Tony Cardenas was born in Pacoima, California on March 31, 1963, to immigrant parents hailing from Mexico. After graduating from UC-Santa Barbara in 1986 with a BS in electrical engineering, Cardenas worked as a realtor and an insurance agent. He subsequently served as a Democratic member of the California State Assembly from 1996-2002, and of the Los Angeles City Council from 2003-13. In 2012 Cardenas was elected to …
Tony Cardenas was born in Pacoima, California on March 31, 1963, to immigrant parents hailing from Mexico. After graduating from UC-Santa Barbara in 1986 with a BS in electrical engineering, Cardenas worked as a realtor and an insurance agent. He subsequently served as a Democratic member of the California State Assembly from 1996-2002, and of the Los Angeles City Council from 2003-13. In 2012 Cardenas was elected to represent California’s 29th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he continues to serve as a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the LGBT Equality Caucus.
In 2013, Cardenas and Lorella Praeli — a young illegal alien of Peruvian descent who would later become the American Civil Liberties Union‘s director of immigration policy and campaigns — co-authored an opinion piece that said: “Rather than attempt to repair their reputation as a party inclusive [sic] of Latino and immigrant communities in America, [Republicans] are obstructing the best chance for comprehensive immigration reform we’ve seen in more than a generation.” Cardenas and Praeli also condemned the American SAFE Act, legislation designed to: (a) strengthen the government’s ability to prevent criminals and terrorists from entering the U.S.; (b) deport such people when they were discovered; and (c) facilitate cooperation between federal agencies and local law-enforcement in immigration-related matters. According to Cardenas and Praeli, this bill, if passed into law, “would lead to massive criminalization, discrimination, and racial profiling of our communities.”
In the summer of 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, Cardenas and his CHC cohorts issued a statement that said, in part: “This is not about enforcing immigration laws, because these are not immigrants seeking to come to America. They are refugee children seeking asylum from their war-torn countries, where they fear for their lives. America has always been the land where the persecuted could seek protection. This is who we are as a nation. The children at our southern border deserve our protection, they deserve due process, and if sending them home would put them in danger, they deserve sanctuary.”
In 2015, Cardenas lent his name to a letter in which several dozen members of Congress asked President Barack Obama to grant a “humanitarian parole” that would fast-track the process by which more than 20,000 people fleeing the war-ravaged, terrorism-infested nation of Syria could be admitted into the United States.
In August 2015, Cardenas and fellow Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego co-authored a letter stating that the Washington, DC City Council should prevent Republican presidential candidate and longtime real-estate developer Donald Trump from putting his name on a new DC hotel—in light of Trump’s recent “insulting,” “repulsive,” “hateful,” “racist,” “divisive,” and “reprehensible” assertion that many illegal immigrants to the U.S. were criminals who should be deported. “The Trump name is now inextricably linked to the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino and anti-woman sentiments,” said Cárdenas and Gallego.
After an ISIS-affiliated gunman murdered 49 people and wounded 53 others in a June 2016 jihadist attack against the patrons of a gay night club in Orlando, Florida, Cardenas issued a statement that said nothing about the Islamic motivation underlying the atrocity. Rather, he lamented that America was experiencing “new levels of blatant hatred and acts of violence, especially towards members of the LGBT community as well other minority groups”; that the killer had used an “assault-type rifle” that “was built for military or war”; and that “this nation has a gun issue” that “Congress must address.” In a joint statement with his fellow CHC members, Cardenas noted that the attack had occurred on “Latin Flavor” night at the club, falsely implying that the gunman had targeted Hispanics because of their ethnicity.
When President Donald Trump in January 2017 issued a pair of executive orders to bolster the enforcement of existing immigration laws and to take steps toward authorizing the construction of a border wall, Cardenas said: “Trump’s actions today are a disgrace to our country. They will not make our country safer. They will tear apart our economy and hurt Americans jobs. Americans will suffer from these baseless policies. He’s stoking fear in people’s hearts and minds.”
In 2017 as well, Cardenas explicitly stated that the DREAM Act — legislation aiming to legalize and eventually naturalize a large number of illegal-alien teens and young adults (“Dreamers”) who had first come to the United States as minors — was “the only bill the Hispanic Caucus is comfortable with right now, as it’s written.”
When President Trump in 2017 called for the termination of former President Barack Obama‘s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive action — which had conferred temporary protection from deportation upon some 800,000 Dreamers — Cardenas released a statement alleging not only that Trump was seeking to “purposefully hurt these young people,” but also that such a measure would cause the U.S. to “lose over $460 billion from the national GDP over the next decade.”
Cardenas supports the right of local political leaders and government agencies in sanctuary cities to ignore Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers for illegal aliens. In a March 2017 statement, the congressman characterized the Trump administration’s plan to withhold federal grant money from such cities as a “backwards” policy that amounted to an “unwarranted and misguided” “attack” against the residents of those locales. “[S]anctuary cities are both safer and better off economically,” he added. That same year, Cardenas supported the Safeguarding Sanctuary Cities Act, which sought to “prohibi[t] reducing or withholding federal financial assistance that a state or local government would otherwise receive because such state or local government has in place any policy that limits or restricts compliance with a detainer.”
In January 2018, Cardenas and 23 fellow CHC members signed a legal brief in support of several lawsuits challenging the Trump Administration’s announcement that it planned to waive certain environmental laws in order to clear the way for the construction of a border-wall prototype in San Diego.
For an overview of Cardenas’s voting record on a variety of key issues, click here.
For additional information on Tony Cardenas, click here.
Further Reading: “Pass a Pathway to Citizenship, Not KIDs Act” (Rep. Cárdenas Issues Statement on Pulse Nightclub Shooting” (6-12-2016); “Congressional Hispanic Caucus Members React to Trump’s Executive Orders on Immigration” (1-25-2017); “‘Amnesty’ Fight Threatens Pursuit of Immigration Deal” (The Hill, 9-15-2017); “Cárdenas on DACA: Anything But ‘Great Heart’” (9-5-2017); “Cárdenas: Trump Puts Politics Over Public Safety” (3-27-2017).