First-term Congresswoman Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-California) was elected in November after beating five-term incumbent Joe Baca in a newly drawn 35th district. The 71-year-old great-grandmother has nearly two decades of experience as an elected leader, having served on her local community college district board and in both the California State Assembly and State Senate.
Negrete McLeod was able to speak with NBC Latino about her experiences in Congress thus far. With immigration reform high on the policy agenda, she spoke about what she would like to see happen with the pending legislation.
When asked what might happen if Congress fails to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Negrete McLeod indicated that her constituents would probably not blame her because she has been in favor of reform all along, but that anger and frustration could turn toward her Republican colleagues.
“I have said all along that I’m in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. I’m not really pleased with the border security measures that ended up in the Senate bill, unless we were serious about securing all borders including the seas and the Canadian border,” stated Negrete McLeod. “I resent that part of the bill.”
A few weeks ago, Negrete McLeod signed a letter to President Obama asking him to allow the DREAM 9, a group of young activists who were brought to the U.S. as children, to re-enter the United States. She said that parents of U.S.-born children and young people, who have been deported and who have not committed serious offenses, should be allowed to re-unify with their family in the states.
Coming from the California legislature where the Democrats have consistently held majorities, Negrete McLeod said that being in the minority has been difficult to adjust to, especially with the congressional gridlock.
“All of the new members ran saying that the system is broken, but until we can get more people to cooperate, it will continue as is,” she lamented.
The Congresswoman said that the needs of California are different from the needs of the Southern and Midwest states, but that everyone in Congress needs to look at the bigger picture, try to find commonality, and ask what is best for the country. She added that many of her colleagues express that California is “too avant garde” in how it approaches policy issues.
In terms of the ongoing government sequestration that began before she arrived at the Capitol, Negrete McLeod is hopeful that the budget cuts will be resolved. She believes that as more people are impacted directly, such as with the cuts to the Head Start program, there will be more pressure on Congress to end sequestration.
Rep. Negrete McLeod has introduced four pieces of legislation: two that deal with veterans, H.R. 1251 and H.R. 1623; one addressing student loan debt, H.R. 2349; and one that creates accountability for motor coaches, H.R. 2505.
The bill dealing with veteran’s claims, H.R. 1623, has come out of committee, and the Congresswoman is confident that this bill will become law. The backlog of claims from veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan has been an ongoing problem for the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the Veterans Benefits Administration, over 60 percent of claims are left pending for over 125 days. Negrete McLeod’s bill would require the VA to make public the number of completed claims by region as well as by medical condition for the current and preceding month and year. The increased transparency would pressure the VA to act quickly and help policy makers come up with solutions to help end the backlog of claims.
Congresswoman Negrete McLeod said that she has spent her August recess attending local community meetings, city councils and county board of supervisor meetings to let people know that she’s listening to constituent concerns. This Saturday she will host an Obamacare town hall meeting at the Montclair City Hall to inform constituents about the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act.