My name is Sanjay Patel and I am running for US Congress to represent Florida’s 8th district.
I was less than a year old when my family arrived in America. My parents didn’t have any money, know the language or even have the right papers to stay here. My Dad first worked at a 7-11. My mom, a devout vegetarian, worked at McDonalds. They raised four kids in the parts of Los Angeles where poverty too often hides the face of possibility. After Reagan gave our family a path to citizenship in the 80s, my parents owned their own businesses, an ice cream parlor and eventually their own convenience store.
My parents’ hard work for other companies earned little wealth for our family, and even less for our community. The profits they made for 7-11 and McDonalds were sent to shareholders in far-off places, leaving our neighborhood a poor and dangerous place for kids like me. As Congressman, I will work to build prosperity for communities on the Space and Treasure Coasts by supporting policies that ensure large companies pay employees fairly, and that help small businesses launch, compete fairly and thrive. I believe in economic justice for all of us & I adamantly refuse to stand by as big corporations pocket billions while hardworking families struggle to survive.
Five years ago, my brother Raj died of lung cancer a week after his 40th birthday. My family was blessed to share the last month of his life together in my home. We massaged his feet, broke him out of the hospital to get a cheeseburger when he decided the treatments were too much too bear, and on many days, including the day before he died, we wheeled him to the beach where the wind and the water made it easier for him to breathe. He had lived over 2 years with the diagnosis even though the doctors only gave him 6 months. After his short-term disability expired, his family struggled to keep their home while he struggled to stay alive. Fortunately, he had good insurance and was able to maintain his COBRA payments which covered his care and medications, one of which cost over $9,000 a month. I cannot imagine the stress of losing a household’s primary income while losing someone you love. And yet, so many Americans have to endure the even greater stress of being unable to afford health insurance or medical treatment for themselves and their families.
As Congressman, I will work to guarantee healthcare as a right for all Americans.
On the day before he died, and on many of his last days on the planet, Raj visited the ocean. On the very rare days my Dad took off work when I was growing up, he would take all of us there. On the last day of my dog’s life, I took her there too. As Congressman, I will work to protect our air, our land and our water because there is something sacred about the water and the wind, some reason visiting our beaches and lakes and wild places matter so much to us when we have spare moments, and when there is no time left.
Last year, I found a letter in my parents’ basement. It was dated in 1989, and it was a thank you letter from the Ellis Island Foundation because my parents had made a $200 contribution. I can’t imagine how much money that would have been to my family at that time. The letter informed my father that the names of our family had been recorded on The American Immigrant Wall of Honor at Ellis Island. It said the wall would “serve as a testament to the heroism and triumphs our family experienced in coming to America for the first time.” It said: “The many thousands of visitors who will come to Ellis Island each year will recognize and respect your family’s role in fulfilling the American dream of hope, freedom and opportunity for all.”
But now, our country is building another wall. As Congressman, I will work to reform America’s immigration policy to ensure that we protect Americans, but even more importantly, that we protect what it means to be an American. We are the destination of dreamers, the land of opportunity, the world’s melting pot. Any immigration policy that violates our fundamental values as Americans does not protect America; it destroys the very fabric of our nation.
As your Congressman, I will work to build prosperity for Florida’s families, guarantee healthcare for all Americans, protect our land, air and our water, and reform our immigration policy to reflect America’s deepest values. I cannot do it alone, but together, we can create economic, social and environmental justice for all of us.
I am the American Dream, a first generation immigrant, the son of parents who have barely a high school education, a graduate of UCLA with a degree in Economics who has built a small business and a nonprofit, and led transformative efforts in business, philanthropy and politics. It’s time to take the skills and experiences built from my education, my work, and most importantly from my life on this planet – and transform our collective sadness and outrage into justice for us all.
A race like this will not be won alone, but if we stand together, we will win. I hope you’ll support our campaign and contribute today if you can, and, even better, will commit to a monthly gift to make sure we win this November.