A legal immigrant.
Via The Federalist:
While Americans fixate on the new Republican majority in Washington DC, they may have overlooked the party’s gains in their own state capitals. It wasn’t just Donald Trump who won big-league in 2016. Republicans also picked up dozens of seats in statehouses. All told, the GOP now controls the legislatures of 32 states (compared to 14 for Democrats), an all-time high for the party.
My home state of West Virginia is no exception. Two years ago, we saw our first Republican majority since the Great Depression, with the GOP gaining even more ground in 2016. One of those gains was in my district, where my friend and fellow homeschooling mother Patricia Rucker recently became my state senator. Although I’m admittedly biased, Rucker is both a good model for anyone looking to get more involved in local politics, and a reminder of the value that freedom-seeking immigrants bring to America.
I first got to know Patricia through local politics, where she seemed to be an almost omnipresent force. Dark-haired and slender, she’s one of those people who radiates energy. At every phone bank, fundraiser, lit drop, and Tea Party rally, Patricia was there—always with several kids in tow. A devout Catholic, she and her husband Jimmy have five children.
As the legislative session began February 8, Patricia packed her bags, left the homeschooling in Jimmy’s hands, and made the five-hour trek to Charleston as a freshman senator. For a woman who was born a continent away and became a U.S. citizen just 12 years ago, it’s the culmination of a remarkable journey.
Patricia Comes to America
She was born Patricia Elena Puertas in Caracas, Venezuela. Her parents, José and Haydeé, had both grown up as the eldest children of large, working-class families. They each became the first in their families to attend college, working hard to support themselves as journalism students. They used their first paychecks to help Haydeé’s parents leave the slums for a two-bedroom apartment in Caracas, with their eight younger children.
“Family interdependence was such an important part of Venezuelan culture back then,” Patricia remembers. “It’s one of those things that socialism is trying to destroy.”
The Venezuela of Patricia’s childhood was a very different place than it is today. At the time, Venezuelans enjoyed the highest standard of living in Latin America. Patricia remembers an easy-going, family-oriented culture, loosely organized and far from centrally planned.
“There was certainly quite a bit of petty corruption, a quid-pro-quo system,” she says. “But in general, the government required very little from you. You didn’t have to get a license and a permit for every little thing. You lived how you wanted. People didn’t have a lot of material things, but they also didn’t see those things as important. Everyone had their little plot of land, their garden. We relied on our families. We took care of each other.”[…]
While Patricia was busy putting down roots in America, her native country was remaking itself. Hugo Chávez, a self-declared Marxist, had come to power in 1998, bringing with him a new socialist vision. The Puertas family, who continued traveling back to Venezuela every two years, watched the transformation unfold before their eyes.
“I was in Venezuela when Chávez was campaigning in 1998,” Patricia remembers. “He preached a gospel of envy, both internationally and locally. If the United States was wealthy, it was because they had stolen and cheated from other countries. And if your neighbor was better off than you, it was also because they had stolen and cheated. Therefore, you should be allowed to take what was theirs.”[…]
Back in West Virginia, the Ruckers were busy raising their growing family, now with five children. Despite her full life as a stay-at-home mom and homeschool teacher, Patricia began getting involved in grassroots activism. “When I heard Obama campaigning in 2008, I was shocked to hear how much he sounded like Hugo Chávez on the campaign trail,” she says. “All the stoking of class envy—it really concerned me. After seeing what happened in Venezuela, I was not going to let my adopted country go that direction without a fight.”
Her worries extended beyond Obama and the Democrats. “In 2008 I was feeling deceived and disillusioned by both parties,” she remembers. “I felt the need to fight back, with education as the primary tool.” She founded a local Tea Party chapter, kicking things off with a tax-day rally at the county courthouse in April 2009.
“About 200 people showed up on a rainy day,” she remembers. “That was so encouraging. We forget that the Tea Party started because people were furious about the stimulus, the Wall Street bailouts, the fiscal insanity. I had felt very lonely, but now I saw I wasn’t alone.”
Patricia sent out invitations for meetings, and the group slowly grew. “We were committed to two things: First, defending the Constitution. Second, educating ourselves and others. We really tried to remain non-partisan and not get caught up in social issues.” After several years, the group restructured as a political action committee and began recruiting liberty-minded candidates for local office. “Every year, we did a little bit more. We started having some successes.”