Rashida Tlaib Already Making Strides in Michigan
By: MacKenzie DiLeo/Arab America Contributing Writer
Rashida Tlaib is a congresswoman for Michigan’s 13th congressional district, which includes Detroit and its surrounding cities. Tlaib, an Arab American, is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. In 2008, Tlaib became the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature. She is most known for her efforts to combat billionaires and corporations who tried to pollute her district, most notably when she started the “We Have a Right to Breathe” campaign. Prior to serving in office, Tlaib was an attorney who focused on tackling issues pertaining to racial inequality, abusive state strategies and promoting equitable development.
On Aug. 5, Tlaib was reelected in the Democratic primary for a second term after winning 66% of the popular vote in Michigan’s 13th District. Since the announcement on Aug. 5, Tlaib has already been making major strides across national and international boundaries.
Rashida Tlaib on COVID-19 Relief
As COVID-19 has continued to spread across the country, correctional facilities have become major hotspots for the virus. Tlaib advocates for the release of pre-trial, older and medically vulnerable prison inmates in the face of the pandemic crisis. Likewise, she has introduced the Dismantle Mass Incarceration for Public Health Act, which is one of the boldest bills to address incarceration amid the pandemic. The bill allows for the immediate release of certain inmates for up to a year after the pandemic ends. These inmates include those awaiting trial, those serving misdemeanor sentences, immigrants under ICE, pregnant women, primary caregivers, those over 55, and those with pre-exisitng medical conditions.
“We need to prevent COVID-19 from being a death sentence for so many. It’s hurting the most vulnerable who are held in inhumane conditions while the pandemic strikes,” Tlaib told The Guardian.
Tlaib also advocates strongly on behalf of individuals who are disproportionately struggling from COVID-19. This most evidently includes the Black community. With a high concentration of impoverished African Americans in Detroit, Tlaib explains how many suffer double the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. According to Tlaib, these individuals are more likely to have medical conditions and less likely to have health insurance. They are also more likely to rely on public transportation, which is common means for virus transmission. Furthermore, Tlaib has supported the executive order creating the Michigan Task Force on Racial Disparities regarding COVID-19.
Tlaib on BLM Movement
In light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd, Tlaib and Rep. Ayanna Pressley have introduced the BREATHE Act. This is a piece of legislation aimed at transforming the federal criminal justice system. The legislation would ideally slash Pentagon spending, divest resources from prisons and police departments, end mandatory minimum prison sentencing and life sentences, abolish the DEA and ICE, and more. The Black Lives Matter movement and its co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, have actively supported Tlaib and Pressley’s legislation. Tlaib has also spoken openly about her support for the movement at various rallies in Detroit and Michigan.
Tlaib’s Support in Lebanon
Following the explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4, Tlaib and 80 other congress members wrote a letter to President Trump asking that he allow Lebanese nationals temporarily living in the U.S. to extend their stay following the tragedy. The letter requested the Department of Homeland Security designate Lebanon Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure. This allows Lebanese visitors the right to stay since they would be exposed to unsafe conditions were they to return to their native country.
The move would “provide a safe haven to Lebanese nationals in the U.S. in the wake of the Beirut disaster,” Tlaib said.
Michigan has a high concentration of Lebanese Americans throughout the state. Likewise, Tlaib has supported these Arab Americans in hosting vigils and raising money for the nation’s recovery. Tlaib’s leadership on this matter has prompted many other congress members to follow suit.
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