The following are the remarks, as prepared for delivery on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) in opposition to a Republican resolution barring her appointment to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 2, 2023.
Who gets to be an American? What opinions do you have to have to be counted as American? That is what this debate is about, Mr./Madame Speaker. There is this idea that you are suspect if you are an immigrant. Or if you are from a certain part of the world, of a certain skin tone, or a Muslim.
It is no accident that Members of the Republican Party accused the first Black President, Barack Obama, of being a secret Muslim. It is no accident that former President Donald Trump led a birther movement that falsely claimed he was born in Kenya. Because to them, falsely labeling the first and only Black President of the United States a Muslim and an African immigrant somehow made him less American.
There is nothing objective about policymaking.
Well, I am a Muslim. I am an immigrant. And, interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am a target? Is anyone surprised I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy? Or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced? Frankly that is expected. Because when you push power pushes back.
Representation matters. Continuing to expand our ideas of who is American and who can partake in the American experiment is a good thing. I am an American. An American who was sent by her constituents to represent them in Congress. A refugee who survived the horrors of a civil war, As someone who spent her childhood in a refugee camp, and as someone who knows what it means to have a shot at a better life in the United States. Someone who believes in the American dream, in the American promise, and the ability to voice that in a democratic process.
That is what this debate is about. There is this idea out there that I do not have objective decision-making because of who I am or where I came from and my perspective. But we reject that and we say there is nothing objective about policymaking. We all inject our perspective, point of views, our lived experience, and the voices of our constituents. That is what democracy is about.
So what is the work of the Foreign Affairs Committee? It's not to cosign the stated foreign policy of whatever administration is in power. It's oversight, it’s to critique, and to advocate for a better path forward. But most importantly, it's to make the myth that American foreign policy is intrinsically moral a reality.
The work of the Foreign Affairs Committee... is to make the myth that American foreign policy is intrinsically moral a reality.
So I will continue to speak up because representation matters. I will continue to speak up for the sake of little kids who wonder who is speaking up for them. I will continue to speak for the families who are seeking justice around the world—Whether they are displaced in refugee camps looking to find a home somewhere, or whether they are hiding under their bed somewhere like I was, waiting for the bullets to stop.
Because that’s what this child survivor of war would have wanted. The 9-year-old me would be disappointed if I didn’t talk about the victims of conflict.
Those that are experiencing unjust wars, atrocities, ethnic cleansing, occupation—or displacement like I did—are looking to the international community, including the United States. Asking us for help. They look to us because the international community and the United States profess the value of protecting human rights and upholding international law. And we owe it to them not to make this a myth, but a reality.
I didn’t come to Congress to be silent. I came to Congress to be their voice. And my leadership and voice will not diminish if I am not on this committee for one term. Thank you and I yield back.