Darren Soto was born on February 25, 1978, in Ringwood, New Jersey. After earning a BA in economics at Rutgers University (2000) and a JD at George Washington University Law School (2004), he founded D. Soto Law Offices in Orlando, Florida, where he worked as a commercial and civil-rights attorney.
Soto launched a political career in 2007 when he was elected, as a Democrat, to the Florida State House of Representatives. In 2012 he began a four-year stint in the Florida State Senate, and in 2016 the voters of Florida’s 9th Congressional District elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he continues to serve as a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).
Soto has been particularly outspoken on issues related to immigration and citizenship. One of his leading priorities is to promote the passage of “comprehensive immigration reform that would allow people [illegal aliens] to pay any taxes they owe, get right with the law, and … get on the path to citizenship.” Another of his priorities is “protecting DREAMers,” — a term that immigration activists have assigned to illegal-alien teens and young adults who first came to the United States as minors.
Soto is a strong supporter of former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which began with a 2012 executive action temporarily protecting hundreds of thousands of young illegals from deportation. The congressman also supports the provisions of Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) executive action of 2014, which offered similar protection to several million additional illegals.
When President Donald Trump in 2017 was calling for the DACA program to be phased out, Soto condemned Trump’s “divisive and insensitive immigration policies.” The president’s “attack on the DACA program,” Soto added, “goes against American values…. It is simply immoral to deny these young people, who have contributed immensely to our country, the opportunity to fulfill their dreams without the fear of deportation.” “As a United States Congressman,” Soto emphasized, “I am here to tell all Dreamers that you are American and that this is your country!”
In 2017 as well, Soto co-sponsored the “DREAMer Information Protection Act” (H.R. 532), which stipulated that personal information that DACA program applicants provided to the government could not be used for the purpose of immigration-enforcement proceedings against them. Soto also co-sponsored the “DREAMers, Immigrants, and Refugees Legal Aid Act” (H.R. 858), which called for the Justice Department to award grants that would enable nonprofit legal-services providers to assist and advise aliens who were eligible for DACA status.
In February 2017, Soto lamented “all the chaos created” by “wrongheaded policies” like what he described as President Trump’s “Muslim ban” — a reference to the January 2017 executive order by which Trump had attempted to place a temporary moratorium on the issuance of visas for people seeking to travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations that were hotbeds of Islamic terrorism.
In June 2017, Soto voted against the passage of “Kate’s Law” (H.R. 3004), which called for the imposition of harsher criminal penalties against illegal aliens who, after having been convicted of certain crimes and deported, re-entered the U.S. illegally.
Soto has refused to condemn the policies of sanctuary cities, where local governments protect illegal aliens by refusing to cooperate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. In June 2017, he voted against the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act” (H.R. 3003), which called for the federal government to withhold funds from states and localities that practiced sanctuary policies. To counter the intentions of H.R. 3003, Soto co-sponsored the “Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act of 2017” (H.R. 748), stipulating that federal financial assistance could not be denied to any state or local government for reason of its noncompliance with federal immigration authorities. And in February 2018, Soto dismissed the issue of sanctuary cities as a “non-debate over [a] non-issue” that “only poisons the well” and breeds “senseless division.”
Strongly opposed to President Trump’s call for the construction of a border wall, Soto in July 2017 issued a statement that said: “This wall will not help fix our immigration or national security problems at all…. The racial undertones to this wall … will only further escalate the racial divisions and tensions created at the outset of Trump’s campaign.”
In August 2017, Soto signed on to a CHC letter expressing “deep concern and disappointment” vis-à -vis the Department of Homeland Security’s “morally indefensible” decision to terminate the Central American Minors Parole program, which President Obama had implemented three years earlier to accommodate the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador who were illegally flooding across America’s southern border.
In October 2017, Soto joined 120 fellow members of Congress in signing a letter expressing their “deep disappointment” over President Trump’s announcement that he planned to admit no more than 45,000 foreign refugees to the U.S. in 2018. The signatories asserted that this number was “woefully insufficient when compared to the millions of people who have been forced to flee their home countries.” “As a nation of immigrants,” they added, “our country has a long history of welcoming newcomers of all different backgrounds. Any efforts to require refugees meet an assimilation standard misunderstands the purpose of our resettlement program which is to assist the most vulnerable.”
On January 18, 2018, Soto went to the House floor to speak about the importance of passing the DREAM Act, legislation advocating the legalization and eventual naturalization of a large number of the aforementioned “Dreamers.”
On January 25, 2021, Rep. Joaquin Castro introduced legislation that would bar staffers at all federal agencies “from using the derogatory term ‘alien’ to refer to an individual who is not a citizen or national of the United States.” The bill was co-sponsored by Soto and 10 additional members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — Raul Grijalva, Nanette Diaz Barragan, Sylvia Garcia, Jesus Garcia, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Juan Vargas, Pete Aguilar, Lori Trahan, Veronica Escobar, and Ruben Gallego.
For an overview of Soto’s voting record on various key issues, click here.
Further Reading: “Immigration” (Soto.house.gov/issues/immigration); “Rep. Soto Prepares for Fight on Capitol Hill to Keep ‘Dreamers’ from Being Deported” (WFTV.com, 8-31-2017); Soto’s statements on sanctuary cities, border wall, President Trump’s immigration policies, DREAM Act.