Rashida Harbi Tlaib was born on 24 July 1976. Rashida Tlaib is the mother of two boys and the oldest of 14 children, born and raised in Detroit. She is a proud graduate of Detroit Public Schools and the daughter of Palestinian immigrant parents. Rashida made history in 2008 by winning her race for State Representative and becoming the first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Michigan Legislature.
Rashida served three terms, rising to the Democratic Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, where she restored and secured millions of dollars for free health clinics, lead abatement, Meals on Wheels programs for seniors, before and after-school programs, and education funding. She authored laws to protect homeowners from fraudulent mortgage bankers and tax preparers and to stop scrap metal thieves from looting Detroit’s abandoned homes and even destroying occupied properties.
Rashida provided transformative constituent services, saving hundreds of families from losing their homes to foreclosure, securing over $1 million in tax refunds by providing her working-class residents with free tax preparation, and connecting seniors to grant money to help weatherize their homes and save on energy bills.
While Democrats are looking for leaders who will stand up to Donald Trump and our nation’s most pressing problems, Rashida has an unparalleled record fighting for her constituents and her values, taking on billionaires and multinational corporations, and winning. Rashida took on the Koch brothers and forced them to remove pollutants from Detroit’s riverfront and she led a We Have the Right to Breathe campaign that led to a comprehensive cancer study in the shadow of Marathon Oil’s refinery expansion. Rashida fought back against Matty Moroun when his Ambassador Bridge Company was illegally routing polluting semi-trucks onto neighborhood streets and forced his company to follow the law.
When families get to know Rashida, they have no doubt that she will work tirelessly to knock down barriers for real change, and whether by policy or by action, she will roll up her sleeves to make sure her residents are cared for, no matter how big the challenge. This is what sets Rashida apart from the crowd.
Record of Results
When serving in the Michigan House from 2008-2014, Rashida’s legislative agenda was written by the residents she served, not lobbyists, and was designed to help solve the everyday issues the community faced. Rashida has worked tirelessly in the Legislature and at home to change lives for the better, and has the record to prove it.
Learn more about Rashida’s work on the following issues:
Serving as the People’s Advocate
After leaving the Michigan House due to term limits, Rashida has put
her law degree to work as an attorney and advocate with the Sugar Law
Center for Economic and Social Justice. At Sugar Law, Rashida was
instrumental in organizing campaigns to put people over profits and to
build more inclusive communities. The Detroit Metro Times even called
her “the People’s Advocate.” Rashida and Sugar Law were critical
– Working to repeal the anti-democratic and racist Emergency Manager law in Michigan.
- Leading the national campaign to Take On Hate and combat rising anti-Arab and Muslim bigotry. Rashida was one of the first people to take a stand against the dangerous Donald Trump agenda, disrupting an August 2016 speech at the Detroit Economic Club and being thrown out of the meeting for speaking out against his hateful rhetoric.
- Leading a campaign against tax breaks for billionaires, real estate developers, and wealthy corporations that demanded meaningful community benefits agreements that ensure that any public money spent on development projects actually benefit the public.
- Exposing the State Unemployment Insurance Agency’s illegal practice of denying workers unemployment without due process and on shoddy grounds, and forcing the return of tens of millions of dollars to thousands of people unjustly accused of fraud.
- Stopping the Koch Brothers from dumping toxic and harmful pet coke products on the banks of the Detroit River, where it was contaminating the water, soil, and air.
- Litigating to stop the unconstitutional practice of Michigan charging a driver’s license responsibility fee which unfairly burdened low-income drivers.
Environmental Justice and Public Health
Rashida has made environmental justice and protecting public health a cornerstone of her legislative advocacy, because her family lives in these neighborhoods too, and breathes the same air and plays on the same playgrounds as everyone she represents. In Lansing, Rashida won major victories for cleaner, healthier communities:
- Obtained a Cancer Cluster Study requirement for an area suffering extreme industrial pollution from the Marathon Oil Corporation’s Southwest Detroit refinery, despite intense lobbying pressure on the part of Marathon.
- Restored over $1 million in funding for free community health clinics that provide critical access to healthcare services in low-income areas. The CHASS Clinic in Southwest Detroit honored Rashida as a Healthcare Hero in 2009 for her work.
- Championed a bill to prevent schools from being built on contaminated and toxic land, which was sadly too common in her district and across Michigan, by raising the environmental standards for school site locations.
- Obtained over $2 million in lead abatement funding to prevent lead poisoning among children, an issue especially salient in low-income areas with older housing stock.
- Appropriated $500,000 to reduce waiting times for Meals on Wheels – a program which provides food to seniors and others lacking mobility.
Consumer and Homeowner Protection
Rashida hates a bully, and has consistently taken on fraudulent companies and individuals seeking to take advantage of Michiganders. In Lansing, she took concrete action to protect consumers and homeowners by:
- Passing a bill that criminalized mortgage fraud in Michigan, part of a bipartisan package of bills to combat fraudulent schemes targeting seniors and families. A public school teacher who had been scammed by fraudsters brought this issue to Rashida’s attention – a perfect example of how Rashida’s legislative action solves real-world problems.
- Passing a bill to stop forcing families on disability income or other non-taxable income to file unnecessary federal returns, providing tax relief to families facing tax foreclosure.
- Passing a bill to require full disclosure of the terms and costs of instant tax refund loans (also known as “refund anticipation loans” or “RALs”) that cost families hundreds of dollars because of hidden fees and exorbitant interest rates. Through her free tax preparation VITA site and district office, Rashida witnessed how local families were being scammed by unscrupulous companies posing as the IRS and sprung into action.
Education and Literacy
- A proud graduate of Detroit Public Schools, and a mom herself, Rashida has always been a fighter for strong public education. When the Detroit Public Schools announced plans to close her alma mater, Southwestern High School, Rashida literally laid down on Fort Street in front of the school to block traffic and raise awareness. In the Legislature, Rashida:
- Appropriated additional resources to promote child literacy by restoring $8.2 million for before and after school funding that provides youth with fun and enriching educational opportunities. Rashida has been recognized by Mothering Justice for her work on issues facing mothers, and was named an After School Champion by the Michigan After-School Partnership.
- Restored $7.8 million to fund bilingual education that helps make our public education system accessible and productive for everyone in our communities.
Everyone wants to feel safe in their community. Rashida worked tirelessly in Lansing to find creative solutions to make neighborhoods across Michigan safer, including:
- Helping fund and launch the first ever Community Court program in Michigan, which operates with a holistic, rehabilitative mission to find alternatives to incarceration for youth and others accused of quality of life offenses, like prostitution and vandalism.
- Leading the effort to pass a bipartisan Scrap Metal Theft Reform bill package that made it harder for scrap metal thieves to destroy our communities, a major issue in Southeast Michigan. Since the passage of the bills, scrap metal theft has declined in Michigan. The Michigan Association of Police Chiefs awarded Rashida the Legislator of the Year award for her work on this issue in 2014.
Delivering Direct Services to Constituents
Rashida created and personally raised the funds to operate a Neighborhood Service Center while serving as a State Representative, which is unheard of in Michigan. The Neighborhood Service Center focused on providing direct services to residents through an open door policy and a hands-on approach to getting families through everyday challenges. Through the Neighborhood Service Center, Rashida:
- Organized annually the Wayne County Property Tax Foreclosure Prevention Project, helping save hundreds of homes from tax foreclosure through grassroots door-to-door efforts. ?
- Reduced residents’ gas bills by helping families obtain access to tens of thousands of dollars in funding to weatherize their homes.?
- Prepared free income tax returns for 1,333 families and seniors, helping them access $1,070,758 in refunds in a single year.?
- Connected hundreds of families to free legal services, helping her constituents avoid utility shut offs, obtain access to emergency funds, food assistance, health insurance coverage, rental assistance, home repair grants, tax hardship exemptions, and other programs. ?
- Mobilized residents to close an industrial composting facility that was creating an illegal nuisance in their neighborhood.?
- Organized residents to liberate a city park that was illegally seized and fenced off by the Ambassador Bridge Company, owned by billionaire slumlord Matty Moroun.?
- Coordinated neighborhood clean ups and beautification projects.?
- Took down a prominent drug dealer – known as “Dr. Pill” – who was destroying her neighborhood, helping send him to prison by testifying at his sentencing hearing on behalf of the community.?
- Helped over 50 residents become US Citizens through her “Become a Citizen Day” program.
– Rashida Tlaib Biography and Profile (Rashida Tlaib)