Adriano de Jesús Espaillat is the first Dominican American congressperson in the history of the United States. He was elected in 2016 to represent New York State’s 13th Congressional District in the House of Representatives. This district includes the area of Harlem, located in New York City’s northern Manhattan, which is an iconic area of black culture and political history. Congressman Espaillat is the first nonblack official to represent Harlem in seven decades; the district was redrawn in 2012 and currently encompasses two areas of heavy Dominican concentration as well. While there have been many foreign-born members who became naturalized citizens before serving in the US Congress, Espaillat is one of the first two known to have had an undocumented immigration status for some time. His example of political ascent to Congress is relevant in the context of the current national immigration debates and marks a milestone in the political history of Dominican Americans—a group that started migrating significantly in the late 1960s and is currently one of the two largest Hispanic groups in New York City, and the fifth largest Hispanic group in the country. Espaillat’s election illustrates current interactions among minority groups in large cities and new trends in American urban politics; it also shows the great difficulties that candidates of new immigrant groups continue to face in achieving political success. Adriano Espaillat has attracted considerable attention—albeit nonuniform—from numerous printed and electronic political media. However, scholarly works about him are in incipient stages. Research on members of Congress usually takes the form of case studies, minority or Latino politics projects, or specialized encyclopedias or dictionaries. Few of them have been published since Espaillat’s election as a Democratic Representative to the 115th Congress in 2016. The process to create this bibliography has been twofold: first, this is a selection of substantive, informative, and overall balanced sources available in national and local political media, most of them primary sources and some published in Spanish. The collected materials are then placed in relation to different sets of scholarly work: Dominican Americans studies, urban politics, political incorporation of immigrants, and political ascent of ethnic politicians. They provide concepts for understanding—with depth and perspective—Congressman Espaillat’s success.
Overviews and Biographies
This section surveys relevant materials about Adriano Espaillat’s life and career. In the study of careers of minority congresspersons, Jiménez 2015 suggests that the interest is not on life stories per se, but on how personal experiences reflect contemporaneous larger conditions and interactions. Espaillat was born in the Dominican Republic on September 27, 1954; his family migrated to New York City when he has nine years old. They initially entered with visitor visas, which they overstayed. In order to regularize their immigration status, the family had to return to the Dominican Republic for some time; young Adriano was the last one to receive his permanent residency. In New York, Espaillat grew up in a neighborhood that was becoming predominantly Dominican American. He studied political science, acquired his citizenship, became a community worker, and pursued a political career, affiliating himself with the Democratic Party. In 1996, he was elected to the State Assembly; in 2010, he became the first Dominican State Senator ever elected. Cohen and Barnes 2017 provides a complete overview of Espaillat’s profile and career; the authors also include electoral data and information about the district. Coltin 2017 is also highly recommended: it examines Espaillat’s life, career, and challenges as a freshman congressperson within the anti-immigrant context of the current presidential administration. Morel 2019—a short biography—is part of the most recent and most comprehensive scholarly publication on Latino elected officials available. In C-Span 2016, a video interview, Espaillat explains his own trajectory. Cruz Tejada 1996, a journalistic article published in a local Spanish-language newspaper, offers a closer view of Espaillat’s personal values. The literature of the Dominican migration frames some of Espaillat’s individual experiences: the scholarly consensus is that persons who emigrated in the early 1960s were more likely to be members of middle and upper classes. Indeed, in the extended Espaillat family there were artists and politicians—including a former president of the Dominican Republic. As immigrants, however, Espaillat’s grandparents and father were employed in factories and services; his father eventually became a small business owner. Elected to the US House of Representatives in 2016, Espaillat became the highest-ranking Dominican politician of the state. Official congressional sites provide brief, essential information of Espaillat’s profile; external sources such as Adriano Espaillat are also useful. To place Congressman Espaillat’s success in the larger context of Latino congresspersons, see the article section “Hispanics and their Ascent to Congress” in the Oxford Bibliographies in Latino Studies article “Congressional Hispanic Caucus” by Miriam Jiménez.
Adriano Espaillat. In Ballotpedia. Edited by Daniel Anderson, n.d.
This Ballotpedia page provides, in addition to brief biographical information, details on Representative Espaillat’s committee assignments, legislative votes, and sponsored bills. Of particular interest is the information on Espaillat’s elections and voting results.
C-Span. Interview with Representative-Elect Adriano Espaillat. In C-Span, 29 November 2016.
This is a nine-minute video interview made at the start of Espaillat’s first term in office by the C-Span channel, which specializes in legislative affairs. In brief questions and answers, the then-newly elected Representative talks about his election, his views, and his goals in Congress.
Cohen, Richard E., and James A. Barnes. “New York. Thirteen District, Adriano Espaillat.” In The Almanac of American Politics 2018: Members of Congress and Governors: Their Profiles and Election Results, Their States and Districts. Edited by Richard E. Cohen and Charlie Cook, 1334–1337. Bethesda, MD: Columbia Books, 2017.
One of the best resources for a general overview. It contains information about Representative Espaillat’s career and election, along with precise data about the district. This biannual publication generally includes more biographical information when lawmakers start their first terms in office; later, the main focus is on political and congressional developments in their career.
Coltin, Jeff. “Adriano Espaillat is a Symbol of the Democratic Opposition to Donald Trump, But Will He Get Anything Done?.” City & State New York, 31 March, 2017.
A rich journalistic article. Wondering what a freshman congressperson can do about immigration, the writer refers to Espaillat’s constituency work, his critical voice raised against the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, and his (purposefully sought) affiliation to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which allows him to deal with Latin American matters.
Cruz Tejada, Miguel. “Un Líder Forjado a Fuerza de Lucha y Esfuerzo: Adriano Espaillat.” Impacto. New York, 24 September, 1996: 20.
Translated as “A leader made through struggle and effort: Adriano Espaillat,” this article appeared in a local Spanish-language newspaper. It provides a close view of Espaillat’s formative political influences, his identity as a member of the immigrant community, and his interest in advancing Dominican American representation. It also refers to personal perspectives about his family and religion. Accessible through different library datasets.
Jiménez, Miriam. Inventive Politicians and Ethnic Ascent in American Politics: The Uphill Elections of Italians and Mexicans to the U.S. Congress. London and New York: Routledge, 2015.
A comparative analysis of the ascent to Congress of two minority groups during one century. Using a distinctive approach that combines interdisciplinary concepts, the study analyzes the political contexts and different layers of power that limited the political success of Italian and Mexican candidates. The book offers datasets not previously extant and a model of incorporation of immigrant groups.
Morel, Domingo. “Espaillat, Adriano.” In Latinos in the American Political System: An Encyclopedia of Latinos as Voters, Candidates, and Office Holders. 2 vols. Edited by Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti, 186–188. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2019.
Short, substantive article included in the most comprehensive and up-to-date publication about Latino elected officials available. Morel provides essential biographical information, an overview of Espaillat’s career, and relevant aspects of his congressional work. Others essays in the collection provide a framework that contextualizes Espaillat’s experience and success. Available online by subscription or through specialized library services.
United States House of Representatives. Congressman Adriano Espaillat.
This is congressman Espaillat’s official House of Representatives page. It contains a brief biography with predominantly professional information; some sections also refer to news, committee assignments, sponsored bills, and information about services that are available to the constituents of Espaillat’s home district in New York.
United States House of Representatives. “Espaillat, Adriano J..”In History, Art & Archives: U.S, House of Representatives. Compiled by Office of the Historian and the Clerk of the House's Office of Art and Archives.
Condensed political profile. The information contained in this page is brief, factual, and primarily focused on professional careers. It draws on official congressional biographical dictionaries which record country of origin but omit ethnic identification.
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