New York state senator's Colombian heritage informs her life's work

Sonia Rincón Image
Saturday, October 8, 2022
State senator's Colombian heritage informs her life's work
Sonia Rincon profiles State Senator Jessica Ramos for Hispanic Heritage Month.

JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (WABC) -- Jackson Heights may be New York City's most diverse neighborhood. One indication it is a melting pot, is what gets cooked there.

"You can have pretty much anything from any corner of the world and know that it's going to taste pretty authentically to what it might have tasted like in your home country or that country you visited on vacation," said State Senator Jessica Ramos.

Ramos grew up here and now represents the Queens neighborhood, along with Corona and East Elmhurst.

She says that means her approach puts a high priority on workers' rights.

"One of the things that always stays with me is, of course, my parents' story and how as immigrants from Colombia who came here in the late 70s they had, of course, their set of challenges," she said. "I never want to feel like their sacrifices were in vain. And I know a lot of immigrant children feel that way, and it's why we work extra hard to make them proud and to hopefully be able to offer our children a better quality of life."

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In March 2020, Elmhurst Hospital was at the center of the pandemic, as so many frontline workers in the community and their family members got sick from the very dangerous first strain of the coronavirus to hit New York City.

"From my apartment I would hear the sirens all day and all night for a good while," said Ramos. "And in the meantime, at 7:00 we'd all open our windows and clap and bang pots and pans as a thank you to our health professionals and so many essential workers who've never received hazard pay or true compensation and recognition for their sacrifices or their family's sacrifices at a time that we didn't know quite what we were dealing with."

Ramos was first elected in 2018, part of a new generation of Queens Democrats unseating longtime incumbents in primaries.

And she says she's hoping to get even more young people engaged in politics.

"Government for many can be a very abstract thing and a lot of people will always tell me, 'Well, I don't want to get involved in politics, I don't like politics,'" Ramos said. "But the reality is that politics is very involved in your life, whether you like it or not, from what we wear to what we eat to how we work to how much we're paid to whether the roads are paved."

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