An astute appraisal of how the state of American democracy is being preserved by unexpected political newcomers.
New American Leaders founder Bhojwani, who served as the first commissioner of immigrant affairs in New York City, profiles an impressive selection of current and formerly elected immigrant officials who have made a difference in their districts. Though she admits that the present political climate is bleak, she shows that there is hope and promise to be found in a new wave of campaigns by “newly energized” first- and second-generation Americans groomed by her group to inspire inclusiveness in government. Through legislative term limits and district-based elections, these newcomers have a better opportunity to run for office. In accessible prose, Bhojwani presents a wide canvas of success stories, each one reflective of a predominantly marginalized minority group, and how they got elected. With built-in skepticism, each candidate acknowledged that by running for public office, they would be individually “sacrificing personal comfort for public service” and that this exposure would be heightened by underlying racism and their “perceived otherness” as immigrants. The author spotlights Raquel Castañeda-López, a vibrant Mexican-American dedicated to her councilwoman post for Detroit’s Latinx- and African-American–populated District 6; Ilhan Omar, a petite but fiercely committed Somali-American Muslim member of Minnesota’s state legislature; Harvard-educated Jose Moreno, who, despite excessive campaign contributions from a domineering Walt Disney Company, beat out an opposing incumbent to win a seat on Anaheim, California’s city council; and Sam Park, the first openly gay man elected to the Georgia General Assembly. In 2002, Bhojwani herself joined city government, armed with passion and uncertainty but also with a steely determination to directly address “the disconnect between who Americans are and who our leaders are, between how we see ourselves and how we are seen, between the power we have and the power we have a right to.”
An enthusiastic, optimistic update on how immigrant Americans are changing the political landscape, promoting reform, and providing an all-encompassing voice for our multiracial country.