League of Women Voters of Elmhurst
Voters Guide for the General Primary Election: March 20, 2018

Democratic Candidate for the 5th Congressional District — Sameena Mustafa


Opening Statement

Thank you to the League of Women Voters­Elmhurst for organizing this forum. As a League member in Chicago, it is an honor to be here.

My name is Sameena Mustafa, and I’m a progressive Democrat running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th Congressional District of Illinois challenging the incumbent, Mike Quigley. I’d like to tell you a little about my background, why I’m running, and then take your questions.

I am the daughter of Indian Muslim immigrants who arrived in America in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. They came to study and stayed to pursue the American Dream. They wanted the same for me. My parents have lived in the district for over 40 years. I have lived in the district for over 30 years.

I am a graduate of Northwestern University. I have been a leader in the business, nonprofit, and arts communities for 25 years, including managing a Planned Parenthood on the West Side of Chicago. I have met people from all backgrounds. I have spoken to voters across the district including right here in Elmhurst, and I’m hearing it directly from you: you want bold, progressive, and inclusive leadership, and you don’t feel like you’re getting it.

Like all of you, I remember what it was like to see the screen turn from blue to red on November 8, 2016. It was not only a failure of humanity, but also a failure of Democratic leadership. I felt called to act at a critical time in our nation’s history when we need bold leaders fighting for our shared progressive ideals and policies like Medicare for All, a living wage, and protecting marginalized groups. That is the kind of leadership that I will bring to Congress. It would be an honor to have your support.

 

1. What can be done to help improve civic discourse and reduce the level of rancor and partisan bickering in national politics?

We must be respectful. My work for the last 25 years has been about creating coalitions and working towards long­term change. The willingness to listen to those with whom we disagree and to work to find common ground are vital to our democracy.

However, bipartisanship is not an end in itself. Bipartisan coalitions have produced the following: 

* Opposition to Medicare for All HR 676 when Americans continue to have no or inadequate access to healthcare.

* Increased military spending in the National Defense Authorization Act beyond the amount requested by President Trump when essential services remain underfunded.

* Approval of warrantless spying with FISA 702 reauthorization when the civil liberties of Americans are increasingly under attack and the ACLU fought the passage of this measure. 

Progressive Democrats stood in opposition to these actions, and, as your representative, so would I. In these three cases, Mike Quigley has stood with the Republicans.


2. Where do you stand on gun control legislation?

The NRA is holding Congress hostage. We need representatives to fight for the safety of all Americans.

I believe Mike Quigley and I hold similar views on measures that have broad bipartisan support, such as banning assault weapons and bump stocks, background checks, limiting gun sales to the mentally ill and those convicted of domestic violence, and a national gun registry.

However, we need to now aggressively pursue litigation as a means for holding the gun industry accountable for their role in the deaths of Americans. Kyle Logue, a law professor at the University of Michigan, has proposed that we first repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed by a Republican Congress.  Mother Jones published a study which estimated that the annual costs of gun violence exceed $200 billion, so we should pass legislation to create a fund to compensate victims and institutions. 

Any discussion of gun control laws must also address criminal justice reform. As your representative, I will fight for both. Democrats across the board, including Mike Quigley, have failed to advance a progressive agenda on criminal justice. Specifically, Quigley did not co­sponsor the 2015 Justice Is Not for Sale Act (HR 3543) proposed by Raul Grijalva, and he waited months to add his name to the latest version, HR 3227. Quigley voted with Republicans and against progressive Democrats to support HR 115, the Thin Blue Line Act, which makes it easier to impose the death penalty to those convicted of  killing police officers, which civil rights groups like the ACLU and NAACP viewed as an anti­Black Lives Matter initiative.

 

3. Immigration detention centers have a reputation for insensitive and inhumane treatment of those being detained, such as keeping families separated for an extended period of time. How could you or would you seek to improve these conditions at detention centers?

Our immigration policy is insensitive and inhumane. Period. 

I support the passage of a clean DREAM Act to protect 800,000 DACA recipients. The 11 million undocumented individuals in America should also be given the opportunity for a path to citizenship. Those who contribute to our economy and community, who have come to America to escape economic hardship and discrimination, should have access to the American Dream and be able to live, work and learn in our nation without fear.

Our deportation and detention system needs tighter regulation and oversight. Detention centers are run primarily by for­profit companies. I support the creation of an independent oversight commission for detention centers that would ensure that the rights of all immigrants are protected. Following human rights protocols, we should ban the separation of families at borders. Children as young as one year old are being separated from their parents.

I would ask Congress to review the ICE deportation process and for a full halt of ICE deportations until an investigative review of the immigration system is completed. The erratic nature of the current administration and its anti­immigrant agenda have permitted ICE to operate with little transparency, accountability, and oversight. Dishonest and cruel practices in which ICE gains entry to homes, schools, churches, and hospitals must end and the human rights and dignity of immigrants and their families must be protected. Immigrants must also have access to the criminal justice system and be given due process. 

We should demand more accountability for border patrol (HR 1608), keep ICE from seizing people at sensitive locations like schools (HR 1815), and give deported veterans a chance to reenter the US legally (HR 1405). Congressman Quigley has not lent his support to these bills, but they would have my support if elected to be your representative. 


4. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world, the Great Lakes. How would you work to help protect the Great Lakes Initiative?

I was born along Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois. The Great Lakes are a precious resource and projects to clean­up toxic pollution, reduce farm and urban runoff, control invasive species, and restore fish and wildlife habitat are key to protecting our ecosystem. As a League member, I am proud to say that the League pushed hard for the passage of the Clean Water Act.

I support full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  There is broad bipartisan  support for the GLRI. Congress restored 100% of GLRI funding to $300M, but overall EPA budget cuts still affect the program since GLRI collaborates with other offices within EPA.  

GLRI projects are on tight schedules, so any federal shutdown could delay some projects by at least a year. However, any shutdown should be blamed on Congressional Republicans who reneged on the original deal to protect children and the undocumented. 

We need to be bold in our protection of our planet for future generations. If elected, I would co¬sponsor and push for passage of HR 3671 OFF Act (Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act), the strongest climate legislation ever introduced in Congress, which Quigley has not co¬sponsored.

 

Closing Statement

Thank you again to the League of Women Voters for organizing the forum. Thanks to all of you for being here on a Sunday afternoon and being engaged citizens committed to democracy. 

As I said before, my name is Sameena Mustafa and I’m a progressive Democrat. I’ve been honored to be endorsed by two progressive organizations, Justice Democrats and Northside Democracy for America. These two groups looked at all the candidates in the race and endorsed me for my character, reputation, commitment to progressive ideals like fighting for Medicare for All, and my refusal of corporate PAC money.

However, the most important endorsement is yours. We agree that we need bold leadership. On March 20th, we have an opportunity to transform our district, our party, and our country. I ask for your vote on March 20th. It would be an honor to serve as your Representative. Thank you.


The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan political organization, neither supports nor opposes any candidate.

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