She Runs Illinois 2022! — Dagmara Avelar, candidate for IL House of Representatives, District 85
She Votes Illinois is pleased to feature Dagmara “Dee” Avelar, incumbent, running for IL House of Representatives, District 85. Follow our series, She Runs Illinois 2022!, leading up to election day as we showcase and uplift the voices of Illinois women running for public office in the upcoming election, November 8, 2022.
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 in 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 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.
Prior to my role as an elected official, I was the Director of Programs at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and worked 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. In 2020, I became the first formerly undocumented woman to be sworn into the IL General Assembly. As the State Representative for the 85th district, my focus during my first term in office has been on the areas of healthcare, education, environmental justice, and economic development.
What are the priorities that you intend to focus on in office?
Healthcare is a human right and a matter of life or death for many. We cannot live in a society where families are going bankrupt or have to choose between basic needs or paying their healthcare bills. My own family has gone through those hardships and I am committed to continuing to be a strong advocate for affordable and accessible healthcare. My commitment to our communities includes ensuring that our families have access to quality medical care, affordable medication, and the continuing fight for reproductive rights.
Our Economy and Property Taxes.
The pandemic has exposed the many inequities and lack of social infrastructure to respond adequately to the needs of Illinoisans. As we continue to recover from the pandemic the need for relief to ease the burden of inflation is essential. As a state representative, I supported the $1.8 billion Illinois Family Relief Plan that will help families save on gas, groceries, and property taxes. In my second term, I will continue to fight for policies that support the working families in our community.
A key priority in our district is education. Investments in education mean that our state continues to make concerted efforts in supporting our public school system, community colleges, universities, vocational, and trade schools. Demand for skilled workers in Illinois is strong yet the number of people who have completed vocational or trade school training has decreased. This is a significant issue as a diverse workforce will make our state stronger.
What do you wish you had known before you decided to run for office?
I wish I would have known that relationship building that is authentic as well as pragmatic was something that I already knew how to do and not let imposter syndrome become a barrier to accomplishing my legislative goals. The work that I have been able to do could have not been possible without the continuous nurturing of relationships and learning from others.
How can the ILGA help protect Black trans women from the hate that puts their safety at risk?
Black trans women are disproportionately impacted and there are several factors that affect their livelihood such as access to healthcare, lack of stable housing, economic opportunity, and most importantly the stigma and rejection from those who they may love the most, family. Protecting Black trans women requires amending policies that treat Black trans women with disregard and violence and we need to increase our state investments in programs dedicated to seeing this community thrive.
In this past session, I introduced HB4654 in collaboration with Equality IL which would make it so that cultural competency training for a health care professional includes information on sensitivity relating to providing affirming care to people in the person’s preferred language, people with disabilities, people who are intersex, people living with HIV, and people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. There is a lot more that we can do and it is imperative that our policy solutions are guided by those who are directly impacted.
The crisis of domestic violence is closely linked to the widespread and growing use of guns by abusers. What solutions do you advocate to reduce gender-based gun violence in Illinois?
It is imperative that we keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories, including domestic abusers. We need to closely look at closing loopholes in our laws that may leave guns in the hands of abusive partners as well as stalkers. A key policy is to strengthen background checks and improve timely record keeping of domestic violence records. We need to also place special flags on these records to make it absolutely clear in the background check system that a person is prohibited from possessing firearms. Furthermore, we need to take a closer look at what laws we currently have in place and if there are barriers to implementation, common-sense gun laws save lives.
Should we enshrine the right to an abortion in our state constitution as other states have done?
Yes, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, I will continue working to ensure access to reproductive health care remains safe, legal, and accessible in Illinois. This year I was selected by Speaker Welch to be part of the Reproductive Health & Dobbs Working Group. This working group is taking a close look at how we can strengthen our laws in Illinois to ensure that reproductive health care is always accessible. Women, and all people who can become pregnant, deserve the full right to make their own personal, private medical decisions — free from government intrusion and extreme politicians. Illinois must always protect the right to safe and accessible reproductive health care. I will use the full weight of my position to ensure Illinois does not fall back — regardless of what extreme politicians try to do.
Women of color make up about 8.2% of all state legislatures in the U.S. When I decided to run for office our nation was in the middle of the fight against fascism and a rise in racism that the Trump administration brought upon us. We marched, protested, did advocacy work with our elected officials, and worked tirelessly to shift the environment and narrative in order to save our democracy. I came to Springfield to be a champion for working families, our young people, our seniors, and those who time and time again are disenfranchised. In my first term as an elected official, I have worked on legislation to increase transparency in access to healthcare and reproductive rights, protect our environment and drinking water, set term limits in leadership positions, and bring much-needed resources to the 85th district all of this while continuing to be receptive to the needs of our southwest suburban community. As I reflect on my first term I am convinced that speaking truth to power while building consensus has made me an effective leader and I will continue to do so.
I am a believer in coalition building and that the biggest impact that we will have in our communities comes from being a united front that works towards social, economic, environmental, and racial justice.
If you would like to learn more about Dagmara Avelar and her platform or volunteer for her campaign, please check out her website at votedee85.com. Don’t forget to follow her on social media @deeforil85. Reach out today and help make a difference in the upcoming 2022 election.
(The information contained in this post is provided only as general information and does not imply an endorsement by She Votes Illinois.)