* Democratic U.S. congresswoman from Florida
* Member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus
* Believes that illegal immigrants should be offered a path-to-citizenship
* Rejects the term “illegal alien” as offensive
* Views America as a nation aash in racism
* Says: “The real enemy is the Tea Party”
* Opposes Voter ID laws
Frederica Wilson was born on November 5, 1942 in Miami, Florida. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fisk University in 1963, and a master’s degree in that same field from the University of Miami in 1972. Over the course of her professional life, Wilson worked variously as a teacher and assistant educational coordinator at Head Start Miami, an administrator at Skyway Elementary School in Miami Gardens, and executive director of the Office of Alternative Education & Dropout Prevention at Miami-Dade County Schools. She was also a member of the Miami-Dade County School Board from 1992-98.
Wilson launched her political career in 1998, when she began a four-year stint in the Florida State House of Representatives. She then served in the Florida State Senate from 2003-11. And since 2011 she has held a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Florida’s 17th Congressional District from 2011-13, and the 24th Congressional District thereafter. She is a Democratic member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Describing herself as a “Voice for the Voiceless,” Wilson believes that: women should be entitled to unrestricted abortion rights, including the provision of government subsidies for those who cannot afford the procedure; illegal immigrants should be offered a path-to-citizenship; any restrictions on immigration are essentially racist efforts to prevent Hispanics and other nonwhites from entering the country; the expansion of the U.S. military would be a misguided use of resources that ought to be spent instead on social-welfare programs; affirmative action in employment and academia is a necessary means of compensating nonwhites for historical injustices that they and their ancestors suffered; school vouchers are unjustified because they siphon vital resources away from public education; the availability of firearms should be restricted by any means necessary; and high earners should pay dramatically higher income-tax rates than lower- and middle-class people.
In August 2011, Wilson attributed high black unemployment rates, in part, to societal “racism” — as well as to corporations “shipping jobs overseas,” and to the fact that many African Americans have “no access to technology.”
At a Miami town hall meeting that same month, Wilson made plain her contempt for conservatives. “Let us all remember who the real enemy is. The real enemy is the Tea Party. The Tea Party holds the Congress hostage. They have one goal in mind, and that’s to make President Obama a one-term president.”
In the aftermath of the highly publicized February 2012 incident where a “white Hispanic” named George Zimmerman shot and killed black teenager Trayvon Martin, Wilson said, contrary to all evidence of what had happened, that “Trayvon was hunted down like a rabid dog. He was shot in the street. He was racially profiled.” At a Congressional forum in March of that year, Wilson proclaimed that Zimmerman should be arrested “immediately for his own safety.” When Zimmerman was eventually acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in a July 2013 trial, Wilson lamented that “until we pass meaningful laws against profiling,” “little black boys and big boys, and black grown men, will continue to be singled out and arrested for driving while black, shopping while black, walking while black, eating while black, and just being plain ol’ black!”
In July 2013, when some Republicans were proposing a budget cut of 0.5% in the fraud-infested Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Wilson exhorted her fellow legislators to reject such a measure. Depicting SNAP as “a mainstay in the lives of so many Americans who are just trying to get by,” she said that any cuts to the program would be “wrong,” “punitive,” and “cruel.”
In January 2015, Wilson objected strenuously when Republican House Speaker John Boehner—without first asking President Obama for his approval—invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress on March 3rd about the gravity of the growing Iranian nuclear threat and his strong opposition to the deal that the Obama Administration was pursuing with Iran. When asked if black politicians saw Netanyahu’s speech as an insult to Obama, she replied: “I think they kind of think it is.”
By Wilson’s reckoning, Voter ID laws are designed not to safeguard the integrity of political elections, but rather to “disenfranchise … minority voters.” “All of a sudden after the 2008 election, these [voter ID laws] miraculously appear,” she said in early 2012. “Why? Because we have a black president in the White House and it is to stop all of the people of color from … coming out to vote.”
Similarly outspoken on the matter of immigration reform, Wilson lauds the “hardworking immigrants” who “arrived here both with and without documentation” to “enric[h] our society and [make] tremendous contributions to our economy.” Asserting that America has a moral obligation to create a path-to-citizenship that will allow illegals to come “out of the shadows,” she laments that the existing, “broken” immigration system has: (a) prevented “millions of people … from reuniting with their family members or contributing to our economy,” and (b) “deprived” them of “the basic legal rights that our Constitution enshrines.” Wilson supported President Obama’s executive actions to prevent deportations—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)—as examples of “true leadership” on the issue. “There is no such thing as an illegal person,” says Wilson. “Every person on our shores deserves the same rights and the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.”
Rejecting the term “illegal alien” as offensive, Wilson in 2007 introduced a bill in the Florida State Senate stipulating that “a state agency or official may not use the term ‘illegal alien’ in an official document of the state.” “To me an alien is somebody who is from another planet,” she said. “There are so many other synonyms that would be more dignified for human beings.” “All of us are immigrants except the American Indian,” Wilson added. “Now how would we like it if they called us aliens? The only people who should not be called that [immigrants] should be American Indians.”
In early July 2019, Wilson reacted angrily to a report indicating that Border Patrol agents in a private Facebook group had disparaged some members of Congress, such as Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Said Wilson: “Those people who are online making fun of members of Congress are a disgrace, and there is no need for anyone to think that is unacceptable [sic]. We’re gonna shut them down and work with whoever it is to shut them down, and they should be prosecuted. You cannot intimidate members of Congress, frighten members of Congress. It is against the law, and it’s a shame in this United States of America.” Wilson then went on to accuse President Trump of having caused people to lose respect for political figures and the media.
Wilson Condemns President Trump’s Remarks to Gold Star Widow
In mid-October 2017, Wilson sparked a large controversy when she injected herself into a story that involved four American soldiers who had been shot and killed by Islamic militants in Niger on October 4. (For details about the soldiers’ mission and the circumstances surrounding their deaths, see Footnote #2, below.) On October 16, President Donald Trump called the families of each of the four dead soldiers to express his condolences. One of the people whom he called was Myeshia Johnson, the African American widow of 25-year-old Sgt. La David T. Johnson. In an interview the following day, Rep. Wilson told the press that she herself had been with Mrs. Johnson, who lived in Rep. Wilson’s 24th Congressional District, at the time of Trump’s call, and that she had listened in on the conversation. (In light of the fact that a pre-call had been made to Mrs. Johnson to schedule the call from the president for a particular time, it was not a coincidence that Wilson was with Mrs. Johnson when Trump’s call came in; the congresswoman chose to be with Johnson, so that she could subsequently mischaracterize and exploit the call for propaganda purposes.) Following Trump’s call, Wilson told reporters that the president had callously told the grieving widow that her deceased husband “knew what he was signing up for” when he enlisted in the Army. Trump “should not have said that,” the congresswoman explained, because it was “so insensitive.” The president’s words, she added, were “an insult to the entire Miami Gardens community, to our entire District 24, to Miami-Dade County, and to this nation.” In a separate interview with Fox News, Wilson described Trump as a “sick” and “cold-hearted” man with “a brain disorder” that “needs to be checked out.”
Trump denied Wilson’s claims about the tenor and content of his phone call. Wilson, in turn, called Trump a “jerk” and a “liar,” and said that she wanted Congress to investigate the four American deaths in Niger, portraying the incident as “Mr. Trump’s Benghazi.” This was a reference to the Islamic terrorist attacks that had killed four Americans at a poorly secured U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 – a tragedy that subsequently became controversial when the Obama administration repeatedly lied about the nature of the attacks. “The circumstances are similar [to Benghazi],” Wilson claimed, noting that the four soldiers in Niger “didn’t have appropriate weapons where they were”; that “they were told by intelligence there was no threat”; that “they had trucks that were not armored trucks”; that “they were particularly not protected”; and that, “just like in Benghazi, they were given the impression that everything was fine.”
On October 19, 2017, White House chief of staff John Kelly — a retired U.S. Marine Corps General and a Gold Star father — addressed the press in the White House briefing room, where he defended Trump and excoriated Wilson. At one point in his remarks, Kelly said that Wilson was part of “the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise.” He then proceeded to place in proper context the words that Trump had spoken to Myeshia Johnson, and he excoriated Rep. Wilson for her willful misrepresentation of those facts. To read a transcript of Kelly’s most significant remarks to the press, see Footnote #3 below.
In response to Kelly’s comments, Wilson said that the words “empty barrel,” as the general had used them, constituted “a racist term.” The congresswoman also claimed that the Trump White House “is full of white supremacists.”
Voting Record & Additional Information
For an overview of Wilson’s voting record on a range of issues during her years in Congress, click here.
For additional information on Wilson, click here.
Further Reading for Frederica Wilson Profile: “Frederica Wilson” (Votesmart.org, Ballotpedia.org, Keywiki.org); Frederica Wilson’s Positions on Key Issues (OnTheIssues.org); “Racism: The Universal Explanation” (National Review, 8-23-2011); “Jesse Jackson, Democrats [Including Frederica Wilson]: Tea Party Racists, ‘Real Enemy’” (Newsmax.com, 8-23-2011); “Congresswoman: Some of My Constituents ‘Eat Dog Food When Their Food Stamps Run Out’” (CNS News, 7-15-2013); “Much of Congressional Black Caucus Ignoring Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech” (Breitbart.com, 2-12-2015); “Lawmaker: Ban ‘Illegal Aliens’ – Just the Words” (WorldNet Daily, 2-28-2007); “Rep. Frederica Wilson Demands Prosecution for Those Who Mock Congress Online” (Washington Examiner, 7-2-2019).
“The call in question that he made yesterday — or day before yesterday now — were to four family members, the four fallen. And remember, there’s a next-of-kin designated by the individual. If he’s married, that’s typically the spouse. If he’s not married, that’s typically the parents unless the parents are divorced, and then he selects one of them. If he didn’t get along with his parents, he’ll select a sibling. But the point is, the phone call is made to the next-of-kin only if the next-of-kin agrees to take the phone call. Sometimes they don’t.
“So a pre-call is made: The President of the United States or the commandant of the Marine Corps, or someone would like to call, will you accept the call? And typically, they all accept the call.
“So he called four people the other day and expressed his condolences in the best way that he could. And he said to me, what do I say? I said to him, sir, there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.
“Well, let me tell you what I told him. Let me tell you what my best friend, Joe Dunford, told me — because he was my casualty officer. He said, Kel, he was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1 percent. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war. And when he died, in the four cases we’re talking about, Niger, and my son’s case in Afghanistan — when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this Earth: his friends.
“That’s what the President tried to say to four families the other day. I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the President of the United States to a young wife, and in his way tried to express that opinion — that he’s a brave man, a fallen hero, he knew what he was getting himself into because he enlisted. There’s no reason to enlist; he enlisted. And he was where he wanted to be, exactly where he wanted to be, with exactly the people he wanted to be with when his life was taken. That was the message. That was the message that was transmitted.
“It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation. Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.”