2019 Great Immigrants Recipient

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
U.S. Congresswoman, Florida, District 26
Born in:

Representing Florida’s 26th district, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is the first Ecuadorian American and the first immigrant from South America to serve in Congress. She moved to the United States when she was 14 with her mother and sisters, and as a teenager worked the morning shift at a doughnut shop before school to help her single mother support the family. In 1996, after earning her bachelor’s degree in political science from Pitzer College and a master’s degree in international political economy from Claremont Graduate University, Mucarsel-Powell moved to Florida. There she raised money for nonprofits like the Hope Center, the Zoo Miami Foundation, and the Coral Restoration Foundation. Before entering politics Mucarsel-Powell held various posts at Florida International University, including associate dean of its College of Medicine, where she contributed to efforts to expand health care services in the state. “I was always very passionate about being involved, helping people in the community because I was very grateful for the opportunity I got when I came here,” Mucarsel-Powell told McClatchy. She was elected in 2018 on a platform of health care expansion, gun reform, immigration reform, and a commitment to addressing climate change. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee and is a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. The issue of gun violence is particularly personal to her because Mucarsel-Powell’s father was murdered outside his home in Ecuador when she was 24. She has invoked her family’s experience in advocating for gun-safety measures such as universal background checks, explaining how it drives her to “take action to do what you can so that no one has to go through what you went through.”