By: Michael Ramos, DA-Australia
No recognition of notable Latinos and Latinas during Hispanic Heritage Month should go unnoticed without mentioning the incredible congresswoman who represents New York’s 7thCongressional District, Nydia M. Velázquez. The 7thDistrict has large Hispanic, Polish and Jewish populations and encompasses the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the northwest side of Brooklyn, and a sliver of Queens, making it among the most diverse constituencies in the nation.
Born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Velázquez earned her way through college in both Puerto Rico and New York and eventually became a congressional staffer for former U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY). In 1992, she became the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress and she has impressively earned re-election twelve times since.
As a member of Congress, Velásquez’s legislative accomplishments are numerous. She has had nine bills signed into law by four different presidents, both Democratic and Republican. Over the years she has served on several committees, caucuses and task forces within the U.S. House of Representatives. Her colleagues on both sides of the aisle greatly respect her encyclopedic knowledge on financial and business issues.
But perhaps her signature achievements in Congress stem from her time serving on the Small Business Committee, of which she currently serves as the top Democrat on the panel. Following the federal government’s disastrous response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, Rep. Velázquez spearheaded the congressional effort to ensure that small business owners received the disaster assistance they had been promised including communications with the Government Accountability Office in investigating the Small Business Administration’s response to business owners affected by the hurricane, welcoming small business owners from the Gulf Coast to testify in front of the committee on their personal situations, and being heavily involved in reports on the progress of the disaster loan program following Katrina. These investigations led to comprehensive reform of the SBA’s federal disaster programs.
As a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Velázquez has been a staunch defender of “DREAMers,” civil rights, women’s equality, and allowing for Puerto Ricans to hold determine their own political status through means of a constitutional convention. The congresswoman’s current bills pending in the House of Representatives cover topics such as consumer protection in food products and pesticides, tax credits related to the arts and flood insurance, recognizing women inventors, reforms to improve small business loans, and many, many other items.
Some say that members of Congress should have to abide by term limits. For voters of New York’s 7thDistrict, they clearly disagree with their overwhelming support of Rep. Velázquez as she continues to fight for her constituents and the U.S. Latino community.