The Orlando representative says she works hard for the rights of everyday people and for those who think government does not work for them.
If you wonder why Rep. Anna Eskamani, the progressive Democrat from Orlando, Florida, decided to forgo a bid to challenge Republican incumbent Ron DeSantis for governor, and instead run for reelection in House District 47, the reason, she says, is simple: “to fight for the rights of everyday people.”
“I grew up in a very diverse community of working-class people. Our biggest struggles growing up was money,” the daughter of Iranian parents told Floricua. “So, when I think of everyday people, I think of those who are often neglected in the political sphere; those who are not given a chance to express themselves or are often ignored. I’m thinking of those who try so hard to achieve the American dream and still can’t, because that is my family.”
She also works hard to reach those who think government does not work for them, and who may not even vote, “because they don’t think there’s any point.”
In Tune With Boricuas
Keenly aware of the issues that matter to working-class Floridians, having grown up in East Orlando, Eskamani is especially attuned to the Puerto Rican community in the Sunshine State.
“I do my best to watch the politics happening on the island, but a lot of my focus is on Florida, and I do everything I can to address the disparities that exist here,” she said.
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One of those issues is ensuring that professional Puerto Ricans coming to Florida from the island are not stopped by red tape and bureaucracy.
“There have been a lot of struggles after Hurricane María in helping Puerto Ricans use their licensing in education, in nursing, in different trades, and apply their hours of skills on the island here in Florida,” she said, noting that this has been a major barrier to their economic success. “Those folks cannot enter the field of their focus because of the bureaucratic licensing requirements here, so we’ve been very committed to working with the Department of Business Professions and Regulations (DBPR) to make that transition easier, so that anyone who comes here from the island, whether it’s a climate refugee or someone in search of the American dream on the mainland, will be supported that way.”
Another barrier she wants to break down for Boricuas in the Sunshine State is the difficulties many deal with when searching for affordable housing, especially those who rent.
“We’ve seen many landlords in the past who have exploited language barriers to not serve a Spanish-speaking tenant the way they would serve a speaking English tenant.”
Equality in Education
Education is another major concern for Eskamani, who believes the state should test children in their native language, so that they will be graded on their knowledge of the subject they are tested on, not on their ability to speak English, a language they may be still learning.
“I supported a bill that would have allowed testing in a student’s original language,” said the representative. “We have many immigrants, from Venezuela, especially, but also folks who come over from Puerto Rico, whose children do not speak English as a first language and struggle to perform in a testing environment, because they’re trying to translate the material as they are getting tested.”
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Looking Towards the Island
When it comes to Puerto Rico, Eskamani points out many federal policies that, according to her, are inherent in colonialism and have made it difficult for Puerto Rico to have economic security. She also mentions the “lack of financial support over the years when it comes to navigating natural disasters.”
As for statehood, Eskamani also believes it’s really important to let those who live on the island decide for themselves.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that the people of Puerto Rico should be the ones to decide their destiny. And whether it’s statehood or not, I want to make sure that those who live on the island are the ultimate deciders, and that we’re here to amplify their voices as much as we can.”
Speaking Our Language
Eskamani also believes that it’s important to communicate with people “belly to belly,” and that one of her goals before running for statewide office, is to be fluent in Spanish.
“Growing up in Orlando, all my best friends were Puerto Ricans, so I grew up with reggaetón always playing. Many people thought I was Latina, because there aren’t many Iranians here. So I do want to be able to speak fluent Spanish,” she said with a wide smile. “There’s been a lot of disinformation, and I think it’s really important that as policy makers and as advocates we do away with those myths or fear tactics, and the best way to do that is to speak in the language of the people you serve.”