a constituent received the pain medicine he badly needed, and we’re still diligently pushing to solve the broad range of cases that constituents bring to our office.
Given what is at stake, it is more necessary than ever to communicate with as many people as possible. That’s why I held five town halls and was thrilled to have over 2,000 in-person attendees and more than 10,000 Facebook Livestream participants. We’ve received and responded to over 70,000 letters, emails, and phone calls—and we’re proud to know from the Capitol mailroom that my office gets the most mail of any office in the country! As a lifelong organizer, I believe that this accessibility is what creates good and responsive government. I want to provide as much information to constituents as possible about what is happening in Congress, and I want to get as much information back as I can about what matters to you, what ideas you have, and what work you are doing that I can amplify. Democracy is a partnership, and good governing means working together to find the right legislative solutions and build the right organizing coalition to make those solutions happen.
Second, I aim to help lead the resistance. I started my term by challenging the Electoral College vote in Congress and staying in Seattle with immigrant constituents instead of attending Trump’s inauguration. When the first Muslim ban was implemented, I was at the airport as soon as I found out what was happening. I was a signatory to one of the successful temporary restraining orders filed by diligent attorneys, and I was unafraid to demand access to the Customs and Border Protection officials to get answers as to who was being held. I helped get information to everyone about what was happening so that thousands could rally at the airport to demand justice.
That day, a man named Isahaq Rabi had been denied entry and flown back across the ocean after he landed at Sea-Tac Airport. After the ban was ruled unconstitutional, he returned, and my staff met him at the airport to translate for him and welcome him to the district.
Today, Isahaq is living in West Seattle, reunited with his family and attending classes. Like me, when I immigrated to this country as a 16-year-old from India, he came here for an education. We want to bolster and make real America’s promise as a land of opportunity for everyone, not drag it down.
The courts have been essential to this effort. Despite Trump’s complaining, Muslim Bans 1.0 and 2.0, as well as the administration’s threats to withdraw funding for sanctuary cities like Seattle, have all been ruled unconstitutional or suspended by preliminary injunctions. Let’s be clear that it has been the organizing and protests across the country that created the space and worked hand in hand with legal strategy to bring about the outrage and the attention necessary to make this happen.
I was also proud to lead the second-largest event to save our health care in Seattle. Working with a great coalition of organizations, more than 2,000 people showed up to hear the stories of how our state has benefited from the Affordable Care Act and how we must continue forward, not backward. As vice ranking member of the Budget Committee and as a vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I’ve fought hard against TrumpCare, the Republican plan to strip 24 million Americans of health care and transfer $1 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthiest by slashing Medicaid by $880 billion. That was unacceptable, and the American people came out in force to firmly say, “No.” This defeat of TrumpCare was a huge win for the resistance movement and for Americans across our country.
The all-out assault on everything we cherish has required us to be informed and vigilant on every front. I use my time on the floor and in committee hearings to shine a light on what is being proposed so we can stand together and fight back. Trump’s budget proposal is a key example of an issue on which we cannot back down. It would wipe out many essential services to the Puget Sound: our efforts to clean up the sound, funding for health care researchers like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and funds for transit and transportation. Rolling back regulations—which doesn’t require legislation—has also been devastating, from workplace enforcement regulations to those that protect our environment. We cannot win on every front, but our strategy must be to push back on as much as we can and to keep our resistance movement strong.
My third priority is this: We cannot be only an opposition party, we must also be a proposition party. That’s why I’ve been pushing to show what our vision of the world is and to fight for it. It’s also why my first bill was the Access to Counsel Act, which would provide access to an attorney for those being detained by ICE. I was able to get over 50 cosponsors in the House, and worked with U.S. senator Kamala Harris, who introduced the bill in the Senate.
During my campaign, I promised to introduce legislation to make college more affordable, and that is just what I did. I worked closely with senator Bernie Sanders to introduce the College for All Act. Our legislation would create a federal-state partnership to fund college tuition for students from families earning up to $125,000 per year. We would slash interest rates, stop the government from profiting off of student loans, and allow borrowers with existing debt to refinance at those lower rates. Under separate legislation introduced by representative Keith Ellison, the College for All Act would be paid for by a modest tax on Wall Street speculation, an idea supported by hundreds of economists.
As part of the introduction of College for All, I collected and utilized stories from so many of you about the burden of college debt. Twenty-seven-year-old Mallory, from Seattle, wrote to me that she’s in debt to the tune of $60,000 after attending a public university. Her dad was a farmer and her mother was a teacher who lost her home in the 2008 economic crash. Now, with all her debt, Mallory says she’s “already given up on my dreams of ever owning a house or having children because I don't believe I'll ever be able to afford them.”
Theresa, 57 years old, wrote to me and said, “Either I manage to work another 20 years and somehow manage to pay the damn thing off, or I die or become disabled and it gets discharged.” She is a lawyer in a rural area who has survived breast cancer, but with high interest rates, her debt has ballooned to $120,000.
Introducing the legislation is the first part—next, we’ll need to create the political space to move the legislation forward. We’re looking forward to holding events across the country and engaging young people and families in pushing to enact our legislation.
People ask me all the time how I like being a member of Congress. My answer is: I love this job. I cannot imagine a better way to spend my time than fighting for the soul of our country every single day, working hard to create a more perfect union, and representing the best district in the country. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. It truly is an honor, and I will do everything I can to push for a vision of America that is about generosity and abundance, not scarcity and fear. I am proud to be your representative in Congress.