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'It's Really Powerful:' California Lawmaker Returns To Her Birthplace Of El Salvador On Visit With Newsom

Courtesy of Wendy Carrillo

Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, left, with Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom in El Salvador on April 7.

Courtesy of Wendy Carrillo

Gov. Gavin Newsom made history this week by traveling to El Salvador for a fact-finding mission.

CALmatters reporter Elizabeth Aguilera noted that not only is this Newsom’s first trip abroad since he took office, it's also “... the first time any California leader has taken an official trip to the Central American republic, or justified travel abroad as a fact-finding mission to learn more about a refugee crisis.”

Newsom is joined by a single California lawmaker on the trip: Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo. She was born in El Salvador and sought asylum in the U.S. as a child. Carrillo represents northeastern Los Angeles' District 51.

Carrillo spoke with Insight about the personal and political meanings of the trip for her.

“It's really powerful for me personally to come back to my country of birth in this new capacity as a member of the Assembly and as someone that's been invited to come to the country and have conversations about the root causes of migration and the economic issues that are very real to people here in this country,” Carrillo said.

Read highlights from the conversation here:

On the connection between California and El Salvador

California is home to close to 700,000 Salvadorans. It's home to 50,000 of which are TPS [Temporary Protected Status] recipients. There is a very direct connection with the state of California to the country of El Salvador. And the more that we've talked to folks down here and organizations and government officials, it's very clear that there is a direct link between the state and the country. And so when you think about the population of California, we're talking about people that have immigrated and built a new life in the state.

On Ronald Reagan’s legacy

That Reagan Republican era is not the Republican era that we are currently experiencing in the White House. And there is a huge huge difference. I've seen debates with Reagan. I've seen debates with Bush Senior where the issue of immigration was spoken about with human dignity and that's not what we're seeing now. We have a president who talks about human lives and other human beings and calls them animals and calls them rapists and says things like, "They're not sending their best." That is not dignified rhetoric of any leader much less that who represents the highest office in our nation. And that type of politics has been incredibly divisive, hateful, racist and it certainly doesn't speak to the overall values of folks that consider themselves Reagan Era Republicans.

There is no irony lost on me that President Reagan was very much involved in American involvement in the war in El Salvador and that he is a former governor of California and that I am now on a trip to El Salvador with a governor from California trying to figure out how to undo all the wrongs that have been done because of American intervention in El Salvador.

On why her family left El Salvador

If the civil war had never happened in El Salvador, there's no reason why my family would have immigrated. We were middle class. My grandmother was a nurse. My mother has a bachelor's degree from the University of El Salvador. My father, also a professional. There is no reason why we would have left. The circumstance of war was why we left and why we had to have a new start somewhere else.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the area Assemblymember Wendy Carillo represents. Her district is in northeastern Los Angeles.

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