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AAHM Spotlight Rashida Tlaib

April is Arab American Heritage Month, and we are celebrating by highlighting influential Michiganders who have made significant contributions to communities across our state.

Our final spotlight is United States Representative Rashida Tlaib, a first-generation Arab American. She was among the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress and the first Palestinian woman. Born and raised in Detroit, Tlaib was the oldest of 14 children of working-class Palestinian immigrant parents. Growing up, she helped raise her siblings and translated for her family. Despite her responsibilities at home, Tlaib was able to pursue her education, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wayne State University and her Juris Doctor from Cooley Law School.

In 2008, Tlaib became the first Muslim woman elected to Michigan’s State Legislature. After serving, she worked at Sugar Law Center, a Detroit nonprofit that provides free legal representation for workers. In Congress, Tlaib is tackling one of the most significant drivers of poverty in our country. With eight million Americans pushed into poverty due to medical expenses in 2018, Tlaib introduced The Consumer Protection for Medical Debt Collections Act (H.R. 2537), which would prohibit the collection of medical debt for two years, as well as debt from “medically necessary” procedures being included on one’s credit report. It passed the House as part of a Comprehensive Debt Collection Act.

Since being elected to Congress in 2018, Representative Rashida Tlaib represents what is currently the pinnacle of Arab American public life.