Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (/ˌkɑːsi kɔːrˈtɛz/; born October 13, 1989), also known by her initials, AOC, is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district since 2019. The district includes the eastern part of the Bronx, portions of north-central Queens, and Rikers Island in New York City. She is a member of the Democratic Party.

Ocasio-Cortez drew national recognition when she won the Democratic Party’s primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district on June 26, 2018. She defeated Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent, in what was widely seen as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries. She defeated Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in the November 2018 general election. She was reelected in the 2020 election, defeating John Cummings.

Taking office at age 29, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. She was also the youngest member of the 116th Congress. She has been noted for her substantial social media presence relative to her fellow members of Congress. Ocasio-Cortez attended Boston University, where she double-majored in international relations and economics, graduating cum laude. She was previously an activist and worked as a waitress and bartender before running for Congress in 2018.

Along with Rashida Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez is the first female member of the Democratic Socialists of America elected to serve in Congress. She advocates a progressive platform that includes Medicare for All, tuition-free public college, a federal jobs guarantee, a Green New Deal, and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Early life

Ocasio-Cortez was born into a Catholic family in the New York City borough of the Bronx on October 13, 1989, the daughter of Blanca Ocasio-Cortez (née Cortez) and Sergio Ocasio-Roman. She has a younger brother named Gabriel. Her father was born in the Bronx to a Puerto Rican family and became an architect; her mother was born in Puerto Rico. Ocasio-Cortez lived with her family in an apartment in the Bronx neighborhood of Parkchester until she was five, when the family moved to a house in suburban Yorktown Heights.

Ocasio-Cortez attended Yorktown High School, graduating in 2007. In high school and college, Ocasio-Cortez went by the name of “Sandy Ocasio”. She came in second in the microbiology category of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2007 with a research project on the effect of antioxidants on the lifespan of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In a show of appreciation for her efforts, the MIT Lincoln Laboratory named a small asteroid after her: 23238 Ocasio-Cortez. In high school, she took part in the National Hispanic Institute’s Lorenzo de Zavala (LDZ) Youth Legislative Session. She later became the LDZ Secretary of State while she attended Boston University. Ocasio-Cortez had a John F. Lopez Fellowship.

After graduating from high school, Ocasio-Cortez enrolled at Boston University. Her father died of lung cancer in 2008 during her second year, and Ocasio-Cortez became involved in a lengthy probate battle to settle his estate. She has said that the experience helped her learn “first-hand how attorneys appointed by the court to administer an estate can enrich themselves at the expense of the families struggling to make sense of the bureaucracy.” During college, Ocasio-Cortez served as an intern for U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, in his section on foreign affairs and immigration issues. She recalled, “I was the only Spanish speaker, and as a result, as basically a kid—a 19-, 20-year-old kid—whenever a frantic call would come into the office because someone is looking for their husband because they have been snatched off the street by ICE, I was the one that had to pick up that phone. I was the one that had to help that person navigate that system.” Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both international relations and economics.

Early career

After college, Ocasio-Cortez moved back to the Bronx and took a job as a bartender and waitress to help her mother—a house cleaner and school bus driver—fight foreclosure of their home. She later launched Brook Avenue Press, a now-defunct publishing firm for books that portrayed the Bronx in a positive light. Ocasio-Cortez also worked for the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute.

During the 2016 primary, Ocasio-Cortez worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. After the general election, she traveled across America by car, visiting places such as Flint, Michigan, and Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, and speaking to people affected by the Flint water crisis and the Dakota Access Pipeline. In an interview she recalled her December 2016 visit to Standing Rock as a tipping point, saying that before that, she had believed that the only way to run for office effectively was to have access to wealth, social influence, and power. But her visit to North Dakota, where she saw others “putting their whole lives and everything that they had on the line for the protection of their community”, inspired her to begin to work for her own community. One day after she visited North Dakota, she got a phone call from Brand New Congress, which was recruiting progressive candidates (her brother had nominated her soon after Election Day 2016).

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional campaign logo was inspired by “revolutionary posters and visuals from the past.”

Ocasio-Cortez began her campaign in April 2017 while waiting tables and tending bar at Flats Fix, a taqueria in New York City’s Union Square. “For 80 percent of this campaign, I operated out of a paper grocery bag hidden behind that bar,” she told Bon Appétit. She was the first person since 2004 to challenge Joe Crowley, the Democratic Caucus Chair, in the primary. She faced a financial disadvantage, saying, “You can’t really beat big money with more money. You have to beat them with a totally different game.” Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign undertook grassroots mobilization and did not take donations from corporations. Her campaign posters’ designs were said to have taken inspiration from “revolutionary posters and visuals from the past”.

On June 15, the candidates’ only face-to-face encounter during the campaign occurred on a local political talk show, Inside City Hall. The format was a joint interview conducted by Errol Louis, which NY1 characterized as a debate. On June 18, a debate in the Bronx was scheduled, but Crowley did not participate. He sent former New York City Council member Annabel Palma in his place.

Endorsements

Ocasio-Cortez was endorsed by progressive and civil rights organizations such as MoveOn and Democracy for America, and by actress and first-time candidate Cynthia Nixon. Nixon, like Ocasio-Cortez, also challenged a longtime incumbent: Nixon ran against Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 New York gubernatorial election

Governor Cuomo endorsed Crowley, as did both of New York’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, multiple U.S. Representatives, various local elected officials and trade unions, and groups such as the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the Working Families Party, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, among others. California representative Ro Khanna, a Justice Democrat like Ocasio-Cortez, initially endorsed Crowley but later endorsed Ocasio-Cortez in an unusual dual endorsement.

Primary election

Ocasio-Cortez with Kerri Evelyn Harris

On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez received 57.13% of the vote (15,897) to Crowley’s 42.5% (11,761), defeating the 10-term incumbent by almost 15 percentage points. The result shocked many political commentators and analysts and immediately garnered nationwide attention. Time called it “the biggest upset of the 2018 elections so far”; CNN made a similar statement. The New York Times called it “a shocking primary defeat on Tuesday, the most significant loss for a Democratic incumbent in more than a decade, and one that will reverberate across the party and the country”. The Guardian called it “one of the biggest upsets in recent American political history”. She was outspent by a margin of 18 to 1 ($1.5 million to $83,000) but won the endorsement of some influential groups on the party’s left. Merriam-Webster reported that searches for the word “socialism” spiked 1,500% after her victory. Crowley conceded defeat on election night, but did not telephone Ocasio-Cortez that night to congratulate her, fueling short-lived speculation that he intended to run against her in the general election.

Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky congratulated her. Several commentators noted the similarities between Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Crowley and Dave Brat’s Tea Party movement-supported 2014 victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th congressional district. Like Crowley, Cantor was a high-ranking member in his party’s caucus. After her primary win, Ocasio-Cortez endorsed several progressive primary challengers to Democratic incumbents nationwide, capitalizing on her fame and spending her political capital in a manner unusual even for unexpected primary winners.

Without campaigning for it, Ocasio-Cortez won the Reform Party primary as a write-in candidate in a neighboring congressional district, New York’s 15th, with a total vote count of nine, highest among all 22 write-in candidates. She declined the nomination.

General election

Ocasio-Cortez faced Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the November 6 general election. Pappas, who lives in Astoria, is an economics professor at St. John’s University. According to the New York Post, Pappas did not actively campaign. The Post wrote that “Pappas’ bid was a long shot,” since the 14th has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+29, making it New York City’s sixth-most Democratic district. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans almost six to one. The district and its predecessors have been in Democratic hands for all but two years since 1923 and without interruption since 1949.

Ocasio-Cortez was endorsed by various politically progressive organizations and figures, including former President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. She spoke at the Netroots Nation conference in August 2018, and was called “the undisputed star of the convention”.

Crowley remained on the ballot as the nominee of the Working Families Party (WFP) and the Women’s Equality Party (WEP). Neither he nor the WFP party actively campaigned, both having endorsed Ocasio-Cortez after the Democratic primary. Ocasio-Cortez called the WEP, which Governor Cuomo created ahead of the 2014 New York gubernatorial election, a cynical, centrist group that endorsed male incumbents over female challengers like her and Nixon. Former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who won reelection in 2006 on a third-party line after losing the Democratic Primary in 2006, penned a July 17 column in the Wall Street Journal expressing hope that Crowley would actively campaign on the WFP ballot line. WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor wrote an endorsement of, and apology to, Ocasio-Cortez for the New York Daily News; he asked voters not to vote for Crowley if his name remained on the general election ballot.

Ocasio-Cortez won the election with 78% of the vote (110,318) to Pappas’s 14% (17,762). Crowley, on the WFP and WEP lines, received 9,348 votes (6.6%). Her election was part of a broader Democratic victory in the 2018 midterm elections, as the party gained control of the House by picking up 41 seats. Saikat Chakrabarti, who had been her campaign co-chair, became chief of staff for her congressional office. Co-creator of two progressive political action committees, he has been called a significant political presence.

Media coverage

Ocasio-Cortez at the 2019 South by Southwest

The first media network to give Ocasio-Cortez a platform and extensively cover her campaign and policies was The Young Turks, a left-wing online news program. After her primary win, she quickly garnered nationwide media attention, including numerous articles and TV talk-show appearances. She also drew a great deal of media attention when she and Sanders campaigned for James Thompson in Kansas in July 2018. A rally in Wichita had to be moved from a theater with a capacity of 1,500 when far more people said they would attend. The event drew 4,000 people, with some seated on the floor. In The New Yorker, Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote that while Sanders remained “the de-facto leader of an increasingly popular left, [he is unable to] do things that do not come naturally to him, like supply hope”. Wallace-Wells suggested that Ocasio-Cortez had made Sanders’s task easier, as he could point to her success to show that ideas “once considered to be radical are now part of the mainstream”.

Until she defeated incumbent Joe Crowley in the 2018 Democratic primary, Ocasio-Cortez received little coverage on most traditional news media outlets. Jimmy Dore interviewed her when she first announced her candidacy in June 2017. After her primary win, Brian Stelter wrote that progressive-media outlets, such as The Young Turks and The Intercept, “saw the Ocasio-Cortez upset coming” in advance. Margaret Sullivan wrote in The Washington Post that traditional metrics of measuring a campaign’s viability, like total fundraising, were contributing to a “media failure” and that “they need to get closer to what voters are thinking and feeling: their anger and resentment, their disenfranchisement from the centers of power, their pocketbook concerns.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign was featured on the cover of the June 2018 edition of The Indypendent, a free New York City-based monthly newspaper. In a tweet she hailed the cover appearance on “NYC’s classic monthly” as an important breakthrough for her campaign. Otherwise Ocasio-Cortez was barely mentioned in print until her primary win. Media noticed that she did not have a Wikipedia article until she won her primary election, prompting criticism that the site has a notability bias against women.

The Young Turks have continued to cover Ocasio-Cortez and defend her from political and media elites who see her as outside the political culture of DC, with occasional criticism on some of her policies.

Ocasio-Cortez was one of the subjects of the 2018 Michael Moore documentary Fahrenheit 11/9; it chronicled her primary campaign.

In an attempt to embarrass Ocasio-Cortez just before she took office, Twitter user “AnonymousQ” shared a video dating to Ocasio-Cortez’s college years: a Boston University student-produced dance video in which she briefly appeared. Many social media users came to her defense, inspiring memes and a Twitter account syncing the footage to songs like “Mambo No. 5” and “Gangnam Style”. Ocasio-Cortez responded by posting a lighthearted video of herself dancing to Edwin Starr’s “War” outside her congressional office.

In 2019, Elizabeth Warren wrote the entry on Ocasio-Cortez for that year’s Time 100. In January 2019 the documentary Knock Down the House, which focuses on four female Democrats in the 2018 United States elections who were not career politicians, including Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Ocasio-Cortez was the only one of the women featured in the film to win. It was released by Netflix on May 1, 2019.

2020

In 2020, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera challenged Ocasio-Cortez in the Democratic primary. After Ocasio-Cortez won the nomination, Caruso-Cabrera reorganized and ran in the general election as the Serve America Movement nominee. Ocasio-Cortez’s Republican challengers in the general election included nominee John Cummings, a former police officer, and Antoine Tucker, a write-in.

The American Prospect wrote in October 2020 that Ocasio-Cortez was “spending the 2020 campaign running workshops” for constituents on workplace organizing, fighting eviction, and organizing collective childcare. They noted that Ocasio-Cortez was often not featured in the streamed workshops, saying the “strategy decentralizes the candidate from her own campaign.

On October 20, 2020, Ocasio-Cortez hosted a Twitch stream of the social deduction game Among Us, with fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar, along with many established gamers such as Pokimane, DrLupo, and mxmtoon. The stream peaked with over 400,000 viewers and, according to The Guardian‘s Joshua Rivera, succeeded in humanizing her. Ocasio-Cortez again streamed Among Us on Twitch on November 27, 2020, with Hasan Piker, xQc, ContraPoints and Canadian MP Jagmeet Singh to raise money for food pantries, eviction defense legal aid, and community support organizations to assist those suffering economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. The stream raised $200,000 and Ocasio-Cortez wrote that “This is going to make such a difference for those who need it most right now”.

Tenure

“The Squad”

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of an informal group of progressive freshmen members of Congress called “The Squad,” along with Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). On July 14, 2019, Trump attacked the Squad (which had only four members at the time) in a tweet, saying that they should “go back and help fix” the countries they came from rather than criticize the American government. He continued to make similar comments over the next several days, even though three of the women, including Ocasio-Cortez, were born in the United States. Ocasio-Cortez responded in a tweet that “the President’s words [yesterday], telling four American Congresswomen of color “go back to your own country,” is hallmark language of white supremacists.” She later added, “We don’t leave the things that we love, and when we love this country, what that means is that we propose the solutions to fix it.” Days later, Trump falsely asserted that Ocasio-Cortez called “our country and our people ‘garbage'”; she had actually said that Americans should not be content with moderate policies that are “10% better from garbage”. Trump also falsely claimed that Ocasio-Cortez said “illegal immigrants are more American” than Americans who tried to keep them out; she actually said that “women and children on that border that are trying to seek refuge and opportunity” in America “are acting more American” than those who tried to keep them out.

Green New Deal

H. Res. 109: “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal”; the first piece of legislation authored by Ocasio-Cortez.

On February 7, 2019, Ocasio-Cortez submitted her first piece of legislation, the Green New Deal, to the Senate. She and Senator Ed Markey released a joint non-binding resolution laying out the main elements of a 10-year “economic mobilization” that would phase out fossil fuel use and overhaul the nation’s infrastructure. Their plan called for implementing the “social cost of carbon” that was part of the Obama administration’s plans to address climate change. In the process it aimed to create jobs and boost the economy. According to CNBC, an initial outline the Green New Deal called for “completely ditching fossil fuels, upgrading or replacing ‘every building’ in the country and ‘totally overhaul[ing] transportation’ to the point where ‘air travel stops becoming necessary'”. The outline set a goal of having the U.S. “creating ‘net-zero’ greenhouse gases in 10 years. Why ‘net zero’? The lawmakers explained: ‘We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.'” Activist groups such as Greenpeace and the Sunrise Movement came out in favor of the plan. No Republican lawmakers voiced support. The plan gained support from some Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker; other Democrats, such as Senator Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dismissed the proposal (Pelosi has referred to it as “the green dream, or whatever they call it”).

On March 26, in what Democrats called a “stunt”, Senate Republicans called for an early vote on the Green New Deal without allowing discussion or expert testimony. Markey said Republicans were trying to “make a mockery” of the Green New Deal debate and called the vote a “sham”. In protest, Senate Democrats voted “present” or against the bill, resulting in a 57–0 defeat on the Senate floor. In March 2019, a group of UK activists proposed that the Labour Party adopt a similar plan, “Labour for a Green New Deal.” The group said it was inspired by the Sunrise Movement and the work Ocasio-Cortez has done in the US.

Verbal assault

On July 20, 2020, Republican Representatives Ted Yoho and Roger Williams accosted Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the Capitol, where Yoho (as overheard by a journalist) called her “disgusting” and told her, “You are out of your freaking mind” for recently suggesting that poverty and unemployment were driving a spike in crime in New York City during the coronavirus pandemic. Ocasio-Cortez told Yoho he was being “rude”. As Ocasio-Cortez walked away from Yoho into the Capitol, Yoho called her a “fucking bitch”. When asked about the incident, Ocasio-Cortez said, “That kind of confrontation hasn’t ever happened to me ever … I’ve never had that kind of abrupt, disgusting kind of disrespect levied at me.” Yoho was asked to comment but declined. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy condemned Yoho’s actions and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that Yoho should apologize publicly and that his conduct “needs to be sanctioned”.

The next day, Yoho addressed the matter on the House floor and, without naming Ocasio-Cortez, said he had not addressed the “offensive name-calling words” to any of his colleagues directly. He apologized for “the abrupt manner of the conversation I had with my colleague from New York—it is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America—but that does not mean we should be disrespectful. Having been married for 45 years with two daughters, I’m very cognizant of my language.” Ocasio-Cortez responded to Yoho’s comments the next day. In a widely televised speech, she condemned male privilege, systemic sexist behavior and culture, and violent language against women. She also criticized Yoho for “hiding behind his wife and daughters” in his speech the day before:

Having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. […] I am someone’s daughter, too. My father, thankfully, is not alive to see how Mr. Yoho treated his daughter. My mother got to see Mr. Yoho’s disrespect on the floor of this House towards me on television. And I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.

2021 storming of the US Capitol

In a nearly 90-minute Instagram Live video, Ocasio-Cortez said that she had previously experienced sexual assault, and recounted her experience during the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol, when she was in her office (in the Cannon House Office Building). She said she had hidden in her office bathroom before being startled by a Capitol Police officer who entered her office suite and ordered her and her staff to evacuate to a different House Office Building. Ocasio-Cortez noted that the officer did not self-identify, and indicated that she first believed the officer’s voice was that of an attacker. She described sheltering in place in Representative Katie Porter’s office and preparing for what she believed would be an assault by rioters on their offices.

2021 Texas power crisis

Ocasio-Cortez reacted to the 2021 Texas power crisis by organizing a fundraiser to provide food, water, and shelter to affected Texans. The fundraiser, which began on February 18, raised $2 million in its first day and $5 million by February 21. The money went to organizations such as the Houston Food Bank and the North Texas Food Bank. Ocasio-Cortez also traveled to Houston to help volunteers with recovery.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Financial Services
    • Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets
    • Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions
  • Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
    • Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
    • Subcommittee on Environment

Caucus memberships

Source:

  • Congressional Progressive Caucus
  • Pro-Choice Caucus
  • Democratic Women’s Caucus
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus
  • LGBT Equality Caucus
  • Quiet Skies Caucus
  • Congressional Bangladesh Caucus

Political positions

Sanders rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa

Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and embraces the democratic socialist label as part of her political identity. In an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, she described democratic socialism as “part of what I am. It’s not all of what I am. And I think that that’s a very important distinction.” In response to a question about democratic socialism ultimately calling for an end to capitalism during a Firing Line interview on PBS, she answered: “Ultimately, we are marching towards progress on this issue. I do think that we are going to see an evolution in our economic system of an unprecedented degree, and it’s hard to say what direction that that takes.”

Ocasio-Cortez supports progressive policies such as single-payer Medicare for All, tuition-free public college and trade school, a federal job guarantee, the cancellation of all $1.6 trillion of outstanding student debt, guaranteed family leave, abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ending the privatization of prisons, enacting gun-control policies, and energy policy relying on 100% renewables.

She is open to using Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) as an economic pathway that could provide funding and enable implementation of these goals. Ocasio-Cortez told Anderson Cooper that she favors policies that “most closely resemble what we see in the U.K., in Norway, in Finland, in Sweden.”

Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential election and appeared with him at speaking engagements. Campaign rallies she attended with him drew the largest crowds of any presidential rally. On January 25, she joined Michael Moore to fill in for Sanders at a rally at the University of Iowa while Sanders was attending the Senate’s Trump impeachment trial.

Environment

Ocasio-Cortez speaks on a Green New Deal in front of the Capitol Building in February 2019.

Ocasio-Cortez has called for “more environmental hardliners in Congress,” describing climate change as “the single biggest national security threat for the United States and the single biggest threat to worldwide industrialized civilization.” Referring to a recent United Nations report indicating that the effects of climate change will be irreversible unless carbon emissions are reined in over the next 12 years, she has argued that to avoid the end of human existence global warming must be addressed immediately.

Ocasio-Cortez’s environmental plan, termed the Green New Deal, advocates for the United States to transition to an electrical grid running on 100% renewable energy and to end the use of fossil fuels within 10 years. The changes, estimated to cost roughly $2.5 trillion per year, would be financed in part by higher taxes on the wealthy. She has described herself as having an “open mind” about the role of nuclear power in the Green New Deal, but has been criticized as ignoring it in her proposals for the deal.

Tax policy

Ocasio-Cortez proposed introducing a marginal tax as high as 70% on income above $10 million to pay for the Green New Deal. According to tax experts contacted by The Washington Post, this tax would bring in extra revenue of $720 billion per decade. Ocasio-Cortez has opposed and voted against the pay-as-you-go rule supported by Democratic leaders, which requires deficit-neutral fiscal policy, with all new expenditures balanced by tax increases or spending cuts. She and Representative Ro Khanna have condemned the rule as hamstringing new or expanded progressive policies. She cites Modern Monetary Theory as a justification for higher deficits to finance her agenda. Drawing a parallel with the Great Depression, she has argued that the Green New Deal needs deficit spending like the original New Deal.

Immigration

Ocasio-Cortez has expressed support for defunding and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency on multiple occasions. In February 2018 she called it “a product of the Bush-era Patriot Act suite of legislation” and “an enforcement agency that takes on more of a paramilitary tone every single day”. That June she said she would “stop short of fully disbanding the agency,” and would rather “create a pathway to citizenship for more immigrants through decriminalization.” She later clarified that this does not mean ceasing all deportations. Two days before the primary election, Ocasio-Cortez attended a protest at an ICE child-detention center in Tornillo, Texas. She was the only Democrat to vote against H.R. 648, a bill to fund and reopen the government, because it funded ICE.

In January 2021, Ocasio-Cortez expressed support for the Roadmap to Freedom resolution to guide future immigration policy championed by Representative Pramila Jayapal. The resolution aims to safeguard vulnerable migrants while reducing criminal prosecutions of migrants.

Detention centers for undocumented immigrants

In June 2019, Ocasio-Cortez compared the detention centers for undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration at the Mexico–United States border to “concentration camps”. She cited “expert analysis”, linking to an Esquire article quoting Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps, who had made a similar claim. Some academics supported Ocasio-Cortez’s use of the term for the forced detention of immigrants; other figures strongly criticized it, saying it showed disrespect for Holocaust victims. In response to criticism from both Republicans and Democrats, Ocasio-Cortez said they had conflated concentration camps (“the mass detention of civilians without trial”) with death camps. She refused to apologize for using the term: “If that makes you uncomfortable, fight the camps, not the nomenclature.”

In July 2019, Ocasio-Cortez visited migrant detention centers and other facilities in Texas as part of a congressional delegation to witness the border crisis firsthand. She described the conditions as “horrifying.” She said that women in one cell said they had not had access to showers for two weeks and were told to drink water from the toilet when their sink broke, and that one woman said that her daughters had been taken from her two weeks earlier and she did not know where they were.

In February 2021, when the Biden administration reopened a Carrizo Springs, Texas, center to house unaccompanied migrant children, Ocasio-Cortez responded that such actions “never will be okay—no matter the administration or party”. For short-term measures to address the situation, she called for mandatory licensing for such centers and urged reconsideration of how the centers are “contracted out”.

Healthcare

Ocasio-Cortez supports transitioning to a single-payer healthcare system, viewing medical care as a human right. She says that a single government health insurer should cover every American, reducing overall costs. Her campaign website says, “Almost every other developed nation in the world has universal healthcare. It’s time the United States catch up to the rest of the world in ensuring all people have real healthcare coverage that doesn’t break the bank.” The Medicare-for-all proposal was adopted by many Democratic 2020 presidential contenders.

In June 2019, Ocasio-Cortez proposed legislation that would remove restrictions placed on researching the medical use of psilocybin.

Anti-poverty

In September 2019, Ocasio-Cortez introduced an anti-poverty policy proposal (packaged in a bundle called “A Just Society”) that would take into account the cost of childcare, health care, and “new necessities” like Internet access when measuring poverty. The proposal would cap annual rent increases and ensure access to social welfare programs for people with convictions and undocumented immigrants. According to the U.S. Census, about 40 million Americans live in poverty.

LGBTQ equality

Ocasio-Cortez is a proponent of LGBTQ rights and LGBTQ equality. She has said she supports the LGBTQ community and thanked its members for their role in her campaign. She publicized and later appeared on a video game live stream to help raise money for Mermaids, a UK-based charity for trans children. At the January 2019 New York City Women’s March in Manhattan, Ocasio-Cortez gave a detailed speech in support of measures needed to ensure LGBTQ equality in the workplace and elsewhere. She has also made a point of recognizing transgender rights, specifically saying, “It’s a no-brainer … trans rights are civil rights are human rights.”

At the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27, 2020, Ocasio-Cortez argued for LGBTQ equality in the context of her religious background. Referencing a Catholic hospital that refused a hysterectomy for a transgender man, she argued, “[t]here is nothing holy about rejecting medical care of people, no matter who they are, on the grounds of what their identity is. There is nothing holy about turning someone away from a hospital.”

Puerto Rico

Ocasio-Cortez has called for “solidarity with Puerto Rico”. She has advocated for granting Puerto Ricans further civil rights, regardless of Puerto Rico’s legal classification. She advocates for voting rights and disaster relief. Ocasio-Cortez was critical of FEMA’s response to Hurricane Maria and the federal government’s unwillingness to address Puerto Rico’s political status. She believes the federal government should increase investment in Puerto Rico. In August 2020, Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velázquez introduced the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2020 bill which was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Other domestic issues

On education, Ocasio-Cortez campaigned in favor of establishing tuition-free public colleges and trade schools. She has said she is still paying off student loans herself and wants to cancel all student debt.

On June 28, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez told CNN she would support the impeachment of President Trump, citing Trump’s alleged violations of the Emoluments Clause and stating that “we have to hold everyone accountable and that no person is above that law.”

Ocasio-Cortez opposed a planned deal by New York City to give Amazon.com $3 billion in state and city subsidies and tax breaks to build secondary headquarters (Amazon HQ2) in an area near her congressional district, saying that the city should instead invest the $3 billion in their district themselves. Some commentators criticized her remarks on the grounds that they implied she did not understand tax breaks are discounts on money paid to, not by, the government and that “New York does not have $3 billion in cash” that it would then “give” to Amazon and that the money disappeared when Amazon left.

In late 2020, Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib proposed a public banking bill to encourage creation of state and local public banks by giving them access to facilities from the Federal Reserve and setting national guidelines on public banking.

Ocasio-Cortez has been a vocal supporter of labor rights, including a $15/hour minimum wage. She skipped the inauguration of Joe Biden in order to join the 2021 Hunts Point Produce Market strike in the Bronx.

Foreign policy

China

Ocasio-Cortez criticized the American companies Activision Blizzard and Apple for censoring pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. She co-signed a letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick that read, “As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values—like freedom of speech and thought—or to give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access.”

A bipartisan letter by Ocasio-Cortez and seven other lawmakers fiercely criticized the NBA’s handling of a controversy involving a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The lawmakers wrote that the NBA’s response not only “sold out an American citizen” but also “reinforces the Chinese Communist Party view that those who point to Chinese repression in Hong Kong are as best stating opinions, not facts”, as well as being “a betrayal of fundamental American values.”

Israel

In May 2018, Ocasio-Cortez criticized the Israel Defense Forces’ use of deadly force against Palestinians participating in the 2018 Gaza border protests, calling it a “massacre” in a tweet. In a July 2018 interview with the PBS series Firing Line, she said she is “a proponent of a two-state solution” and called Israel’s presence in the West Bank an “occupation of Palestine.” Her use of the term “occupation” drew backlash from a number of pro-Israel groups and commentators. Others defended her remarks, citing the United Nations’ designation of the territory in the West Bank as occupied. In July 2019, Ocasio-Cortez voted against a House resolution introduced by Democratic Congressman Brad Schneider of Illinois condemning the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel. The resolution passed 398–17.

Ocasio-Cortez warned that Israel’s planned annexation of Palestinian territories in the occupied West Bank “would lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.” She wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that she will work to “pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way.” AIPAC condemned the letter, saying it threatened the US-Israel relationship.

Saudi Arabia and Yemen proxy war

Ocasio-Cortez voted to withdraw U.S. military aid for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. She criticized President Trump’s administration for escalating tensions with Iran, stating that it would bring the country into a “military conflict that is completely irresponsible”.

Political endorsements

In January 2020, Ocasio-Cortez announced the formation of a PAC called Courage to Change, which announced its first endorsements of progressive Democrats on February 21, 2020. Some progressive commentators subsequently criticized Ocasio-Cortez for having only endorsed two Democratic primary challengers by March 3. A notable omission was Cori Bush, who had received an endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez two years prior.

Congressional service

United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
2019–2021 116th U.S. House Democratic Donald Trump Financial Services, Oversight and Reform District 14
2021–2023 117th U.S. House Democratic Donald Trump
Joe Biden
Financial Services, Oversight and Reform District 14

Electoral history

2018

2018 New York’s 14th congressional district Democratic primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 16,898 56.7
Democratic Joseph Crowley (incumbent) 12,880 43.3
Total votes 29,778 100.0
2018 New York’s 14th congressional district general election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 110,318 78.2
Republican Anthony Pappas 19,202 13.6
Working Families Joseph Crowley 8,075 5.7
Women’s Equality Joseph Crowley 1,273 0.9
Total Joseph Crowley (incumbent) 9,348 6.6
Conservative Elizabeth Perri 2,254 1.6
Total votes 141,122 100.0
Democratic hold

2020

2020 New York’s 14th congressional district Democratic primary
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (incumbent) 46,577 74.6
Democratic Michelle Caruso-Cabrera 11,337 18.2
Democratic Badrun Khan 3,119 5.0
Democratic Sam Sloan 1,406 2.3
Total votes 62,439 100.0
2020 New York’s 14th congressional district general election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (incumbent) 152,661 71.6
Republican John Cummings 52,477 24.6
Conservative John Cummings 5,963 2.8
Total John Cummings 58,440 27.4
SAM Michelle Caruso-Cabrera 2,000 1.0
Total votes 213,101 100.0
Democratic hold

Awards and honors

The MIT Lincoln Laboratory named the asteroid 23238 Ocasio-Cortez after her when she was a senior in high school in recognition of her second-place finish in the 2007 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Ocasio-Cortez was named the 2017 National Hispanic Institute Person of the Year by Ernesto Nieto. In 2019, Ocasio-Cortez received the Adelle Foley Award. She was named as one of the 2019 BBC 100 Women.

Personal life

After the death of Ocasio-Cortez’s father in 2008, her mother and grandmother moved to Florida due to financial hardship. She still has family in Puerto Rico, where her grandfather was living in a nursing home before he died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Ocasio-Cortez said that “to be Puerto Rican is to be the descendant of… African Moors [and] slaves, Taino Indians, Spanish colonizers, Jewish refugees, and likely others. We are all of these things and something else all at once—we are Boricua.”

Ocasio-Cortez is a Roman Catholic. She discussed her Catholic faith and its impact on her life and her campaign for criminal justice reform in an article she wrote for America, the magazine of the Jesuit order in the United States. At a December 2018 Hanukkah celebration in New York, she said she has some Sephardic Jewish ancestry.

During the 2018 election campaign, Ocasio-Cortez resided in Parkchester, Bronx, with her boyfriend, web developer Riley Roberts.

See also

  • List of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States Congress
  • List of Democratic Socialists of America who have held office in the United States
  • Nuyorican
  • Women in the United States House of Representatives

  • Official website
  • Campaign website
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s file at Politifact
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitch
  • Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Profile at Vote Smart
  • Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
  • Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joe Crowley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 14th congressional district

2019–present
Incumbent
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Elise Stefanik
Baby of the House
2019–2021
Succeeded by
Madison Cawthorn
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joe Neguse
United States Representatives by seniority
340th
Succeeded by
Ilhan Omar