Escobar aims to improve conditions for military and immigrants

Alberto Silva Fernandez and Anahy Diaz

 

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) grew up with her parents and four brothers in El Paso’s Lower Valley. They did not have much money, but they found their way with what they had. The congresswoman’s unwavering dedication to the region shines through in her commitment to keeping young talent in the area, create high-skilled jobs to help retain them, and usher the city into economic growth and prosperity.  

Congresswoman Escobar graduated from William H. Burges High School and then  attended The University of Texas at El Paso, where she received a bachelor’s degree in British and American Literature. She earned a master’s degree in literature from New York University (NYU). After she graduated from NYU, she knew she did not want to pursue a doctorate in New York, deciding instead she would prefer a school in the University of California system. That plan was not to be, as she had a stopover in El Paso that resulted in Escobar becoming an English lecturer at UTEP and El Paso Community College to save for her doctoral degree. 

“I thought I was going to be an academic and I was ready to pursue a doctorate; I wanted to be a professor for the rest of my life. I never imagined my life would take this kind of journey,” said Escobar in a sit-down interview with The Prospector. 

In 1993, Escobar recounted that during her time as a teacher, she heard then-Border Patrol Chief Silvestre Reyes (who later served as Congressman for 16th District from 1997 to 2013) publicly state that he wanted to build a wall between El Paso and Juarez. This event inspired her to join The Border Rights Coalition, now known as the Border Network for Human Rights, where she became a self-described “hardcore activist.” According to the congresswoman this is where she found her passion for “civic engagement and wanting to help a vulnerable population but also wanting to make sure that our community did not become a xenophobic community.” 

In 1996, she got involved with her first political campaign with Jose Luis Sanchez for the 16th Congressional District; the opponent was Silvestre Reyes. After the election,  Escobar continued to volunteer at political campaigns for the next decade until she ran for El Paso County Commissioner. She served from 2007 to 2011 and then became El Paso County Judge from 2011 to 2017. Escobar originally ran for Congress in 2018 as a Democrat after former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) decided to run for United States Senate.  

During the interview, Escobar detailed some key issues on which she is currently working.  

Military Reform  

Escobar is currently on the Committee of Armed Services and Committee on the Judiciary in Congress. She is focused on creating a safer environment for military individuals across the nation as she aims to change a toxic culture embedded into many military bases as part of the culture, she said.  

“I have had service members tell me ‘I’m not even going to bother reporting sexual harassment because I see my peers who report sexual assault and not get justice,” Escobar said. One of the ways the congresswoman is working to change the culture is by changing the way mentorship programs work in the military, making sure they are well-funded and inclusive rather than dependent upon volunteers. She hopes to see an increase in diversity among leadership and overall to make the military a safer space for service members. 

Immigration Reform 

One of the biggest issues Escobar is trying to shed a light on in Congress is the border and the process of attaining asylum. She said she has brought roughly 20% of the members of Congress to El Paso to tour the ports of entry, to show them the perspective of law enforcement, attorneys and human rights activists. Escobar said she has introduced a bill in the U.S. House that is part of a suite of bills focused of reforming the immigration system.  

The Homeland Security Improvement Act (H.R. 3557) is focused on reforming the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to increase transparency, accountability, and community involvement, Escobar said. The bill also focuses on asylum seekers and the asylum process.  

“Under normal circumstances if you’re an asylum seeker, you are essentially treated as a criminal, you are processed, you can be held in a processing facility for 10 hours for 10 days or, as we saw under the Trump administration, for weeks and then you are transferred to an ICE detention facility,” Escobar said. “So, we have to make a decision as a country as to whether we are going to criminalize everyone who comes across. I reject that notion; it’s not just inhumane, it’s not just unAmerican, it’s really expensive.”   

Escobar wishes to put Border Patrol back on the front lines, while also making the asylum process safe and where asylum seekers have access to child welfare, legal, and adult welfare services. The bill seeks to remodel ports of entry to make them seem more welcoming, while also making it so asylum seekers can be processed there instead of being moved from port to port, she said.  

For individuals under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Escobar wants comprehensive immigration reform, which would open up legal pathways for those seeking citizenship.. The Build Back Better Act, a bill part of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Plan, passed the U.S. House in November, and is currently awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate. The bill, Escobar said, focuses on providing resources for family leave, immigration, and healthcare, as well as addressing climate change. The bill includes help for immigrants with work and travel permits, and relief from deportation for DREAMERS (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors), DACA recipients, farm workers, essential workers, and temporary permit holders, Escobar said.  

Escobar is on the ballot in the Democratic primary March 1, running for reelection of her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 16th Congressional District of El Paso. 

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  • U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar discusses military funding, immigration, bipartisanship, and student loans in an interview with The Prospector.

  • Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Editor-In-Chief of The Prospector newspaper, Alberto Silva Fernandez, have a one-on-one interview and discuss topics such as military funding, immigration, bipartisanship, and student loans.

  • Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Editor-In-Chief of The Prospector newspaper, Alberto Silva Fernandez, have a one-on-one interview and discuss topics such as military funding, immigration, bipartisanship, and student loans.

  • Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Editor-In-Chief of The Prospector newspaper, Alberto Silva Fernandez, have a one-on-one interview and discuss topics such as military funding, immigration, bipartisanship, and student loans.

  • Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Editor-In-Chief of The Prospector newspaper, Alberto Silva Fernandez, have a one-on-one interview and discuss topics such as military funding, immigration, bipartisanship, and student loans.

  • Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Editor-In-Chief of The Prospector newspaper, Alberto Silva Fernandez, have a one-on-one interview and discuss topics such as military funding, immigration, bipartisanship, and student loans.

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Alberto Silva Fernandez may be reached at [email protected].