Virginia delegate and AFSCME member Elizabeth Guzman joined AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride on Monday in a Facebook Live interview that was the first in a series called “AFSCME Women Making History.”
She talked about becoming one of the first two Latinas elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, and about being selected earlier this year to give the Democratic Party’s Spanish-language rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.
Guzman represents the state’s 31st legislative district, which covers portions of Prince William County and Fauquier County in Northern Virginia. She works for the City of Alexandria as division chief in the Department of Community and Human Services, helping people with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and substance-abuse problems. And she is a member of AFSCME Virginia Local 3001.
Women made historic gains in the Virginia state House in last year’s November elections, and the increased diversity is already having an impact on the priorities being set in the legislature. To Guzman, her new role in elected office has given her an opportunity to speak up for good public services, labor rights and immigrant rights, among other issues she is passionate about.
“Legislators sometimes don’t understand when they cut public services what that entails,” she said, adding that as a public service worker “you have to be very innovative to succeed” and continue to provide good public services with fewer resources. “It’s more demand but less money,” she said.
As an immigrant from Peru, Guzman is passionate about standing up for the immigrant community. When a bill to oppose sanctuary cities was introduced in the legislature, Guzman spoke her mind, loud and clear.
“Your bill is going to profile people like my children,” she said she told fellow delegates. “We don’t have a chip on us that tells who is documented and who is undocumented, and police officers usually go by the last name or how you look when they ask or inquire about your citizenship.”
She added, “My commitment when I was elected was that I didn’t want any legislators to belittle the immigrant community any more. And that is something that I made my task and I’ll continue to do that.”
Guzman said she was inspired by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to run for office and decided to jump into the race in October 2016.
“Especially under this administration, I wanted to be part of the Virginia Assembly because I wanted to make sure that this country and Virginia will remain a welcoming society where diversity will be embraced and not disrespected,” she said.
She ended with a message of inspiration for women who are thinking about running for office.
“Don’t allow anyone to discourage you,” she said. “If you are thinking about running for office, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or AFSCME. We’ll be there to help you all the way until you get there.”