Fierce

She’s Running: Social Justice Leader Erika Almirón Is Ready To Represent Philadelphia’s Most Marginalized In Public Office

She’s Running is a FIERCE series highlighting Latinas running for office in local, state and federal elections.

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed for correction. An earlier version inaccurately stated that Almirón would be the first elected official of Paraguayan descent in the country. She will be among the first, and the first in Philadelphia, but not the first nationwide.

Philadelphia has a powerful history of political activism, and in recent years, Erika Almirón has been considered one of its biggest social justice warriors. Now, the Paraguayan-American is vying for a seat on the city council, where she hopes to create change for the people of her city in new ways.

Almirón already has a history of impactful change-making, though. As the executive director of Juntos, an immigrant rights group in the city, she helped make Philadelphia the most progressive sanctuary city in the county. Before then, as assistant director of the Philadelphia Student Union, she pushed back against the criminalization of young people.

“I’ve been doing social justice work for 20 years,” Almirón told FIERCE. “It’s time to be a voice inside city council representing the people accurately.”

Currently, more than 40 candidates are trying to get on the ballot to run for city council at-large in Philadelphia, but should Almirón win, she would be among the first elected officials of Paraguayan descent in the country and the first in Philadelphia.

We chatted with Almirón, a first-time candidate, about her run for office, the biggest issues impacting Philadelphia today, how she’s prepared to tackle them and more.

FIERCE: Why did you decide to run for Philadelphia City Council?

Erika Almirón: I think that there’s this moment right now. I’ve been doing social justice work for 20 years. In the last eight years, I was leading Juntos, an immigrant rights group in Philly. It became apparent that there’s an opportunity right now for someone like me to run. After all my years of building coalitions, it’s time to be a voice inside city council representing the people accurately.

FIERCE: I know that your three priorities are tackling housing justice, decriminalization and police accountability as well as education equity. Why are these issues currently crucial to your city?

Erika Almirón: I’ve spent the last two decades doing social justice work, both in education reform and immigration as it intersects with criminal justice work. I’ve been working in Black and brown communities. So it’s very natural for these issues to be important to me. I’ve watched people in high school get criminalized. I know what the school-to-prison pipeline looks like. I spent eight years battling the deportation machine locally and across the country and watching policing and racial profiling. Those two issues are super important to me. And, naturally, as someone from this city and has seen how it’s gentrifying so quickly, especially Latino communities, housing and stability has been one main issue. Landlords are evicting tenants, rent is doubling in one year, neighborhoods are gentrifying so fast. And it’s not just impacting Latinos. It’s across the board and city. Being able to push for something like rent control in Philly would transform our ability to stay.

FIERCE: Your campaign slogan is “Fighting For All Of Us.” How do you intend on doing that on city council? What does fighting for all look like for you?

Erika Almirón: I’ve spent years building coalitions and fighting at intersections. I fought to have a DA that reflects our values, and Philly now has the most progressive DA. I fought to make Philly the most progressive sanctuary city. I was able to do this through coalition work. That’s how we win, when we build communities together, especially communities you don’t expect to work together because the powers that be want to keep us separated. Building citywide coalitions that are fighting for all the issues that matter and pushing that forward is what fighting for all looks like.

FIERCE:  In your first campaign video, you stated you would not be taking corporate money, PAC money or real estate development money. Why?

Erika Almirón: I want to run a campaign that’s reflective of my values. I don’t want it to be different from who I’ve been my whole life. I don’t want funds that guide my desire and I don’t want this city to think that’s happening. When you talk to me, I want you to know I’m guided by what the people need and not money.

FIERCE: As a working-class woman, Latina and child of Paraguyan immigrants who are small business owners, what do you think these identities, and the perspectives and experiences that come with them, can bring to Philadelphia’s city council that is new or needed?

Erika Almirón: I say it all the time: I was born in Philly to immigrant parents. I understand intimately what it means to be a working-class woman, what most of the city is going through. I know the struggle of putting food on the table, job access, college access for poor and working-class people of color, trying to understand processes as first-generation people. I know what people are going through. Philly is the poorest of all the big cities in the country, and it’s also majority-people of color. That’s not a coincidence. There’s a stark divide of people who have and don’t have.

FIERCE: Of course, you are much more than your identities. You’ve worked directly on education reform as the assistant director of the Philadelphia Student Union and you have successfully fought on behalf of immigrants and the decriminalization of Black and brown bodies as the executive director of Juntos. How do you think these experiences and the skills you’ve gained through them prepared you for this office?

Erika Almirón: I think all of those experiences. I understand what it takes to move power. I understand what movement-building looks like and how to do it effectively. That requires building coalitions, drafting policies, making legal arguments. It’s not just about knowing what the right thing is but about challenging power. I feel very prepared to be in city council.

FIERCE: You have been doing social justice work around Philly and the US-Mexico border for the last 20 years. How could holding a seat in public office allow you to carry this work forward in new ways?

Erika Almirón: I think what it does is it creates space for a woman of color, a Latina, to have a voice on the city council. I also think Philadelphia has shown ways it could be the most progressive in the country. I just see how in these dark times, when we have such a racist oppressive man as president, that Philly can be a beacon to show the country what is possible when you come together.

FIERCE: On that, it’s often said that the biggest and most effective change is done locally. What are you prepared to do or work on locally to combat the policy and rhetoric coming out of the White House?

Erika Almirón: I think it’s doing what I’ve been doing. Even recently, I’ve been fighting to get the accent on my last name on the ballot, because that’s never happened for a Latino candidate, and they originally said no but just recently, just this morning, they said they’ll fix it. This is a win. We are making sure our identities are not erased, which is exactly what we are seeing from our federal government. Trump is actively trying to criminalize and erase our people. There’s a lot of policies I’d like to push forward, but I’d like to start with rent control. Undocumented communities are being hit hard. They don’t have access to loans for homes, they’re being pushed out of their communities quickly and rents are rising. If this is not tackled, our immigrant hubs will disappear.

FIERCE: Finally, as a first-time candidate, I think you can offer a lot to young Latinas who aspire to run for office. Do you have a message for Latinas with political dreams but perhaps see those as unfeasible?

Erika Almirón: I would say that it is time for women like us to take the seat that we rightfully deserve in power. Everything seems scary until you do it. Everything I know about Latinas is that we are a resilient bunch, and it’s so important that people find strength within themselves to do what they know they can do and fight for what is right and get those seats we deserve.

Read: For 160 Years, Denver Hasn’t Had A Woman Mayor — Lisa Calderón Could Change That

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The Bernie Campaign Teamed Up With Cardi B To Talk About Police Brutality, DREAMers And Raising Wages

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The Bernie Campaign Teamed Up With Cardi B To Talk About Police Brutality, DREAMers And Raising Wages

@BernieSanders / Twitter

Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and rapper Cardi B have been teasing their on-screen discussion on issues ranging from police brutality to canceling student debt for a few weeks now. Finally, the Sanders campaign published the video in all its nearly ten minutes of glory.

The two met at Detroit’s TEN nail bar, a deluxe nail salon founded and operated by two women of color. Cardi B came prepared with a list of questions that her own followers have brought up with her. In essence, Cardi B served as a representative of her fans’ political interests and brought them to a Presidential candidate to see if he would be the guy to officially represent their needs in the nation’s most meaningful capacity–as POTUS 2020.

Six weeks ago, Cardi asked her fans what they would want to hear Bernie Sanders discuss.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

On July 2, the rapper shared a video to Instagram telling her followers that her number one question to Bernie Sanders is about how to end police brutality in this country. “What would you like to ask? what change would you like to see in your community and in the USA 🇺🇸?” she posted. “2020 is getting very close let’s get familiar with who is running and how they can change the country! Put your questions down below and your questions may be answered very soon.”

Nobody expected she was actually going to sit down with Bernie Sanders and represent the Bardi Gang’s political issues.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

Hilariously, Sanders wiggled his fingers alongside Cardi B’s as he told us that, “Cardi B’s nails are juuuust a little different than mine. Our views on the issues are pretty similar.” 

Cardi B absolutely nailed it as an interviewer. She steered the conversation and truly represented her followers’ interests. She opened the video to remind everyone that, “A couple of weeks ago, I asked my followers what types of questions would you want to ask a Democratic candidate. Let’s go baby.” Here are the takeaways.

Number one: Cardi and Bernie’s shared goal is getting Trump out of office.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

“You know what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to advocate the youth in my community because I feel like there’s a serious problem right now in America,” Cardi opens. “We have this bully as a President and the only way to take him out is somebody winning.”

“We’ve got to get rid of Donald Trump, obviously. Because Donald Trump is an overt racist. He’s just way out there.”

The first question on Cardi’s mind is putting an end to police brutality in America. Bernie has a three-pronged plan.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

Cardi B got vulnerable and talked about the mental effects of what it’s like to “constantly see on social media police brutality against black men and against minorities. What are we going to do to change that, because that is discouraging our people? We constantly see our men getting killed every day, and it seems like nobody cares.”

Sanders wants to end the militarization of police departments, which he sees as a form of intimidation.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

To address police brutality, he wants the Department of Justice to investigate every police killing to ensure accountability and prevent local police departments from covering up crimes. He also wants to federally obligate police departments to “look like the community they serve” and “not like an oppressive army.” Sanders related to the “disgust” of seeing 1 in 4 young black men in the criminal justice system. His solution to that specific issue is to invest in free education instead of investing in prisons and incarceration. 

During his first week as President, Sanders will reinstate the executive order that gave protections to DREAMers, and he wants to extend those protections to their parents.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

Cardi had recalled meeting a fan who enrolled for protections under DACA and is now facing deportation back to Mexico–a place that he has no living memory of ever knowing. Bernie wants the 1.8 million young people who qualify for DACA to experience the freedoms of this country. When he said he wants to expand that program to their parents, Cardi did a little jiggle and let out a “Yeahhh!”

Bernie is going to raise taxes to allow free healthcare and education, but it will be cheaper on a day to day for Americans.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

“People are afraid to pay more taxes than they’re already paying,” Cardi rightly stated. Bernie’s plan to offer free health care for all will ultimately be cheaper for the overwhelming majority of people than paying for premiums, deductibles, and copayments.

Cardi B will never forget how hard it was to make a living wage before she found fame.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

Cardi B brought up how “certain people like to brag” about how there are more jobs in America, but she’s questioning the quality of these jobs. Why are her followers having to work two or three jobs to survive? Bernie wants to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

By placing a modest tax on Wall Street, Sanders plans to cancel student debt.

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

Forty-five million Americans are living with student debt. Sanders knows that those of us in our 20s and 30s were told that we had to go to college to get a good job. Where the good jobs at? Our generation is far less likely to own homes and make financial progress in our lives. For the first time, our generation is worse off than the generation before it. 

Sanders has a message to Cardi B’s followers: “Trump doesn’t want people of color to be participating in the political process.”

Credit: @BernieSanders / Twitter

“Participate in the political process,” he tells POC. You can spend five minutes to register to vote here.

Watch the full interview below!

What do you think about Cardi B’s interview?

READ: Cardi B Claps Back At “Republicans And Conservatives” Who Want Her To Shut Up When It Comes To Politics

Trump Made It His Personal Business To Get Israel To Ban Two Democratic Congresswoman From Entering After Saying They “Hate Jewish People”

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Trump Made It His Personal Business To Get Israel To Ban Two Democratic Congresswoman From Entering After Saying They “Hate Jewish People”

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Two Democratic members of Congress have just been barred from visiting Israel next week in a move that many fear will deepen the injured relationship between Democrats and the Jewish state and strengthen the bond between Trump and Israeli leaders. On Thursday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from embarking on a planned trip to the country. 

Deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely confirmed the ban in a statement to CNN. 

“The plan of the two Congresswomen is only to damage Israel and to foment against Israel,” Netanyahu said.

The decision came after President Donald Trump said Israel would be showing “great weakness” if they allowed the women of color legislators, who have both been very critical of the country, to visit. “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people,” the president wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. “There is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

The private trip was organized by a Palestinian-led nonprofit. The women were expected to visit Israel and the West Bank, where Tlaib has family, as well as Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, and Jerusalem. In the latter Middle Eastern city, they were to join members of the Palestinian Authority at the Temple Mount (called Haram al-Sharif by Muslims), a major holy site for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The decision to block the trip comes one month after Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said that the women would be allowed to visit Israel, noting at the time that barring them would be impertinent.

“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Dermer, who is close to Netanyahu, said

For some on the left, the Israeli government’s decision to go back on their word is proof that the decision was made in spite of the women. 

Even more, they see it as potentially damaging to an already strained relationship.

“Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The President’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.”

In a separate statement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the decision a “sign of weakness, not strength,” adding that “it will only hurt the U.S.-Israeli relationship and support for Israel in America … Many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed in this decision, which the Israeli government should reverse.”

Netanyahu’s main grievance with the women is that they support the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Both Omar and Tlaib voted for legislation that would have made it US policy to boycott Israel; the measure was thwarted 398-17 in the House.

Since about 2005, the BDS movement has attempted to force Israel to change its approach to the Palestinians through external pressure, like demanding companies to halt business with Israel, asking consumers to stop buying Israeli products and calling on scholars and cultural leaders to stop collaborating with colleagues in the country. For supporters, the mission is much like the boycotts that targeted apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s. 

For opponents, however, the movement, and its followers are deemed anti-Semitic.

Democratic presidential candidates have chimed in on the matter as well, with some recognizing that difference in views does not equate to anti-Semitism and others directly placing their anger with Trump, who they believe helped stir up Isreali leaders with his damaging remarks against Reps. Tlaib and Omar.

“Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted. “This would be a shameful, unprecedented move. I urge Israel’s government to allow @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib entry.”

Speaking to Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) called the president a bigot and told him, “opposing Netanyahu’s policies is not ‘hating the Jewish people.”

Former US representative Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) added: “President Trump, you show great weakness every single day—when you attack women of color when you degrade the office of the president, and when you ask our allies to stoop to your level.”

In July, Trump told Omar and Tlaib, among other members of their “squad” — which also includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) — to “go back” to their countries. Tlaib was born in the United States, and Omar was born in Somalia and is a naturalized US citizen.

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