Meet Antonio Villaraigosa, the symbol of the Democrat Resistance
Despite a tough childhood, Villaraigosa has shown that Latinos go far beyond a stigma and that they can change the course of national politics.
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In a country where being Latino has always been a kind of condemnation, people like Antonio Ramón Villaraigosa are a light in the shadows.
Originally from the neighborhood of Boyle Heights in the east of Los Angeles, Villaraigosa (born Antonio Villar), emerged from poverty and life as a "gang member", to be a graduate in history at UCLA.
Having worked as a volunteer in the movement of agricultural workers, Villaraigosa began his political life as a representative of the United Teachers Los Angeles, from where he began his network of contacts that would lead him to the presidency of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Federation of Government Employees.
With an ethical reform as a promise, Villaraigosa was elected for four years to the California State Assembly in 1994. But it was in 2005, when he became the first mayor of Hispanic origin since 1872 in Los Angeles, by 58.7% of the votes.
From his position as Mayor, Villaraigosa promoted an ethical reform within the city commissions, gained control of the Los Angeles Unified School District for the prevention of gangs and earned his reputation as a national Democrat leader under the title of The Latino Power.
At the beginning of April 2006, he actively participated in the marches of undocumented immigrants that counted on the participation of up to 500,000 protesters who requested the amnesty and their legal stay in the United States.
Just weeks after the beginning of Donald Trump's "reign of terror", Villaraigosa didn’t stay idle. On the contrary, he has decided to start his political campaign to become California’s first Hispanic governor, which, according to his own words, "will be the most forceful electoral coup against President Donald Trump," as Univisión reported.
After completing his term as mayor in 2013, this leader has transformed immigration issues into his electoral slogan, promising to ensure the rights of immigrants, extending the declaration of sanctuary status in rejection of the operations of the Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) in California.
"I announced my campaign for the governor's office on the California-Mexico border, delivering water to the undocumented people who are crossing, trying to contrast the Trump campaign that spoke about walls, punishing the Mexican, the undocumented; accusing them of being criminals," Villaraigosa told Univisión.
"Instead of putting a wall we should extend our hand as a bridge to those immigrants," he added.
His run for the governorship of California is intended to succeed Jerry Brown, and the primary elections will be held on June 5. According to current surveys, this Latino of Mexican descent ranks second, behind the former mayor of San Francisco and also Democrat, Gavin Newsom.
Although the percentage difference between the two candidates is 9 points, this democrat representation has displaced the Republican representatives in the state, who have only 9% approval each.
"What many people have told me is 'what better way to confront President Trump, who punishes the Mexican and the immigrant, than to choose a governor with the surname Villaraigosa,'" the former mayor said during his interview.
"I want to be the governor that unites in these times, who doesn’t divide as Trump has," he said. "My candidacy represents the aspirations of a community that is key to society, which represents 40% of the state. We are not invisible; we are workers, contributors to the wealth of this state."
According to the local media, The Sacramento Bee, Villaraigosa's career is not only admirable but also "deeply liberal", having established legislation to increase taxes on the rich, creating measures to expand Medi-Cal to poor children and establishing the Healthy Families Program that offered medical coverage to children without health insurance.
In the same way, Villaraigosa increased arms control and has proposed the evaluation of economic strategies to improve medical coverage throughout the state.
Also, his campaign has focused on the economy and the middle class, referring to the economic disparity of the state, ensuring that, “Travel a few miles from Brentwood to Boyle Heights or a long distance from Hillsborough to Huron, and you will see that there are actually ‘two Californias’ – one largely white and wealthy, the other largely Latino and poor,”
Finally, and in a column written by himself for La Opinion, Villaraigosa has assured that California is a state of Resistance against the Trump administration, not only from the struggle for its status as a sanctuary city but as a civic example of immigrant incorporation to social life and local economic development.
"The term 'Sanctuary' has been considered something negative, like a dirty word, by Donald Trump and the Republicans, but the police officers don’t agree with the negative way in which the term has been used," the former mayor wrote. "On the contrary, they know that these approaches keep communities safe."
Villaraigosa went on to explain that cities like Los Angeles - where two-thirds of the population come from Latin America, Asia, and Africa - are the epicenter of immigrants and undocumented civilians, and yet, during his eight years as mayor of Los Angeles, "the violent and gang-related crime decreased by 50%, thanks to the help of everyone, including immigrants."