When people ask me why I’m campaigning for Congress, they like to ask two things: why I’m running, and what experience I have. To me, both answers are related.
Professionally, my experience is simple enough. I am an elected neighborhood council board member who is used to serving the needs of my people. I am a lawyer who has worked in a wide range of fields, all tied to seeking justice for the underdog. I have investigated corruption, worked on labor cases, and, in my current job as an immigration attorney, defended those whose only “crime” is wanting to be American.
But there’s experience that’s more important to me than bullet points on a resume. For me, the experience that qualifies me to run for Congress—and in fact, is the reason why I’m running—is the life I spent grinding my way to a career, building myself up from scratch here in Los Angeles, despite financial insecurity, home insecurity, job insecurity, and all the anxieties and problems they brought with them.
My most important experience and job qualification is a life spent in Los Angeles just like most of the people who live here: working hard to barely get by. Wanting more, deserving more, and seeing my government do nothing about it.
I began my career like so many today: buried under a mountain of debt, patching together 2-3 jobs during the day—working free as an attorney, because paid legal jobs were scarce those days—and driving for Uber and Lyft when most people were sleeping.
Often, I had little to rely on other than grit, determination, and a lesson I started learning all the way back when I was eight years old.
Back then, my Los Angeles church was filled with members who couldn’t speak English. As the son of immigrants, I was the link between the world and language they knew, and the world and language they were in.
It was my job, as an eight year old boy, to translate phone calls into English whenever my church members needed to call the phone company and ask about bills. It was my job to be their voice when no one else could. I was proud to take their needs and turn it into action.
Flash forward to my adult life, working all those jobs and never having a moment to breathe: I still remembered that lesson. My entire career has been fueled by a desire to help those who need a voice:
I once accepted what I thought was a dream job in the music industry, only to leave and become an immigration lawyer 9 months later. Why? Because I realized something about myself:
If I’m not helping others, I’m simply not interested. It’s why I work to defend respondents in immigration court when they receive their notice to appear, and why I fight to help my clients seek asylum here in the U.S.
Our current representative takes 98.8% of his money from large donors and corporate PACs. He must answer to healthcare companies, pharmaceutical companies, weapons manufacturers and debt collectors. I want to answer to my people and put my community first.
I want to build them a floor to stand on, so they never have to worry about the next day ending up with nothing. I want to continue my career and stay true to my life story.
My experience is voicing the needs of others, because I know those needs firsthand. I’ve done it for 10+ years as an attorney for all of my clients, and I’ve done it life long as a son, brother and friend to many.
My experience is why I’m running. And my experience will help your voice reach Congress. After all, it’s what I know best.