Meet Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress
Former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib won the election for Michigan’s 13th district – setting her up to be one of the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.
Many Democratic women made history with their victories in the 2018 midterm elections. Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, will be the first Muslim women to serve in Congress. Tlaib, too, is the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress.
Tlaib, 42, has been a vocal critic of President Trump and has called for his impeachment. Speaking to a crowd of supporters after she was sworn in, Tlaib said, “When your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t because we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherf---er.”
Earlier in the day, Tlaib used a 1734 English translation of the Quran that belonged to former President Thomas Jefferson for the swearing-in ceremony. She also wore a traditional Palestinian thobe for the occasion.
From her campaign platform to her vocal opposition to Trump, read on for five things to know about Tlaib.
She’s the daughter of Palestinian immigrants
Fadwa Tlaib, an aunt of Rashida Tlaib points to a young Rashida in a 1987 picture with her mother Fatima and brother Nader, at the family house, in the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Foqa. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Tlaib is the oldest of 14 children – and she has two boys of her own, according to her campaign website.
Born and raised in Detroit, Tlaib is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants. Her father, a former Ford Motor Co. employee, was born near Jerusalem, her mother near Ramallah, a city near the West Bank.
She graduated from Wayne State University and Thomas Cooley Law School.
“It is something that is inspiring to many people – even if you’re not Muslim – to know that a girl like me who grew up poor in south Detroit, who didn’t speak English when I started school, with a faith that is literally being targeted every single day by not only this administration but the media, could run and make history,” Tlaib has told The Detroit News.
“Even though people still may not understand my faith, I expose it in such an impactful way through public service. People still cannot pronounce my name, but they remember the things that I do for them.”— Rashida Tlaib
“Even though people still may not understand my faith, I expose it in such an impactful way through public service,” she said. “People still cannot pronounce my name, but they remember the things that I do for them.”
Tlaib said much of her “strength comes from being Palestinian.”
Tlaib has already made political history
Tlaib served six years in the Michigan state legislature until she was term-limited in 2014. She was the first Muslim-American woman to be elected to the state House, according to the Detroit Free Press.
With Republicans in control of the state House, Tlaib was in the minority party. Her district covered parts of Detroit and Dearborn, one of the largest Muslim populations in the U.S.
She also served as the Democratic chair of the state House Appropriations Committee and championed funds for Meals on Wheels deliveries to senior citizens, after-school programs and free health clinics, according to her campaign website.
As a state representative, she went after fraudulent mortgage bankers and helped hundreds of citizens prevent losing their homes to foreclosure. Tlaib also took on federal immigration agents who she said “stalked” undocumented parents outside of an elementary school “without warrants.”
She got support from Michael Moore, Rep. Jayapal
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., was an earlier backer of Tlaib, endorsing her in May.
“She will be a powerhouse woman of color in Congress and a steadfast champion for our values. She's challenged Donald Trump face-to-face, taken on and defeated the Koch Brothers in her own backyard, and her record of getting results for working people is simply stellar,” Jayapal said.
Tlaib was also supported by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore who often encouraged Michiganders to vote for someone who he called a “bright, shining star.”
She’s a progressive Democrat
Rashida Tlaib interrupted a speech Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, gave in Detroit in 2016. She told him to read the U.S. Constitution before she was escorted out of the venue. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Her platform includes Medicare-for-all, raising the minimum wage, protecting unions and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, according to her campaign website.
She was endorsed by the Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America, People for Bernie and Justice Democrats.
Tlaib has long been outspoken about her disagreements with Trump. Along with a dozen other women, Tlaib stood up at an event in August 2016 – when Trump was just the Republican presidential nominee – and interrupted his speech.
Tlaib told Trump to read the U.S. Constitution and said “our children deserve better” before she said she was removed from the event.
“I’ve never been one to stand on the sidelines.”— Rashida Tlaib
“As a responsible parent who continues to reflect and read the criticisms of my actions, I think of my two boys and I remind myself: silence is not an option and it never should be,” she wrote of the demonstration.
She also reportedly gave a book arguing for Trump's impeachment to all of her fellow new members of Congress.
She's a lawyer who has worked for immigrants
After her time in the state House, Tlaib worked with the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice in Detroit. There, she was “instrumental in organizing campaigns to put people over profits and to build more inclusive communities,” according to her campaign website.
She lists litigating against the state charging a fee for a driver’s license and leading campaigns against anti-Arab bigotry as some of her successes at the Sugar Law Center.
She’s also worked for the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, doing advocacy work for immigrants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.