* Democratic member of Congress
* Member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus & Congressional Hispanic Caucus
* Urged President Clinton to grant clemency to FALN Puerto Rican terrorists
Nydia Velazquez was born in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico on March 28, 1953. She earned a BA in political science from the University of Puerto Rico in 1974, and an MA in in political science from New York University in 1976. She was a professor at the University of Puerto Rico’s Humacao branch from 1976–81, and at New York’s Hunter College from 1981–83.
After working as a special assistant to Congressman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) in 1983, Velazquez served on the New York City Council from 1984-86, and thereafter found employment in the New York offices of two Puerto Rican government agencies.
In November 1992 Velazquez narrowly won election to Congress as a Democratic representative of the carefully gerrymandered 12th District of New York, which had been formed earlier that year by linking together Hispanic neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan’s lower East Side. The overall population of the district was 49% Hispanic, 16% Asian, and 9% African-American. During the campaign, Velazquez’s medical records, which indicated that she suffered from clinical depression and had once attempted suicide, were leaked to the media. She quickly held a press conference and explained that she had been undergoing counseling for years and was now psychologically healthy. Endorsements from then-mayor David Dinkins and civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson were key to Velazquez’s victory.
The first Puerto Rican woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Velazquez became a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In 1999 she joined fellow Democratic Representatives Luis Gutierrez, Jose Serrano, and Ron Dellums, as well as former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, in exhorting President Bill Clinton and Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder to grant clemency to 16 incarcerated FALN terrorists — Puerto Rican Marxist-Leninists whom Velazquez and her cohorts characterized as “political prisoners.” When Clinton offered clemency only to those who would agree to renounce the use of violence, Velazquez criticized the president for not making his clemency offer unconditional.
Though she is a Roman Catholic, Velazquez in 2015 voted against the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” which provided that if an infant somehow survived an abortion procedure, it would acquire the human rights of a person already born. From 1995-2003, she voted eight times against legislation designed to ban the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion. As a result of her unwavering support for the unrestricted right to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, Velazquez has consistently received ratings of 100% from NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
On multiple occasions, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have endorsed Velazquez’s political campaigns. In June 1993 Velazquez sent personal greetings to those attending the DSA’s annual Eugene Debs/Norman Thomas/Michael Harrington dinner banquet, named in honor of three prominent American socialists.
In October 1995 at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, Velazquez attended a standing-room-only gathering to give a hero’s welcome to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who was visiting New York. Three years later she supported the Cuban Humanitarian Trade Act, which sought to ease restrictions on U.S. commerce with Cuba.
In 1998 Velazquez served as a co-chair of the Working Families Party.
A strong opponent of America’s military intervention in Iraq, Velazquez in 2005 joined the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus. She was subsequently listed as an endorser of a January 27, 2007 “Act Now to End the War” event organized by United for Peace & Justice. Other endorsers included the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism, the Communist Party USA, the Democratic Socialists of America, the National Lawyers Guild, the National Organization for Women, and the Socialist Party USA.
In August 2008, Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign named Velazquez as a member of its National Latino Advisory Council, along with such notables as Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, Eliseo Medina, Linda Sanchez, and Hilda Solis.
In April 2018, Velazquez was outraged when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Diogenes Pinzon, an illegal immigrant from Panama with a long criminal history, as he walked out of a Brooklyn courtroom where he was facing domestic violence charges. “Extremely concerning to hear that ICE agents targeted an undocumented immigrant just outside Brooklyn Criminal Court this morning,” Velazquez wrote on Twitter. “Such actions by ICE have no place in our City & I will be monitoring the situation carefully.”
Lamenting that “women’s rights are under assault by the federal government and federal judiciary,” Velazquez at a July 2018 press conference stated that “a room of men have no business undermining a woman’s unconditional right to choose.”
On October 11, 2021, which was Columbus Day, Velázquez tweeted the following about Christopher Columbus: “Today should just be #IndigenousPeopleDay. And yet this day is still shared with a genocidal maniac. We need to take this time to reflect on the brutal history of violence against Indigenous peoples in America and recognize that there is still a lot of work to repair this harm.”
On July 19, 2022, Velazquez was one of at least 17 House Democrats who were arrested outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, where they were attending an abortion-rights rally to protest the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Those arrested included the following:
On December 15, 2022 – after months of negotiations among House Democrats as well as some Republicans — the Puerto Rico Status Act, a bill that aimed give Puerto Rico the option of ending its status as a U.S. territory and instead becoming the 51st U.S. state, was passed by a margin of 233-191. Velazquez, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, likened U.S. control over the island to the control that Britain had exercised over America in colonial times. “Congress’ unlimited plenary powers over Puerto Rico is reminiscent of the monarchical powers enjoyed by King George III, against which the founders of the American Republic so bravely fought,” she said. “If Hamilton and Madison were alive today, they would be shocked to see how the anti-colonial Constitution they drafted in 1787 is currently used to legitimize colonialism in Puerto Rico even 300 years later.” Lamenting that the island “remained in a state of colonial limbo that flies in the face of the anti-colonial values upon which the American Republic was founded,” Velazquez added: “Colonialism has destroyed the Puerto Rican economy. Colonialism has divided the Puerto Rican people. Colonialism has eaten away our people’s sense of dignity and self-worth.”
As matters of principle, Velazquez believes that:
For an overview of Velazquez’s voting record on numerous key issues, click here.
For additional information on Velazquez, click here.
Further Reading: “Nydia Velazquez” (Votesmart.org, Keywiki.org); “Candidate Faces Issue Of Suicide” (NY Times, 10-10-1992); “Nydia Velázquez’s Voting Records on Abortion” (Votesmart.org); “Nydia Velazquez Denounces Courthouse Arrest of Illegal Immigrant Facing Domestic Violence Charges” (Daily Caller, 4-7-2018); “Rep. Velazquez Says Men Shouldn’t Decide Abortion Policy …” (Daily Caller, 7-9-2018); Nydia Velazquez’s Positions on Key issues (OnTheIssues.org).