Padilla Delivers Maiden Speech, Calls for Bold Action to Tackle Inequity and Restore the California Dream

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) delivered his official maiden speech on the floor of the United States Senate. Padilla spoke about his path to becoming the first Latino to represent California in the U.S. Senate, and stressed the urgency to act boldly to address the underlying inequities in California that have been exposed and worsened by the pandemic.

WATCH: Click here to view Padilla’s remarks / Click here to download Padilla’s remarks

Key Excerpts:

  • My parents immigrated to California from Mexico in the 1960s in search of a better life. They arrived from different parts of Mexico with little formal education, but a tremendous work ethic and big dreams.
  • Think about that, in one generation our family has gone from being immigrant cooks and house cleaners to serving in the United States Senate. That’s the California Dream – that’s the American Dream. That’s the dream I was raised to believe in and the dream that my Angela and I work to keep alive for our children and for future generations.
  • I think about my parents often. And I think about all the hard-working people in our state and in our nation who are hurting right now. I rise today on their behalf.
  • The greatest crisis of our lifetime demands bold action. Building back better demands that we build back better for everyone – and that we leave no one and no community behind. To do so requires that we open our eyes to the deep, systemic inequities that have been exposed and exacerbated by this crisis.
  • In my state, the reality is that there are two Californias — just as there are really two Americas.
  • One for families who struggle to pay their rent and make ends meet, who struggle just to keep hope alive. And one for those who can afford to work from home or from a second home, who can more easily weather this storm. 
  • And we see two Californias in the impact the pandemic has had on immigrant communities, the very communities on the front lines of this crisis.
  • They are more than paying their fair share. They are deemed essential by the federal government for good reason. And they have earned the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. We cannot allow the American Dream to become the greatest casualty of this pandemic. Relief and recovery must be for everyone.
  • I believe now is the time to lead an American comeback that leaves no working family behind. A comeback that heals the longstanding divides in our society and unites our country. A comeback that confronts the systemic injustices in our country so that we build back equitability.
  • We must act boldly because that is what this moment demands of us. We can’t let anything stop us, including outdated rules or traditions. We must end the filibuster.
  • I believe that we will beat this pandemic and get through this crisis. We’ll do it the same way we always have. The same way my parents did. The same way that American families and millions of immigrants throughout the history of this country have done. By getting to work and getting the job done.

The full transcript of Padilla’s remarks as prepared for delivery below:

Mr./Mme. President, on behalf of the people of California, it is my honor to address this body today.

I stand before you humbled and inspired by this moment in our nation’s history.

As the Senator from the most populous and most diverse state in the nation – and as the first Latino Senator from California – let me just say: what a great country this is.

My name is Alex Padilla y soy el hijo de Santos y Lupe Padilla.

I am the son of Santos and Lupe Padilla.

I am also the proud husband of Angela Padilla and the proud RAD Dad of Roman, Alex and Diego.

Colleagues, my family’s journey is central to my public service.

My parents immigrated to California from Mexico in the 1960s in search of a better life. 

They arrived from different regions of Mexico with little formal education, but a tremendous work ethic and big dreams. They met in Los Angeles, fell in love, decided to get married, and applied for green cards – in that order. 

For forty years, my father worked as a short-order cook. Hard work. Honest work. And as he’ll proudly tell you, his kitchen never failed an inspection. 

For those same forty years, my mom worked tirelessly as a housekeeper.  It seemed like she never had a day off.

Together, they raised my sister, my brother, and me in a modest three-bedroom house in the proud, working-class community of Pacoima, California in the Northeast San Fernando Valley.

Our neighborhood had more than its share of challenges, from poverty to crime to unhealthy air.

It may not have been the safest neighborhood, but my mom felt blessed that we had the sanctuary of a backyard. And we had a strong sense of community.

It was there that my parents taught us about the values of service to others and of getting a good education.

Today, my sister, my brother, and I are all public servants. My sister has been a teacher, a principal, and today she works in administration for the Los Angeles Unified School District. My brother serves as Chief of Staff to Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez. And yes, I’m the middle child.

Think about that. In one generation our family has gone from being immigrant cooks and house cleaners to serving in the United States Senate.

That’s the California Dream! That’s the American Dream!! That’s the dream I was raised to believe in and the dream that Angela and I are working to keep alive for our children and for future generations.

Mr./Mme. President, I think about my parents often. And I think about all the hard-working people in our state and in our nation who are hurting right now.

I rise today on their behalf.

I rise on behalf of the cooks and dishwashers and domestic workers who’ve seen their jobs and their livelihoods upended by this pandemic.

I rise on behalf of the farmworkers and delivery drivers and nurses who have been on the front lines of this pandemic, but who never stopped showing up.

I rise on behalf of California’s 4 million small business owners, many hanging on by a thread and stretching like they’ve never stretched before to meet payroll.

I rise on behalf of the nearly 2.5 million California families who are behind on their rent or mortgage with bills piling up wondering how they’ll ever climb out of this hole.

I rise on behalf of the 11.2 million California adults who struggled to meet basic household expenses last year, including many who relied on food pantries to make it through the year.

I rise on behalf of the over 56,000 California families – and more than 530,000 families across America – who’ve lost a loved one, many who died alone in a hospital room or a nursing home deprived of the last chance to hold hands or say goodbye.

Mr./Mme. President, the people of my state are hurting.  The people of this country are hurting.  And we have a long way to go to get back on our feet.

The greatest crisis of our lifetime demands bold action.

Building back better demands that we build back better for everyone – and that we leave no one and no community behind.

To do so requires that we open our eyes to the deep, systemic inequities that have been exposed and exacerbated by this crisis.

In my state, the reality is that there are two Californias — just as there are really two Americas.

One for families who struggle to pay their rent and make ends meet, who struggle just to keep hope alive.

And one for those who can afford to work from home or from a second home, who can more easily weather this storm.

We see two Californias where Latino, Black, and Asian households are three times as likely to be behind on rent.

It’s the story of the single mom who lost her job due to the pandemic and who has gone through her entire savings to keep a roof over her family’s head.

We see two Californias where employment has actually increased for people who earn more than $60,000, while some parents are left to make the impossible choice of paying for food or paying their utility bills so their kids can log into online class. 

We see two Californias where the stock market reaches new highs for some, while in the San Fernando Valley, too many families depend on city or church food distribution sites to feed their children.

We see two Californias where there is a stark disparity in who is getting vaccinated and who’s not.  In Beverly Hills, more than 25% of residents have received their first shot.  That’s a good thing. What’s not good is that in South Los Angeles — just 15 miles away — the rate is just 5%.

And we see two Californias in the impact the pandemic has had on immigrant communities, the very communities on the front lines of this crisis.

I recently announced my first bill, the “Citizenship for Essential Workers Act,” to provide a well-earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have risked their health as essential workers.

These are the workers we have all depended on during this pandemic.  Millions have offered tremendous gestures and thanks for their heroism and hard work.

Let’s be honest.  Many of these very workers woke up before dawn today and took the bus to work so others could “zoom to work” from the comfort of their homes.

These essential workers take care of our loved ones.

They keep the supply chain moving.

They grow and harvest our food, stock the shelves at grocery stores, and even deliver it to our doors. 

They risk their lives so others can stay safer at home.

Mr./Mme. President, we cannot in good conscience praise them as “essential workers” in one breath, while denying them essential human dignity with the next.

Yes, dignity, respect, and a pathway to citizenship for essential workers who have earned it is personal for me, but it is also in the best interest of our nation.

They are more than paying their fair share.  They are deemed essential by the federal government for good reason. And they have earned the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

We cannot allow the American Dream to become the greatest casualty of this pandemic.

Relief and recovery must be for everyone.

The American Rescue Plan President Biden just signed into law is a 1.9 trillion dollar down payment on this promise.

It will:

  • speed vaccine production and distribution, 
  • expand testing and contact tracing, 
  • outfit our schools so kids and teachers can safely return to the classroom,
  • provide emergency mortgage and rental assistance to families in need, and
  • it will extend a lifeline to keep millions of America’s small businesses from going under.

I’ll tell you what it will mean for my state. In addition to what this bill will deliver to fight the virus, it also means:

  • immediate food assistance for 4.3 million families,
  • an increase in the standard of living for 8 million California children.
  • $15 billion for California’s schools,
  • $590 million to help combat homelessness on the streets of California, and
  • Billions in direct checks for struggling Californians.

The American Rescue Plan provides the lifeline for American families, workers, and businesses to survive – what we all hope – are the last months of this crisis.

It is one of the most transformational and progressive pieces of legislation in our history that will cut child poverty in half – including for half a million children in California.

But our work is far from over.

I believe now is the time to lead an American comeback that leaves no working family behind.

A comeback that heals the longstanding divides in our society and unites our country.

A comeback that confronts the systemic injustices in our country so that we build back equitability.

It took almost ten years to recover from the Great Recession. We lived through the consequences of the moderate response to the financial crisis – slow growth, poor pay, and millions without jobs.

We can not let that happen again. We can and must build back better.

That means passing a major recovery package in the next few months that puts people first.

That means investing trillions in our infrastructure in ways that uplifts communities and provides millions of good-paying union jobs. And addresses our climate crisis to ensure every person has access to clean air and water. 

That also means passing common-sense immigration reform that brings humanity to our immigration system and recognizes that providing a pathway to citizenship for the people living and contributing to our country is part — a strategic part — of our economic recovery.

That means protecting and strengthening our democracy by passing voting rights and civil rights legislation. We should be making it easier – not harder – to vote in this country.

But as President Obama said in his Farewell Address, “[t]he work of democracy has always been hard. It’s always been contentious. Sometimes it’s been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.”  

No surprise, reactionary state leaders around the country – fearful of losing elections and losing their power – are mobilizing to suppress the vote

Enough is enough. This Senate must act aggressively to protect the right to vote. No more steps back, only steps forward.

We must act boldly because that is what this moment demands of us.

We can’t let anything keep us from bold action and progress, including outdated rules or traditions.

We must end the filibuster.

For decades, the filibuster has been leveraged to obstruct progress. It helped maintain Jim Crow segregation, and it continues to entrench inequality in America today.

We cannot allow the filibuster to prevent us from doing what is necessary to lift up millions of working families in every corner of this country.

Mr./Mme. President, I believe that we will beat this pandemic and get through this crisis.

We’ll do it the same way we always have.

The same way my parents did.

The same way that American families and millions of immigrants throughout our history have done.

By getting to work and getting the job done.

To my colleagues, I am honored to serve with you. I look forward to working with you for years to come.

To my constituents, I am honored to represent you. And I will work hard every day to make you proud.

And to Angela, Roman, Alex, and Diego, I love you. Thank you for your love and support of my public service.

Mr./Mme. President, I yield the floor.

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