Veronica Escobar: Follow a drive to serve
Veronica Escobar is a United States Congressmember elected to represent Texas’ Congressional District 16, covering El Paso and surrounding areas. When she was elected in 2018, she made history as one of the first two Latinas elected to Congress from Texas and the first woman elected in District 16. Before this, Veronica served as a County Commissioner and a County Judge in El Paso County. Veronica volunteered and donated to political campaigns for almost a decade before she decided to run for office. Now, she tells other women+ interested in politics to follow their drive to serve just as she did.
Veronica is a third generation El Pasoan, born and raised in the community she currently represents. She grew up in a household with four brothers and her parents whom she described as hardworking. Her mother was her earliest role model. Veronica said that her mom taught her “if you want change, you must take action.” Her mother pursued change on a grassroots level ranging from the local PTA to Brownie Girl Scouts troops . Veronica remembers her mom advocating for street lights in her neighborhood, collecting signatures from folks who were in favor of bringing lights to the area. Veronica’s mom always took action to improve the lives of the people in what Veronica described as her “orbit.”
Veronica went on to attend the University of Texas at El Paso for her undergraduate education and NYU for her graduate education. Upon returning to El Paso following her time at NYU, Veronica remembers reading a newspaper article that described border patrol activity in local high schools. Specifically, border patrol agents were sent into schools to ask students for their proof of citizenship or residency. Veronica immediately took action to prevent this intrusive practice. She started working with Border Network for Human Rights (formerly Border Rights Coalition) where she focused on elevating the stories of the immigrants she worked with. She wanted to change the “immigration” narrative that the rest of the country had painted.
As time went on, Veronica started to realize the impact of local politics on the immigration narrative set throughout the rest of the country. In the mid-1990s, the border patrol chief at the time began advocating for a wall between El Paso and Mexico. This chief decided to run for Congress, particularly for the 16th Congressional District (the seat Veronica currently holds). Veronica knew it was important to support the candidate that opposed this chief to prevent the spread of anti-immigration agenda in Congress. She started to block walk, host events, and donate to candidates she valued in the community. It would not be until 2005 when Veronica would take her next big step in politics: running for office.
Prior to running for office, Veronica never thought of herself as a candidate. She said, “I always imagined myself as being the behind-the-scenes person, the helper, the organizer.” In 2005, she was encouraged to run for a countywide position by then-Mayor of El Paso Raymond Caballero. She immediately dismissed the idea outright, giving every reason not to run for office. Finally, Mayor Caballero convinced Veronica to run when he said, “Why do you expect other people to do a job that you are unwilling to do?” She realized that he was right. Veronica ran for El Paso County Commissioner and won as a first-time candidate.
During each of her campaigns, Veronica leaned on her circle of friends and family to help juggle her work-life balance. She encourages candidates to ask others for help when they need it because folks are always willing to assist. Her greatest accomplishment stemmed from expanding accessible healthcare in El Paso County. She supported the creation of clinics and a children’s hospital, both of which are available to the public regardless of their ability to pay. Healthcare is a doorway to personal wellness and economic health, according to Veronica. Her experience working to create accessible healthcare at the local level would leave a lasting impression on her agenda. She would go on to serve as a El Paso County Judge before being elected to the 16th Congressional District in 2018.
Now, as a Congressmember, Veronica advocates for progressive values that uplift her constituents. To set the stage, she described El Paso as a unique region of opportunity. El Paso is located on the Texas-Mexico border and is far from other metropolitan areas (for comparison, El Paso is a four hour drive from the next nearest major city, Albuquerque. Because of its distance from other metropolitan regions, El Paso has become a self-sufficient community that prioritizes resilience and care for its residents.
Veronica has carried El Paso’s resilience into Congress. She is working to expand accessible healthcare, recognizing that 25% of her constituents do not have adequate health coverage. She also works to expand access to high quality education. She described healthcare and education as vehicles on a pathway out of poverty. She also works to address climate change, noting that our current climate crisis is unsustainable for the generations to come. Finally, she is working to transform current immigration policies as the previous presidential administration created some of the cruelest policies yet.
Veronica advised other women+ interested in pursuing politics to “do it!”
“If it is in your heart and it is something you feel passionate about, that drive to serve is a beautiful thing—follow that mission,” says Veronica.
For women interested in running for office one day, there is no better time to start than now. Veronica advises future candidates to volunteer on other campaigns. There you can see the inner workings of a campaign like fundraising, communications, and field operations.
“Don’t wait to get involved,” she said.