- 1 Background
- 2 Jesuits/El Salvador
- 3 Politics
- 4 Congressional Hispanic Caucus
- 5 No militarization of the border
- 6 Hunger strike for Amnesty
- 7 Fred Ross award campaign
- 8 PDA contact
- 9 Congressional Letter for Neutrality, 2014 Salvadoran Elections
- 10 Colombian meeting
- 11 ARA endorsement
- 12 New Democrat Coalition, 113th Congress
- 13 External links
- 14 References
Congressman Juan Vargas was raised on a chicken ranch in National City, a city in California’s 51st District. He is one of ten children, born to his parents, Tomas Vargas and Celina Vargas on March 7, 1961. His father, Tomas, immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the late 1940s as part of the Bracero Program which brought millions of Mexican guest workers to the United States on short-term, primarily agricultural labor contracts, as part of a series of bi-lateral agreements between Mexico and the United States.
Vargas attended the University of San Diego on scholarship, graduated Magna Cum Laude receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1983. In 1987, Juan earned a Master of Humanities from Fordham University in New York City and in 1991 earned a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School, where he was classmates with President Barack Obama.
As a young adult, Vargas entered the Jesuits, a Catholic religious order, where he worked with disadvantaged communities, including orphaned children and internally displaced people in the jungles of El Salvador. For years, his work with the Jesuits focused on the health and welfare of children and issues of social justice.
Juan left the Jesuits in order to pursue family life. Two years later, he married Adrienne D'Ascoli and they returned to San Diego where Vargas worked as an attorney with the law firm of Luce, Forward, Hamilton and Scripps. Although he enjoyed the practice of law, Juan decided to contribute to his southern San Diego community as a public official.
Vargas was elected to the San Diego City Council on February 16, 1993. On the Council, he assumed a leadership role in planning, funding, and advocating for public safety, municipal infrastructure and schools. During his eight-year tenure on the San Diego City Council Vargas helped establish community-based policing, which has become a national model, fought tobacco advertising directed at children, and helped create the City of San Diego' s 6-to-6 after-school program. He also sponsored a graffiti and home rehabilitation program, known as Operation Restore, which employed homeless individuals in an effort to improve and revitalize blighted homes and neighborhoods in San Diego's urban core.
In 2000, Vargas was elected by a huge margin to the California State Assembly. As the State Representative to the 79th Assembly District, Juan represented the southern portion of San Diego, the western portion of Chula Vista, and the cities of Coronado, Imperial Beach, and National City. In his first year as a State Legislator, he was appointed Assistant Majority Leader.
Following the end of his term the State Assembly in 2006, Vargas went on to serve as Vice President of External Affairs for Safeco Insurance and Vice President of Corporate Legal for Liberty Mutual Group.
In 2010, Vargas was elected to the California State Senate. He represented the 40th California State Senate District, which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, portions of Riverside County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire US/Mexico border.
As a State Senator, Vargas was Chairman of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and served on the following committees: Education; Business, Professions and Economic Development; Public Employment and Retirement; Agriculture; the Joint Committee on Rules; and the Select Committee on Recovery, Reform and Re-Alignment.
Vargas was elected to the United States Congress in 2012 with over 70 percent of the vote, the highest in both San Diego and Imperial counties. He represents California’s 51st Congressional District which includes portions of San Diego County, all of Imperial County, and the entire U.S. - Mexico Border in California.
In Congress, he has been appointed to serve on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, including the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa and the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade; the Committee on Agriculture, including the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, and the Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture; and the Committee on House Administration.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
In 2012 Juan Vargas was a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
No militarization of the border
In August 2013, Congressman Juan Vargas who represents the 51st Congressional District of California, which includes the California border with Mexico, took a stance against border militarization when he committed to supporting a statement presented to him by a delegation comprised of his constituents, the local office of the American Friends Service Committee, and the San Diego Human Rights Network.
The statement reads as follows:
- “As we engage in the immigration reform debate, elected border representatives have a responsibility to represent the needs and aspirations of hard working families who are contributing to the social and economic well-being of our communities and country.
- We are committed to upholding the constitutional and human rights of our communities, and we encourage policies that recognize and respect our unique lived-experience as border communities. We reject irresponsible, excessive, and costly militarization of our neighborhoods.”
The delegation comprised of residents from Barrio Logan and the City of Chula Vista, expressed their concerns with the Senate immigration reform bill’s (S.744) components that seek to add 20,000 more border agents and to spend over $40 billion on drones, military-grade helicopters, fences and other items produced by defense and weapons contractors, effectively militarizing border communities.
They urged Congressman Vargas to prioritize the needs of border communities as the debate on immigration reform continues in the House of Representatives. The delegation is pleased to report Congressman Vargas’ commitment to stand with border communities and in opposition to border militarization.
The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), is made up of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (CA), Border Action Network (AZ), Arizona Sonora Border Coalition (AZ), Taskforce for Immigrant Advocacy & Services (NM), and Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network (TX).
The organizations that form part of the San Diego Human Rights Network are listed for identification purposes only: Comité de Derechos Humanos Digna Ochoa, Association of Raza Educators, Unión del Barrio, Comité de Servicios de los Amigos, Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Bi-Nacionales, Comité de Derechos Humanos de Oceanside, Comité de Derechos Humanos de Escondido, Coalición Pro-Derechos de la Raza, San Diego Immigrant Youth Collective, Fallbrook Human Rights Committee, Comité de Derechos Humanos de El Cajon.
Hunger strike for Amnesty
In December 2013 on the National Mall, five "individuals were huddled in a tent fasting from food and drink to call attention to the urgent need for immigration reform. These advocates joined together to push forward their effort "Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship," which is drawing nationwide attention".
One of them, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, said, "I know that going without food will not be easy and I know that I will suffer physical hunger. But there is a deeper hunger within me, a hunger for an end to a system that creates such misery among those who come here to escape poverty and violence in search of the American dream."
Another faster, Dae Joong Yoon, the executive director of the National Korean-American Service and Education Consortium, said he knows firsthand the pain of family separation.
Both Medina and Yoon ended their fast on December 3 after 21 days. New fasters then took over, including Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Juan Vargas, and several religious leaders.
Fred Ross award campaign
In early 2013, mainly Democratic Socialists of America aligned activists, together with many elected officials across the United States came together to urge President Barack Obama to award posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the legendary organizer, Fred Ross, Sr.. The Saul Alinsky trained radical was the first to organize people through house meetings, a mentor to both Cesar Chavez and DSAer Dolores Huerta, and a pioneer in Latino voter outreach since 1949 when he helped elect Communist Party USA affiliate Ed Roybal as Los Angeles’s first Latino council member, "Ross’ influence on social change movements remains strong two decades after his death in 1992".
Congressional endorsers of the proposal included Juan Vargas.
Congressional Letter for Neutrality, 2014 Salvadoran Elections
On Monday December 16, 2013 Reps. Juan Vargas (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) sent a letter to Sec. of State John Kerry – signed by 51 Members of Congress – calling for a public statement of neutrality by the State Department before the first round of El Salvador’s presidential elections on February 2, 2014.
The letter, , highlighted several “important steps” that the current government has taken to “strengthen its democratic system and expand the right to vote to all citizens,” including those living outside of the country, who will be voting by absentee ballot for the first time in February. Since the election of Mauricio Funes, the first President from the Marxist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, the government has increased the number of polling places four-fold to increase accessibility, especially in rural areas.
“We’re glad to see so many Members of Congress expressing respect for the right of the Salvadoran people to determine their own future. That’s an attitude that’s sorely lacking in much of the US’ policy in Central America, especially with regard to economic policy,” said Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director for the pro-communist Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), in Washington, DC, which has observed every post-war election in El Salvador, starting in 1994..
The Center for Democracy in the Americas "achieved a U.S. public expression of neutrality" in the lead-up to El Salvador’s presidential elections by the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador after partnering with the office of Representative Juan Vargas to circulate a Dear Colleague letter eventually signed by 51 members of Congress urging strict neutrality by the U.S. before the elections.
In November 2014, officials from Colombia and the United States met in Bogota on Monday to renew international defense cooperation agreements between the two countries, and discuss ways in which to make it stronger.
According to a brief communique released by the Colombian Ministry of National Defense, the delegates discussed the progress the South American nation has made on security in recent years.
They also discussed the policy of “security through diplomacy,” a program through which Colombia, with U.S. support, offers its security expertise to allies for drug-related crimes, particularly Central America and Caribbean nations.
At the meeting were Republican lower house representatives Ted Yoho (Florida), Jeff Duncan (South Carolina), Matt Salmon (Arizona) and Ed Royce (California), and Democrats Juan Vargas (California), Eliot Engel and Gregory Meeks, all visiting from the U.S.
Colombian Deputy Minister of Defense, Jorge Enrique Bedoya, and Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, Luis Carlos Villegas, and U.S. ambassador to Bogota, Kevin Whitaker also attended the meeting. 
New Democrat Coalition, 113th Congress
- Juan Vargas
- National Journal "The New Faces of the 113th Congress," November 15, 2012
- Vargas official bio. Accessed Nov. 8, 2014
- Vargas official bio. Accessed Nov. 8, 2014
- Vargas official bio. Accessed Nov. 8, 2014
- [http://soboco.org/congressman-juan-vargas-stands-with-san-diegans-against-border-militarization/, Congressman Juan Vargas stands with San Diegans against border militarization Press Release August 7, 2013]
- HuffPo, Mike Honda, The Time for Immigration Reform Is NowPosted: 12/17/2013 11:10 am EST
- Momentum Builds for Honoring Legendary Organizer Fred Ross, by Randy Shaw, 2013-03-05
- PDA May 2013 Educate Congress Digest Letter drops (191 in total – 105 in April )
- CISPES press release, Press Statement: 51 Members of Congress Call for US Neutrality in Salvadoran Elections December 16, 2013
- Doni Crawford LinkedIn page, accessed Jan, 27, 2015
- telesur, Colombia, US Discuss Security and Defense DealsPublished 11 November 2014
- NDC Member List