* Served on the Pomona (California) City Council
* Served as mayor of Pomona from 2005-08
* Served in the California State Assembly from 2008-13
* Served in the California State Senate from 2013-14
* Was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014
* Member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Norma Torres was born in Escuintla, Guatemala, on April 4, 1965. She holds a bachelor’s degree in labor studies from the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland.
In 1970, when Guatemala was in the midst of a protracted civil war, Torres’s parents secured a visa for the girl and sent her to live with her paternal uncle in Whittier, California. After Torres’s mother died in Guatemala approximately a year later, the girl’s father came with a second daughter to join Norma in California. Norma Torres eventually overstayed her visa, but her family helped her to obtain legal U.S. residency while she was in her teens. She later became an American citizen in 1992.
From 1990-2008, Torres worked as a dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department. She entered politics as a Democrat in 2000, when she began a five-year stint with the Pomona City Council. After subsequently serving as mayor of Pomona from 2005-08, she was a member of the California State Assembly from 2008-13, and of the California State Senate from 2013-14. During her time in the State Senate, Torres’s colleagues nicknamed her “Little Monster” for her fiercely combative style.
In July 2014, when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador were illegally flooding across the Mexican border and into a number of southern U.S. states, Torres said in an interview: “In many ways, I see the decision these children have made … like the decision my parents made for me. They wanted an opportunity for me to grow up and be a successful person.” “It’s important for the U.S. to realize that this is a humanitarian crisis that is impacting very young children who have come here because they have seen that there is absolutely no future in their homeland,” Torres said on another occasion that month.
In November 2014, the voters of California’s 35th Congressional District elected Torres to the U.S. House of Representatives, where she continues to serve as a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Torres objected strongly to a pair of executive orders that President Donald Trump signed in January 2017 — one seeking to advance his plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and another calling for the cessation of certain federal grants to sanctuary cities (where illegal aliens are protected by local governments that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities). According to Torres, Trump’s executive actions were “cynical,” “dangerous,” and “ill-conceived” measures whose principal purpose was to “appease the far right at the expense of our [American] values, security, and economic well-being.” The end result of Trump’s edicts, she said, would be to “erode American moral authority,” “undermine local law enforcement,” “waste taxpayer dollars,” “strain our relationship with a crucial ally [Mexico],” “create greater fear and distrust between local police and immigrant communities,” and “lead to more crimes going unreported and [thereby] endanger[ing] the lives of all Americans.”
After President Trump issued yet another January 2017 executive order which placed a temporary moratorium on the provision of visas for people seeking to travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations that were hotbeds of Islamic terrorism, Torres described Trump’s action as a manifestation of “reckless fear-mongering that has no basis in reality.” As a gesture of protest, the congresswoman brought a special guest to Trump’s “State Of The Union” address the following month: a legal permanent resident of the U.S. who had been detained at Los Angeles International Airport during the initial phase of the travel moratorium. After Trump subsequently revised his executive order so as to address certain of its provisions that had caused a Federal Court of Appeals to block its original implementation, Torres said that “this new ban … goes against the very values our nation was built on,” and that it would serve only “to create fear and panic and further the President’s narrative that immigrants and foreigners are the enemy.”
Torres proudly proclaims that she is “committed to doing everything in my power to bring the DREAM Act across the finish line,” a reference to legislation that would legalize and eventually naturalize a large number of so-called “Dreamers” — i.e., illegal-alien teens and young adults who first came to the United States as minors. “These young Americans should not have to wait any longer: they deserve protection from deportation and a path to citizenship now.”
When President Trump in September 2017 announced his wish to phase out former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which had begun with a 2012 executive action temporarily protecting hundreds of thousands of “Dreamers” from deportation, Torres characterized Trump’s proposal as “a betrayal of American values and a needless attack on thousands of hardworking young people who want nothing more than an opportunity to contribute to this country.” Trump had “chosen to rally his base,” Torres added, “while weakening our national security by wasting resources on breaking up families.”
In June 2017, Torres voted against “Kate’s Law” (H.R. 3004), which mandated harsher criminal penalties against illegal aliens who, after having been convicted of certain crimes and deported, re-entered the U.S. illegally.
That same month, Torres 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, Torres 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.
For an overview of Torres’s voting record on an array of key issues, click here.
Further Reading: “Norma Torres’ Biography” (Votesmart.org); “Norma Torres” (Ballotpedia); “A Child of Guatemala Seeks a Seat in Congress” (San Diego Union Tribune, 10-9-2018); Torres’s statements regarding the DREAM Act, DACA, the dangers of sanctuary cities, and President Trump’s first and second executive orders on refugees.