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Cuban-born Rep. Sires gets jump on new members of Congress

Cuban-born Rep. Sires gets jump on new members of Congress

Albio Sires says some people still call him "mayor," and even he is sometimes surprised by his new title.
"It's still very strange to hear 'congressman,'" said Sires, the state of New Jersey's newest representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Cuban-born former mayor got a brief taste of life on Capitol Hill when he took office in November, a few weeks ahead of the rest of the freshman class, having won a special election to serve the remainder of Sen. Robert Menendez's House term. Sires also won the general election and will be sworn in again Jan. 4 when the new Congress convenes, this time for a full two-year term.
Sires, 55, is the only Cuban-born Democrat in the House. He hopes party leaders will ask him to serve on the International Relations Committee, where he can represent the interests of his diverse district across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
"I think I can bring a wealth of knowledge acquired through the different communities I represent," said Sires, who said his constituents are from many Central and Southern American countries.
Sires, who was 11 when his family left Cuba for the U.S., added he wants to have a voice in U.S.-Cuban policy. He said before any sanctions against Cuba are eased or lifted, the communist-led country must show it is moving in the right direction.
"Cuba has to show a sign of good faith," Sires said. "Are they releasing any of the dissidents, are they moving toward democracy in any way, are they observing human rights in any way?"
Sires has relatives in Cuba, including three cousins he has never met.
He expects to hear in January whether he will get his wish to serve on international relations. Democratic party leaders have already assigned Sires to the Financial Services Committee, which he also asked to serve on.
He noted that since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, many businesses relocated from Manhattan to Hudson County, specifically Jersey City. It helped that Hudson County was in the middle of a development boom at the time and was able to handle a large influx of workers.
Sires also wanted to serve on financial services because it oversees the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Sires was involved with affordable housing when he served as the leader of New Jersey's Assembly.
Among his priorities in Congress are to make college more affordable for families by working to cut interest rates for student loans and to make some college expenses tax deductible.
Most freshmen lawmakers do not have much influence, but Rider University political scientist David Rebovich said Sires has potential to buck that trend, partly because of his Cuban connection. The rest of the Cuban-born delegation are Republicans, and are all from Florida.
"The competition among the parties for support from Latinos is great," Rebovich said.
Rebovich added that Sires had a reputation in New Jersey's Statehouse for being a team player.


Updated : 2021-05-07 00:57 GMT+08:00