2020 Great Immigrants Recipient

Stephanie Murphy
U.S. Congresswoman, Florida, District 7
Born in:
Vietnam

Stephanie Murphy was born in Ho Chi Minh City (then known as Saigon), Vietnam. Her family fled the country’s communist regime by boat when she was just six months old. When the boat ran out of fuel, they were rescued in the South China Sea by the U.S. Navy. After spending time in a Malaysian refugee camp, the family came to the United States as refugees in 1978 under the sponsorship of Christ Lutheran Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Murphy’s parents worked long hours cleaning offices and doing other low-wage jobs to provide for Murphy and her older brother. With the help of scholarships, government grants, and loans, Murphy would go on to study economics at the College of William and Mary. She and her brother became the first in their family to graduate from college.

Murphy was a strategy consultant working for Deloitte Consulting in Washington, D.C., at the time of the September 11 attacks, which motivated her to go into public service. “My parents always taught me freedom isn’t free, and you pay back your debts,” Murphy has said. She left the private sector and enrolled at Georgetown University, graduating with an MS in foreign service. Murphy served as a national security specialist in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, working on security issues ranging from counterterrorism, to foreign military relations, to strategic planning. She was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service.

Murphy eventually moved to Florida, where she worked as an executive at SunGate Capital, an investment management firm, and taught business and entrepreneurship classes at Rollins College. She also became active in nonprofits dedicated to expanding educational opportunities for young women from underprivileged backgrounds and women business owners.

In 2016, a massacre at a nightclub in Orlando called Pulse — at the time the worst mass shooting in U.S. history — inspired Murphy to run for political office with the support of several gun control groups. Murphy, a Democrat, challenged the long-term Republican incumbent for Florida’s Seventh Congressional District, which includes the northwestern portion of the state and downtown Orlando, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The political newcomer won the election that year, becoming the first Vietnamese American woman and only the second Vietnamese American elected to Congress. She was reelected in 2018.

Murphy serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, where she is a member of the Subcommittee on Trade and the Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support. Her legislative achievements include securing new federal funding for gun violence research and assistance for small businesses. Murphy is an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform and often invokes her own immigrant story in person and online: “#IAmAnImmigrant & proud of it. Our nation’s diversity is its strength. Opportunity & freedom keep the American dream alive.”