Muslim Americans Have Nothing to Fear from Election 2016: Loretta Sanchez
Anaheim, CA: California's US Senate seat is open for the first time after 24 years, following the retirement of incumbent Barbara Boxer (D). Thirty-four candidates filed to run to replace Boxer, including seven Democrats, 12 Republicans, and 15 third-party candidates. Two Democrats, US Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and the Attorney General of California Kamala Harris, defeated the other 32 candidates to advance to the general election that will take place on November 8, 2016.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez recently sat down for an exclusive interview with Arif Mansuri, the President of Pakistan Link and the Producer and Host of the weekly talk show "The Mansuri Show'” on ARY Digital Television. Below is an account of this interview.
AM: What are the major differences between you and your opponent in the upcoming election for California's US Senate seat?
Congresswoman Sanchez: The difference is really the experience. I have a voting record of twenty years. Everyone can know exactly how I voted. They can see that I have been a good, even a great Democrat, some would say. Miss Harris has never done legislation. She's never worked with other legislators. She's not worked in Washington, DC. I have all of that experience.
Miss Harris is from San Francisco, and I'm from Southern California. For the last twenty-four years, we've had the same two California Senators from San Francisco. Now we're going to get to choose a new one.
But most importantly, I have national security, foreign relations, and homeland security experience. I've worked with our US military. I've gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, to Africa, and around the world to the very dicey situations to see what we need to do there. I've met with the world leaders. I've talked to them about counter-terrorism and working together and intelligence gathering and how we do that. I've worked on homeland security to secure our homeland and to make sure that families are safe in America. I have the national security experience. I have the legislative experience.
And I'm a daughter of California. My parents are immigrants. They're from Mexico. They came with nothing. They have this incredible story of being the only parents in the history of the United States to send two daughters (Loretta L. Sánchez and Linda T. Sánchez) to the United States Congress. We love America, we love California, and I've been serving it, and I want to continue to serve it.
AM: You have served on some of the very important congressional committees. What have been some of your most important assignments in the US House of Representative?
Congresswoman Sanchez: Actually, my expertise in the Congress is in nuclear proliferation and non-proliferation. I have worked a lot with Pakistan and India and the conflicts, sometimes going there. I worked a lot on the Iran deal and on North Korea. I am the voting member in the NATO Parliament Alliance for the United States. I worry about Putin and what's going on in the Ukraine, the National Missile Defense, the biological and chemical warfare and other major issues. So the really technical, really serious, types of warfare are the ones that I work with the Pentagon and our intelligence agencies to ensure that, if I do my job right, the conflicts are coming down.
AM: You have had a very long, illustrious career working as a member of the US House of Representatives for almost 20 years. What are some of the highlights of your career?
Congresswoman Sanchez: I've seen everything in twenty years. Let's face it, America has been in two ground wars, the longest wars of our history, Afghanistan and Iraq. Deciding, for example, when the world wanted to go into Iraq, and standing up and saying, "I don't think this is a good idea," and voting "no" on Iraq. That was momentous.
AM: What was your reason for voting "no" on the Iraq war?
Congresswoman Sanchez: Because I know our military very well. We are great at winning battles. We won every battle in Vietnam. But we didn't win the war, right? So it's not just about can you go in and take out Saddam Hussein (of course we can). But, what's going to take place after that? You cannot create a vacuum and not know what you're going to help to build there. I saw that we didn't really have the ability to build the way we needed to in Iraq.
First of all, you always need to have the neighbors helping you. There are just proxy wars going on, as you and I know. We see it in Syria. In fact, the conflict in Syria, the destabilization of Libya, what's going on in Yemen. The proxy fights of Russia and the United States and others in there. The destabilization of governments to this lawlessness in Iraq and Libya, it's hurting all of us. This is the rise of ISIS, for example. Which is not good for any of us.
So the answer is, before you decide to break something, you have to know what are you going to put in its place. And who's going to be there to help you pick up the pieces. I did not see a good plan to do that. So I said, "It's not for us to be there. Not in that way."
I think time has shown that I was right! If there's one vote that my colleagues in the Congress wish they could redo, it is that vote of Iraq.
But there's been other votes. Right after Nine Eleven when everybody was scared. We were all scared. We passed the so-called Patriot Act, right? I voted "no." Very few people did. Why?
Because it was about our civil liberties. I have this belief that when you're an American, whether you were born here or whether you're naturalized, when you're an American, this Constitution of ours gives us these inalienable rights. Civil rights, human rights. Especially in a time when we're scared, and we're more apt to give them away, that's the time when we have to protect them most. Because once we give them away, it's very difficult to get those rights back.
So I stood up and I said "no."
Here's another very important vote. The Wall Street bailouts. I told you there are two daughters in the United States Congress in my family. The only family. But I also have two brothers who both lost their homes. So our family lives the life of a normal family. They lost their jobs, they lost their homes. I voted "no" on the Wall Street bailout because it gave money to the banks. It didn't give us back our homes. It didn't help us. It didn't give money to us for our homes. And people are still suffering from that. If you look at the number of people who lost their homes and are homeless. Look at the homeless situation we face. It is all because of that recession.
Twenty years: I've seen a lot. I've seen so much. But I've always been on the side of the people ... I've always stood up, regardless of party, and I've always stood on the side of the people. I think that that kind of pressure and being able to take the right vote is what makes me the right person to go to the Senate.
AM: You talked about the civil rights and the people. The current presidential election has been very contentious and divisive. It has created an atmosphere where a lot of minorities, including the Muslim community, are feeling threatened. They're concerned about their future in America. After the election what do you think is going to happen in this regards?
Congresswoman Sanchez: Look, the United States is a country of immigrants. That's how it started. We came here looking for freedom from religious, racial, and political persecution. In particular, the people who founded the United States, the first immigrants, were being persecuted for their religion in Europe. And they came here. Of anything that is the most important, it is this freedom of religion and not to be persecuted for it. So I don't believe that Muslim Americans should fear because of this election.
There have been things said about Mexican Americans. I'm a Mexican American. There have been bad things said about women in this election. Almost every group has been tarred, right? So I would say that this is a country of immigrants. Our Statue of Liberty (says): Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free. Because we are that, we're going to continue to be that. So we will get past this time.
AM: Let's talk about some of the major issues that California is facing. We're in the midst of one of the worst droughts ever. You have done a lot of work on getting water for Orange County a long time ago. What are you going to do about the water for California, if you're elected?
Congresswoman Sanchez: Absolutely. And you asked in the beginning what are some of the differences. My opponent when she was asked, what's your water plan for California because we're in a drought, she said, "Conservation." Period. One word. We cannot possibly conserve our way out of a problem we find ourselves in!
You know that right where we sit today, right now, twenty years ago I began to build the largest factory in the world to recycle all our water here. So all of the water used here, in the north portion of Orange County, is completely recycled. It's the only water secure area of all of California. But you know what, we can do this in Los Angeles. We can do this in other places. I know how to do it.
Of course, the 1960's was the last time that California built any new infrastructure for the conveyance of water, for the storage of water. We need to do all of that. It's going to require conservation, recycling, new water infrastructure, conveyance of water. That's my plan. And I know how to do it because I've been doing it.
AM: What are your views regarding the immigration reform?
Congresswoman Sanchez: Immigration, in the Congress, has always been led by the Hispanic caucus, by the group of members who are Hispanic in the Congress. Immigration is for all communities, but we have traditionally taken the lead. Inside of that caucus, we have a task force that does immigration reform, and that's Luis Gutiérrez and myself, who are the co-chairs.
What do we envision? As soon as we have a new president, and we move forward with a new Congress, I believe we're going to find the votes that we need to do an immigration reform. The immigration reform, in my opinion, in order to get both the Republicans and the Democrats, and get enough to pass something in both the Senate and the House, I believe that we're going to need three pieces to it.
One is this whole issue of knowing who comes in and out of our country - we're a sovereign nation - we get to decide. If we just left the borders open, everybody would come, and we can't do that.
AM: Many Republicans are crossing party lines and backing you in the upcoming election. After the elections regardless of who wins, Democrats or Republicans, what do you see the next 4 years like?
Congresswoman Sanchez: First of all, you're right. I'm a Democrat that has represented for 20 years in a more Republican area. I know how to work with the Republicans. That doesn't mean that I give away my values or anything, it just means that I know how to talk with them and I know how to move them, and know how to negotiate with them. They have all said that they would prefer to see me than my opponent because my opponent has no relationship and no experience doing that. Lots of people have been supporting me, both Democrats and Republicans.
It has been a very hard election, especially when we see the presidential race. In a few days, on Tuesday November 8th, it will be over. What happens the day after? People are worried about that, don't be worried about that. This is America, we have a transition of power, whether it's Republican to Democrat or Democrat to Republican or the same party, we have a transition of power, and we'll do it in a safe way. And you know what, and then we'll begin to rebuild. Those of us who know how to work with each other, we're going to be the ones who will begin the work, and then these people who have been fighting each other on both sides, they're going to have to come in and sit down and start working with us, because that's what America is about.
We have politics, we have the election, we get done with that, and then we all work together to build for America. It will happen that way.
AM: As the most senior female member of the House Committee on Homeland Security you have dealt with terrorism and related issues first hand. How do you view the current situation vis a vis terrorism in America?
Congresswoman Sanchez: Look, we know that these people, the terrorists, are using Islam as an excuse for the violence they do. First of all, they don't really understand Islam, and secondly, they're killing more Muslims than anybody else - I mean, look at ISIS, it's crazy. The only way that we are going to fix this is with our Muslim allies; Egypt, Saudi Arabia have to really get on board in the right way, Jordan has been helping. All these countries in that neighborhood, they need to get on board and help us, and more importantly for us to protect America and our Homeland, our Muslim American community has to be with us. We rely on them to help us to figure out how to fix this. This whole idea that somehow Americans are going to start attacking Muslims, or we don't like them, or what have you. I think Americans that feel that way or think they feel that way about Muslims do not know or understand Muslims and they're just afraid. What we have to do is we have to show them who we are. There is also, a lot of misconceptions about what a Mexican American is. We just have to stand up and we have to show them who we are, and that's what America is about. As a government elected official, my job is to make it a safe place for all of us to be able to show each other who we are. We need our Muslim American community to fix these issues of terrorism abroad, and terrorism at home, we need them, we need them. We're not going to be able to fix it without them.
AM: What message would you like to give to our readers who live in California?
Congresswoman Sanchez: I will just say that a lot of people are disillusioned with politics right now. They see all this craziness, and they say, "I'm not going to vote, I don't know who to vote for, I don't have a candidate." Look, you need to come and vote. When we don't vote, then the very few people who control the politics today will keep doing the same thing. If you're tired of the same thing over and over, then you have to put your voice in. The way you put your voice in is that you show up to vote. Hopefully you vote for Loretta Sanchez for the United States senate, because I think I will be very good for you.
This report is based on an interview conducted by Arif Mansuri for 'The Mansuri Show' on ARY Digital Television. This program can be viewed at www.PakistanLink.com/ARY/Sanchez