As the political race in the U.S. heats up ahead of the 2020 elections, one candidate is looking to make history by becoming the first congressional representative of Turkish origin.
Alp Başaran grew up living what he considered the life of an "American dreamer." He came to this country when he was four and became an undocumented immigrant after overstaying his visa. Başaran was forced to go back to Turkey with his mother, while his dad remained in the U.S., working as a yellow cab driver in New York City. Four and a half years later, Başaran received his green card and moved back to the U.S. He went on to graduate from Vanderbilt University, received a degree from the UCLA School of Law and became a corporate lawyer in New York.
Başaran is now running as a Democratic candidate for New Jersey's 9th congressional district where, if elected, he would not only be the first Turkish-American in Congress but the third formerly undocumented American and fifth Muslim-American.
"This is the American dream. This is the kind of story that happens only in America, where you can go from the very bottom to the very top in just one generation. I want to save the American dream and pass this great inheritance to future generations, and that's why I'm running for Congress," Başaran told Anadolu Agency (AA).
The congressional hopeful said the very idea of the American dream has become distorted in the wake of President Donald Trump's election to office. "We've entered a dark era in the U.S. where wealth inequality has reached historic proportions and an entire presidency is dedicated to further entrenching that inequality," Başaran said.
Trump's policies have also exacerbated racism, xenophobia, misogyny and divisions among Americans, according to Başaran, who says such policies will lead America to slip behind in the world. "When you look at the U.S. right now, we have deep anxiety about the world, and the American dream is our way out," he said.
Başaran has also called for the support of the Turkish-American community, saying they are one of the groups that have contributed the most to American society and that they need to have representation at the federal level.
New Jersey's 9th district is home to the country's largest Turkish-American population and the second largest Muslim-American population.
In addition to Bill Pascrell Jr., the Democratic incumbent, Başaran will face off against Zina Spezakis, an environmental activist, in the June 2020 Democratic primary.