Human rights activist seeks Thumb’s seat in Congress

The midterm elections are just under a year away, but there is a new candidate who wants to represent the thumb region in Congress.

Huwaida Arraf, a US-Palestinian human rights lawyer and Palestinian activist, announced earlier this month that she would run for the seat of Michigan’s 10th Congressional District. The district that covers most of Upper Thumb is currently represented by Lisa McClain, Republican Congressman for the first term of Bruce Township.

Born in 1976 to Palestinian immigrants in the Detroit area, Arraf grew up in Roseville as the oldest of five children. Her father worked in a union at a GM factory and was the sole breadwinner until she got a part-time job at the age of 12 at Dunkin ‘Donuts. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from American University in Washington DC

“One of the reasons they came (to America) was that there would be no opportunity for their children under Israeli military occupation,” Arraf said. “We haven’t grown much, we’re not used to anything. I am always looking for ways to give back.

In 2001, Arraf was one of the co-founders of the International Solidarity Movement, of which her husband Adam Shapiro is also a member. The group works to support the Palestinian cause against the IDF through protests and non-violent methods. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Arraf currently lives in Macomb Township as a civil rights lawyer and has two children, having worked for a civil rights law firm in Detroit from 2016 until the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“I think that as a daughter of working class immigrants and as a mother, I feel I understand the daily challenges of workers,” Arraf said, adding that there was a lack of good jobs where people are paid a living wage as they struggle to care for children. “When I was growing up, it was my father’s job to provide for the family, and he had good health care thanks to the union. Even with my hopes and beliefs that I can do anything, and the opportunity is there, I don’t see that in our children. No matter how hard people work, they still can’t make ends meet.

Arraf believes that US politics have become very polarized and sees a lot of things wrong with the two political parties. She is running as a Democrat because this party is closer to her convictions in matters of social policy.

For her, the Democratic Party has not communicated its beliefs or plans in the areas it needs, like the thumb area, or has done things that have turned people away from the party. The factory where Arraf’s father worked has closed due to foreign competition and policies that encourage globalization, which she admitted the party has not handled well.

“When you don’t communicate well, it seems the party gets elitist and loses people,” Arraf said. “We have been the party of working class people and families and our policies are meant to support working class people.”

Arraf is also frustrated with policies that allow the rich to keep getting richer, to get bailouts and to avoid paying their fair share, but also to say that things like affordable health care are too expensive. She attributes this to representatives who do not work for the people.

For her campaign, Arraf wants to make sure she goes to all areas of the 10th Congressional District and talks to people about their needs, their struggles and how she can represent them. The district having had Republican representation since 2003, when it was expanded to include more Upper Thumb, does not scare Arraf as she believes that policies that help working-class families will help the residents of the district.

“The important thing is to be able to speak,” said Arraf. “We talk less. Candidates speak with slogans and placards, which doesn’t do people so much good. I always say that to have a strong country, you need a strong society. The best policies are to support people.

One of Arraf’s concerns is the agricultural industry and how monopolization has wiped out small farmers and controlled all aspects of farming.

Michigan is also going through the redistribution process, where the maps of congressional districts are redrawn. The 10th district Arraf is running for may not have the same boundaries when election day 2022 arrives.

“Even though I could report to another district, I look forward to talking to the people of the region about what they need, not only to survive, but also to prosper,” said Arraf.

For some time after graduating from college, Arraf was part of conflict resolution organizations that worked with Israelis and Palestinians. She called the human rights situation scandalous as Palestinians were driven from their homes and trees were uprooted to make way for new Israeli settlements.

Seeing this pushed her further in her human rights work and in her belief that people everywhere deserve the right to housing, a living wage, and the safety and security of their homes. their family.

“These are the basic rights that I see a lot of policies denied,” Arraf said. “I saw him in Palestine, and I see him around me in Macomb. I need to do something, and it’s one of the most effective things I can do.

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