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Rep. Ilhan Omar represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, which includes Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs.
An experienced Twin Cities policy analyst, organizer, public speaker and advocate, Rep. Omar was sworn into office in January 2019, making her the first African refugee to become a Member of Congress, the first woman of color to represent Minnesota, and one of the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress.
As a legislator, Rep. Omar is committed to fighting for the shared values of the 5th District, values that put people at the center of our democracy. She plans to focus on tackling many of the issues that she hears about most from her constituents, like investing in education and freeing students from the shackles of debt; ensuring a fair wage for a hard day’s work; creating a just immigration system and tackling the existential threat of climate change.
Rep. Omar also plans to resist attempts to divide us and push destructive policies that chip away at our rights and freedoms—and to build a more inclusive and compassionate culture, one that will allow our economy to flourish and encourage more Americans to participate in our democracy.
Born in Somalia, Rep. Omar and her family fled the country’s civil war when she was eight. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States in 1990s. In 1997, she moved to Minneapolis with her family. As a teenager, Rep. Omar’s grandfather inspired her to get involved in politics. Before running for office, she worked as a community educator at the University of Minnesota, was a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and served as a Senior Policy Aide for the Minneapolis City Council.
In 2016 she was elected as the Minnesota House Representative for District 60B, making her the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States and the first Somali-American State Legislator. Rep. Omar served as the Assistant Minority Leader, with assignments to three house committees; Civil Law & Data Practices Policy, Higher Education & Career Readiness Policy and Finance, and State Government Finance.
Since the founding of this nation, immigrants have been integral to the development and diversity that makes America so unique. Many immigrants and refugees, like myself, have escaped war, oppression and socioeconomic strife in our homelands to seek better opportunities in the United States.
But sadly, our nation’s immigration system is fundamentally unjust and tragically inhumane. Instead of extending humanity and compassion to migrants and refugees, we treat them as criminals. There is no need for children to be put in cages. There is no need to fund an expensive wall that only stands for hate and bigotry. There is no need to the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency routinely crack down on innocent immigrants in a brutal and militarized fashion. My position will always be to establish a just immigration system that welcomes and protects all human beings, never treating anyone as a presumed criminal, no matter their ethnicity, religion, or any other orientation.
In Congress, I continue to push for ICE to be abolished and replaced with an agency that can defend our national security without criminalizing and brutalizing vulnerable communities. I am also steadfastly fighting to prevent even one more dollar from going to the Department of Homeland Security that could be used for the continued vilification of immigrants or other practices that violate the fundamental values we hold as a country.
I’m also fighting for a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, TPS holders, and DED recipients. I am committed to doing all I can to help the over 11 million undocumented immigrations living in the United States come out of the shadows and get access to rights and privileges they deserve. Just as importantly, we cannot continue to ignore the plight of migrants and refugees, which is why I’m pushing for a return to our historical role as a leader in refugee resettlement and reform of our existing policies abroad that are causing people to flee their homes for a safer future.
Workers and Economy
Americans deserve an economy that works for everyone, not just for wealthy corporations and the top 1%. Unfortunately, workers today are operating in a rigged system has left us with a widening equality gap and a constant undermining of rights. Our economy must be reformed to ensure that every American has access to a stable job with a living wage, robust benefits and the right to organize.
I’m committed to pushing changes that ensure those protections for workers in every industry and income bracket throughout this country. That’s why I am a staunch supporter of raising the minimum wage, which will reverse the stagnant growth workers have been struggling with for decades as they try to keep up with the ever-increasing cost of living. But low wages aren’t the only thing holding working families back. I am also pushing for a national paid family leave and sick days policy, so that no one has to choose between their health and their paycheck.
Even when workers are gainfully employed, they are all to often forced to fight discrimination and an overall lack of protections in the workplace. For decades, labor unions have been a force of good for working families, implementing positive change and pushing back against attacks on their rights. We need to build on the victories labor has had and shore up organizing rights for all employees - so that those victories can’t be undone. I am fighting to protect and expand the right to unionize and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. I’m also pushing the Department of Labor to upholds its responsibility to investigate and enforce wage theft laws and workplace safety regulations, so that no one is putting their livelihood or health on the line when they report to work.
I’m also working to advance new and progressive employment models like a federal jobs guarantee and worker-owned cooperatives, to ensure that not only is every American afforded a job with dignity, but that they have a seat at the table and a voice in decisions that impact their future and their ability to provide for their family.
Education is a pathway to greater opportunity and economic security. It is the lynchpin of the American Dream. I am committed to ensuring all Americans have access to an affordable, quality education at every level, from pre-K through college and beyond.
We must equip our nation’s elementary and secondary schools with the best possible resources in order to help prepare our students for their future. That means increasing federal funding for crucial education programs and grants to local schools, as well as repairing and updating classroom infrastructure. Our students cannot thrive in schools that have leaking ceilings, classrooms without heat or air conditioning, and contaminated drinking water. They need a safe environment and high-quality equipment to succeed. We must also ensure that the teachers who mentor our students have what they need to prosper by providing all school employees with higher wages, paid leave, and first-rate benefits.
But we cannot stop advocating for students once they graduate high school, particularly given the increasing barriers they face in pursuing higher education. The rising cost of college and post-secondary education and training is limiting the opportunities and mobility of our future workforce. College debt has increased 170 percent since 2006 and now exceeds $1.5 trillion dollars, making it harder for borrowers to succeed, build wealth or contribute to economic growth. That burden of debt has a disproportionate impact for students of color and working-class students, perpetuating our nation’s growing equality gap.
I am fighting for our students by pushing policies that will address the rising cost of college. That includes policies like establishing tuition-free college and eliminating the existing student loan debt that’s currently holding millions of Americans back. Enacting such plans will ensure that everyone - regardless of their income or zip code, the color of their skin or their parents’ occupation - has access to a quality, affordable education.
We are in a climate crisis. With increased natural disasters and a warming planet–we need large scale action to combat climate change and ensure everyone has access to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment.
In Congress, my top environmental priority is addressing climate change and helping our country reduce its carbon footprint by transitioning away from a reliance on fossil fuels and moving towards a 100% clean energy economy. I am a strong advocate for policies that invest in renewable energy, champion green efficient manufacturing and uphold strong environmental protections. I’m also adamant that we must end the subsidies and tax breaks we currently gift to the millionaires and billionaires in the fossil fuel industry, and instead focus our federal investments in programs that will help build a healthier future for our children.
We must also end the extraction of fossil fuels that disproportionately impact communities of color and indigenous communities. We must respect tribal sovereignty and stop the building of fossil fuel infrastructure through tribal land and treaty territory. I oppose fossil fuel infrastructure projects that perpetuate environmental racism—the disproportionate pollution and environmental degradation experienced by communities of color and indigenous communities.
As part of this push to transition to a clean energy economy, we must prioritize workforce training and job creation in renewable sectors in order to support the workers who currently depend on the fossil-fuel industry. The thousands of Americans currently working in the coal industry need a safe transition to jobs in the new energy economy - jobs that include a living wage, a union, and employer-sponsored benefits. I will continue advocating for workforce investments in things like clean energy training centers, relocation support and employment outreach services to ensure a bright future for both our environment and our people.
Affordable and quality healthcare is a human right. Yet, one in four Americans cannot afford or access the healthcare they need because of prohibitive cost. This is unacceptable.As one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world, the United States cannot be a place where some citizens must choose between seeking life-saving treatment or putting food on the table for their families. This cannot be country where millions of citizens living with pre-existing conditions are denied coverage. Nor, can it be a country where quality mental health care is a privilege only afforded to a few.
Our healthcare system must ensure dignity and equality for all people, which is why we need to enact policies that move our country to a single-payer system. As a Member of Congress, I’m proud to support Medicare for All, a legislative proposal that creates a single-payer system that will finally guarantee coverage for every American, while reining-in the exorbitant costs of our existing system. I also plan to continue fighting against the constant attacks on the Affordable Care Act and the Trump Administration’s attempts to rescind the crucial protections afforded by this landmark legislation.
The inalienable right to healthcare also means that no one should be blocked from accessing the prescription medications they need. Americans pay more for pharmaceutical products than any other country in the world. We must hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for price gouging and other corporate monopolistic practices that prioritize profits over patients. I am fiercely advocating for policies that lower prices and increase transparency within the industry.
I also stand in support of efforts to safeguard reproductive rights against those who would seek to strip away our ability to make decisions about our own bodies. Every woman – no matter where they live or what their economic status – is entitled to safe, quality reproductive healthcare, which includes access to pregnancy-related care, contraceptive medication and abortion services. I will continue to be a steadfast advocate for women’s rights, especially when it comes to the preservation of our bodily autonomy and reproductive healthcare.
I believe in an inclusive foreign policy — one that centers on human rights, justice and peace as the pillars of America’s engagement in the world, one that brings our troops home and truly makes military action a last resort.
This means reorienting our foreign affairs to focus on diplomacy and economic and cultural engagement. At a time when we spend more on our military than the next seven countries combined, our global armed presence is often the most immediate contact people in the developing world have with the United States. I am a strong advocate for drawing down our out- of-control defense spending and reinvesting those resources back into our local communities. We must also demilitarize our foreign policy by repealing the 2001 AUMF, and reclaiming Congress’s constitutional authority over war powers. Doing so is the only way to end our state of perpetual and endless war, and avoid military-use as a last resort in the future.
Creating an inclusive foreign policy also means reconsidering harmful sanctions and other interventionist policies that interfere with democratically-elected governments. Academic research has shown that sanctions achieve their desired goals only about a third of the time and in the worst-case scenario, they can hurt people of a country – generally the very people we’re purporting to help – without making a dent in the country’s behavior. In Congress, I am pushing to end the use of sanctions and embargoes as a means of punishment and control, and instead focus instead on diplomatic solutions with a long-term strategic vision.
I also feel strongly that our foreign policy should reflect our domestic values. That is why I strongly advocate for international programs that address the climate crisis, increase economic opportunity, end mass incarceration and protect vulnerable populations, just as I do domestically. These are principles that must extend not only to our foreign policies but to the trade agreements we enter into, avoiding any economic bargains that undermine our labor and environmental standards at home or abroad. Once we fully implement these policies, we can begin to repair the harm that’s been done, restore America’s broken image, and rebuild in diplomatic relationships.