- Democratic member of Congress
- Member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Urged President Clinton to grant clemency to FALN Puerto Rican terrorists
Nydia Velazquez is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the gerrymandered 12th District of New York, which was formed in 1992 by linking together Hispanic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan’s lower East Side. The population of this district, which Velazquez has represented since its creation, is 49 percent Hispanic, 16 percent Asian, and 9 percent African-American.
Born in Puerto Rico in March 1953, Velazquez earned a B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico in 1974 and an M.A. from New York University in 1976. She was a professor at the University of Puerto Rico's Humacao branch from 1976–81, and then at New York's Hunter College from 1981–83.
In 1983 Velazquez worked for Congressman Ed Towns. The following year she served on the New York City Council. Thereafter she found employment in the New York offices of two Puerto Rican government agencies.
Velazquez narrowly won her congressional race in 1992, thanks in large measure to endorsements from then-mayor David Dinkins and Rev. Jesse Jackson. During the campaign, Velazquez’s medical records, which indicated that she suffered from clinical depression and had once attempted suicide, were leaked to the press. She quickly held a press conference and explained that she had been undergoing counseling for years and was now psychologically healthy.
In 1999 Velazquez, along with fellow Democrat Representatives Luis Gutierrez and Jose Serrano, strongly urged President Bill Clinton and Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder to grant clemency to 16 incarcerated FALN Puerto Rican terrorists, whom the three Representatives characterized as “political prisoners” deserving of their freedom. When Clinton offered clemency only to those who would agree to renounce violence as their modus operandi, Velazquez criticized the President for not making his clemency offer unconditional.
Velazquez is a member of the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. During her legislative career, she has voted:
- against the development of a national missile defense system;
- against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001;
- against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act;
- against allowing the U.S. government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives;
- against a bill permitting the government to combat potential terrorist threats by monitoring foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States;
- against an October 2002 joint resolution authorizing U.S. military action in Iraq;
- against the establishment of military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror;
- in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq immediately and by a preordained date;
- against President Bush’s 2007 decision to deploy some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq;
- in favor of a proposal to expedite the transfer of all prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention center;
- against requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment;
- against the Real ID Act, which proposed to set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards;
- against separate proposals calling for the construction of some 700 miles of fencing to prevent illegal immigration along America's southern border;
- against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants;
- against major tax cut proposals in September 1998, February 2000, March 2000, July 2000, May 2001, May 2003, October 2004, and May 2006;
- against separate welfare reform bills designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs;
- in favor of prohibiting oil and gas exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR); and
- against a proposal to fund offshore oil exploration along the Outer Continental Shelf.
Though she is a Roman Catholic, Velazquez in 2000 was one of only 15 Members of Congress to vote against the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.” This measure provided that if an infant somehow survived an abortion procedure, it would acquire the human rights of a person already born. In 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and twice in 2003, Velazquez voted against legislation to ban the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion. In 1999 and 2004, she voted against the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act," which proposed to make it an added criminal offense for someone to injure or kill a fetus while carrying out a crime against a pregnant woman. As a result of her unwavering support for the unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand under any and all circumstances, Velazquez has consistently received ratings of 100 percent from NARAL and Planned Parenthood.