When people ask me why I’m campaigning for Congress, they like to ask two things: why I’m running, and what experience I have. To me, both answers are related.
Professionally, my experience is simple enough. I am an attorney who has worked in a wide range of fields, all tied to seeking justice for those less fortunate. I served as an elected neighborhood council board member who was privileged to serve the needs of my people. I have investigated corruption, worked on labor cases, defended the most vulnerable parents in Los Angeles County from having their children removed from them in children’s court, and, in my current job as an immigration attorney, defended those whose only “crime” is wanting to be American.
But there’s experience that’s more important to me than bullet points on a resume. For me, the experience that qualifies me to run for Congress—and in fact, is one of the reasons why I’m running—is the life I spent grinding my way to a career, building myself up from scratch here in Los Angeles, despite financial insecurity, home insecurity, job insecurity, and all the anxieties and problems they brought with them.
My most important experience and job qualification is a life spent in Los Angeles just like most of the people who live here: working hard to barely get by. Wanting more, deserving more, and seeing my government do nothing about it.
I began my career like so many today: buried under a mountain of debt, patching together 2-3 jobs during the day—working free as an attorney, because paid legal jobs were scarce those days—and driving for Uber and Lyft when most people were sleeping.
Often, I had little to rely on other than grit, determination, and a lesson I started learning all the way back when I was eight years old.
Back then, my dad’s church was filled with members who couldn’t speak English. As the son of immigrants, I was the link between the world and language they knew, and the world and language they were in.
It was my job, as an eight year old boy, and as the pastor’s kid, to translate phone calls into English whenever my dad’s church members needed someone to talk and advocate on their behalf in English. It was my job to be their voice when no one else could. I was proud to take their needs and turn it into action.
Fast forward to my adult life, working all those jobs and never having a moment to breathe: I still remembered that lesson. My entire career has been fueled by a desire to help those who need a voice:
I’ve defended the most vulnerable parents in Los Angeles County, who don’t have housing, healthcare, a sustainable job, money and resources, from having their children removed from them in children’s court
I’ve advocated for hundreds of undocumented families in immigration court, fighting for their stay here in the U.S.
I’ve investigated corrupt officials in Los Angeles, helping to make our city government fair.
I built an entire legal company helping entry level creatives. Not the megastars, but the artists struggling to put together a living—the ones working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet—who were scared that a ten minute call with a normal lawyer would cost them a month’s income.
I wrote a book for artists in need of legal advice, so they could self-advocate and never be cheated again.
I’ve litigated labor and employment cases on behalf of plaintiff employees and workers, ensuring a fair and just legal process in our workplaces.
I’ve done all of this because I’ve realized something about myself: If I’m not helping others, I’m simply not interested. It’s why I work to passionately defend respondents in immigration court when they receive their notice to appear, and why I aggressively fight to help my clients seek asylum here in the U.S.
Our current representative takes 98.8% of his money from large donors and corporate PACs. He must answer to healthcare companies, pharmaceutical companies, weapons manufacturers and debt collectors. I want to answer to my people and put my community first. People are suffering but corporate incumbents like our current representative, do the bare minimum by only making incremental fixes here and there with their “performative progressive politics”, instead of leading and ushering in big, radical changes that help empower and bring life to our people.
I want to build us a floor to stand on, so we never have to worry about the next day ending up with nothing. I want to continue my career and stay true to my life story.