She Runs IL 2020! — Dagmara Avelar, candidate for IL House Rep, District 85
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Dagmara “Dee” Avelar, running for IL House of Representatives, District 85. Follow our series, She Runs Illinois 2020!, leading up to election day as we showcase and uplift the voices of Illinois women running for public office in the upcoming election.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Dagmara “Dee” Avelar, and I decided to run for office because I was inspired by the number of first time candidates, particularly women of color, who ran in 2018.
Will County has been my home, primarily the Bolingbrook and Romeoville areas, since 2001. This is the district that welcomed me with open arms when my family decided to immigrate from Ecuador to the United States. As a proud product of our public school system, I know first-hand the pivotal role that educators play in the development of healthy children and communities. I want to be able to be a legislator that champions education and continues to fight for the community that has invested in me.
For over a decade, I have dedicated my life to advocating for working families particularly focusing on projects addressing the barriers of low-income, limited English proficient Illinois residents. A community organizer at heart, I have been involved in civic engagement efforts to get out the vote of low-propensity voters in the southwest suburbs since I was in college. I have also advocated in efforts to increase the minimum wage and have been a fierce fighter in Springfield during the fight for a fair budget that puts working families first.
I am currently the Director of Programs at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and work directly with 59 community-based organizations across the state of Illinois to address barriers to citizenship as well as language access primarily for immigrants and refugees.
Prior to my current role at ICIRR, I worked at Instituto Del Progreso Latino as an accredited representative with a focus on citizenship and DACA and was able to assist over 400 people in their immigration journey. I, myself became a naturalized U.S. citizen in April 2016.
Tell us about the women in your life
My life has been surrounded by great, inspiring, kick butt women. My mother instilled in me resiliency and empathy. She was my age when she decided to immigrate to the United States, I have been thinking about that a lot. I have been reflecting on how her journey has directly impacted our entire family. Anytime I felt afraid, she was there to look me in the eye and say “Do not falter hija, you are capable of doing anything you work hard for”. My sister and I have taken that to heart, which leads me to my other mentor. My sister is my backbone, my journey is her journey and vice versa. Moving from Ecuador to the suburbs, presented challenges and we knew we had each other to rely on. I have learned from her the meaning of standing up for what you believe in. She is a close adviser in my campaign along with my campaign manager, Eli. Eli is another one of my role models. A fierce, thoughtful DACAmented woman who leads by her social justice values. Our campaign is a grassroots campaign and as such we are relying on our community to inform our platform with a social justice centered lens. I would be disingenuous for me to say that this campaign has been easy. One of our main obstacles, as I am sure it has been for many, has been campaigning during a pandemic. A key takeaway that we have been reflecting on is that the pandemic has highlighted our chronic problems with income inequality and healthcare access. I have a responsibility to make sure that I do everything in my power to make sure that working families do not continue to bear the brunt of it .
What led you into politics? Why are you running for THIS office?
Getting involved in politics was not a choice for me. Very early in my life here in the United States, I knew that I have to keep up with current events, primarily with immigration. I was undocumented for 13 years and there was not a day where I did not tune in to the news to see if any immigration law had changed or if there was a raid happening in our area. When I had the chance to get politically involved I did not hesitate to do so.
A community organizer came to Bolingbrook and started talking to young undocumented people at our church and through her I learned about the power of community organizing. I learned that while I could not vote myself, I can educate people on issues and encourage them to vote to make change. Over a decade later, our community has continued to grow and I’ve grown with it as well. Through my work, I’ve learned how important it is who we put in office. I’ve learned that while we are literally fighting for our lives at the federal level, our state has become a beacon in the midwest and that is because of the legislation that we have been able to advocate for and pass to protect our communities, that is why I am running for this office.
If you were currently in office, how would you use your office to address the economic harm from COVID19 in your community?
I would fight to protect our basic needs such as shelter, food, and health. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light many of the disparities that communities have been facing. The 85th district, just as other districts, has seen a decrease in economic activity in the last couple of months. The Federal Reserve noted that a large number of Americans could not come up with $400 to deal with an emergency. Many households have little savings and a lot of debt and are very poorly positioned to deal with the impact of job loss and increases in health care expenditures. If I was currently in office I would fight to make sure that families are able to access emergency funds and resources to withstand the effects of the pandemic. I would put a moratorium on evictions. In our district, the majority of our families are homeowners so I would support homeowner relief to make sure that our families’ are not faced with losing their home.
What do you believe the greatest challenges are to creating a more racially just legal and political system?
Overcoming white supremacy and lack of representation by and for people of color.
What are the most overlooked issues from a policy perspective impacting women in your district?
Probably one of the most overlooked issues has to be gender inequality at the workplace. The majority of women in our district work and contribute to our society in a plethora of ways not just in the workplace but with our families as well. The workplace has sometimes become an inhospitable place for us due to some of the inequities present such as the gender wage gap, the minimal amount of women in leadership and the longer time required for us to advance in our careers.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
I wish I would have known that while we have made a lot of strides to get women elected to leadership positions, that we are still fighting patriarchal systems of oppression that still expect a woman running for office to be ladylike and to play up their feminine side.
Over the last decade, I have been involved in political advocacy, community organizing and human services management. I love going into work everyday, and fighting for people. It is with that same passion that I envision going to Springfield and being a champion for families. As a proud product of our public school system, I know first-hand the pivotal role that educators play in the development of healthy children and communities. I want to be able to be a legislator that champions education and continues to fight for the community that has invested in me. When we win this November, I will be the first formerly undocumented woman of color to represent the 85th district and serve in the Illinois House. That speaks volumes of the country I believe in and glad to call my home.
If you would like to learn more about Dagmara “Dee” Avelar and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at votedee85th.com. Don’t forget to follow her on social media at @deeforIL85. Reach out today and help make a difference in the upcoming 2020 election.
(The information contained in this post is provided only as general information and does not imply an endorsement by She Votes Illinois.)