I was born and raised in Chicago as a product of the American Dream. My father Julio moved from Puerto Rico as a teenager and worked for more than 35 years on the production line building truck engines at the Navistar International factory in Melrose Park.
My mother Irma came to Chicago from Guatemala as a 19-year old on a tourist visa that expired before becoming a citizen when she married my father.
My mom worked part-time shift jobs and took classes at the City Colleges of Chicago en route to earning her bachelors degree from Northeastern Illinois University in her 40s and becoming a Chicago Public Schools teacher.
My sister Sandra and I spent our earliest years in an environment shaped by guns, gangs, and drugs. Our parents did their best to shield us and prioritized our education. We later moved from Humboldt Park to Galewood on the west side of Chicago when my parents bought the bungalow home that my mother lives in to this day.
Interested in politics and government since elementary school, I went to college at Georgetown University in Washington DC on a Navy ROTC scholarship after graduating from Fenwick High School. I served as a Lieutenant in the Navy, working on drug and alcohol addiction policy.
After leaving the Navy, I attended Harvard Law School, where I met my wife Coral. While at Harvard, I worked with Elizabeth Warren and other students and professors to found the Harvard Law and Policy Review, the national journal for the American Constitution Society – a progressive lawyer’s organization.
After law school, I moved to New Hampshire in 2007 to work as a full time staffer for Barack Obama’s campaign for president. Following President Obama’s victory in 2008, Coral and I moved to Washington DC.
Soon after arriving in DC, I joined Elizabeth Warren as the first staffer she hired after her appointment as the Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) established to serve as a watchdog over the $700 billion bank bailout.
I went on to serve in the Obama Administration, first at the White House Office of Management and Budget and then at the Pentagon. While in the Obama Administration, I worked on presidential executive orders, cyber security, and international treaty law.
In 2011, I returned home to Chicago to work for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Since moving to Chicago, I have served as the City’s point person on a broad range of issues including:
- Reforming the business licensing code to reduce paperwork and costs for small businesses;
- Raising the minimum wage to $13;
- Passing reforms to increase investment in affordable housing;
- Establishing a $1.3 million legal defense fund for undocumented immigrants;
- Establishing a free community college program for Chicago Public School students that graduate with a B average;
- Regulating the rideshare industry and creating more than $200 million in revenue for the City over three years along with new dedicated revenue for modernizing our public transit system;
- Working with Alderman Pawar on an ordinance that provided paid sick leave to Chicago workers;
- Regulating the shared housing industry and establishing a surcharge that is being invested in providing housing for 100 CPS homeless or double-up families;
- Partnering with organizations like the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and ONE Northside on establishing new protections and expanding housing options for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents;
- Helping develop the City’s strategy for meeting the emissions reductions targets set for in the Paris Agreement; and removing toxic petcoke piles from the Southeast side of Chicago by cracking down on facilities owned by the Koch Brothers.
Today, I live in North Center with my wife Coral and my two young children, 5-year old Julianna and 3-year old Jeremiah. I served as a member of the Local School Council for Coonley Elementary, where my daughter attends school. I have previously been selected to be part of Crain’s Chicago Business’s 40 Under 40 for 2015 and the Negocios Now Latino 40 Under 40 in 2016.
Learn more about my story by watching the video below: