Cherfilus-McCormick, first Haitian American from Florida, officially joins Congress

·2 min read

Florida’s newest congresswoman, Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, officially took the oath of office Tuesday evening to represent the state’s most Democratic-leaning district.

Cherfilus-McCormick’s victory in last week’s special election made her the first Haitian American to serve in Florida’s congressional delegation and only the second in history, following former Utah Republican Rep. Mia Love.

“I think it’s a monumental day for us and for everyone, where we have a voice who has experienced the Haitian-American experience, who can talk about it, attest to it, really shed light on immigration issues and how it affects our entire district and the country,” Cherfilus-McCormick, 42, told the Herald after a ceremony in which she formally joined the Congressional Black Caucus.

In the span of 20 minutes, the Florida freshman was sworn in on the House floor to enable her to participate in Tuesday evening’s votes, posed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for a ceremonial photograph and was led to the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, where she joined the Congressional Black Caucus in front of a statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Cherfilus-McCormick’s entry to Congress comes at a time when there is uncertainty about whether Democrats will be able to pass national voting rights legislation before the 2022 midterm election with a bill endorsed by President Joe Biden expected to fall short in the Senate this week.

“I think it’s the right time and I’m the right person to help push that along,” Cherfilus-McCormick said when asked about the issue.

Rep. Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick and her family pose with members of the Congressional Black Caucus after her swearing-in ceremony.
Rep. Shelia Cherfilus-McCormick and her family pose with members of the Congressional Black Caucus after her swearing-in ceremony.

After the ceremony, fellow Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings greeted Cherfilus-McCormick with a hug and asked Cherfilus-McCormick how she was settling into Washington.

“Just the mentorship that members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been providing, I feel like I can hit the ground running because we have so many team players who are ensuring we succeed,” Cherfilus-McCormick said.

Cherfilus-McCormick narrowly won a crowded primary in November to fill the vacancy created by longtime Democratic Rep. Alcee Hasting’s death in 2021. She easily rolled to victory last week by a nearly 60-point margin against Republican Jason Mariner in the safely Democratic seat.

She campaigned on a progressive platform with support for Medicare for All and proposal to enact a “People’s Prosperity Plan,” which would send monthly $1,000 stimulus checks to people making less than $75,000 a year.

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