- Former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (2017-2019)
- Former member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Supported the DREAM Act, DACA, DAPA, and sanctuary cities
- Chose not to run for re-election after accusations of sexual harassment were brought against him in 2017
Ruben Kihuen was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, on April 25, 1980. His father migrated illegally to the United States and took a job as a field laborer in Nevada when Ruben was a young boy. When the passage of a 1986 amnesty bill enabled the father to become a legal U.S. resident, he sent for his wife and son to join him. They came to America on legal visas in 1988 but eventually overstayed them, thereby becoming illegal aliens. A provision of the ’86 amnesty, however, permitted the family, as Ruben Kihuen puts it, “to readjust [their] status and be able to re-apply for legal residency and ultimately citizenship.”
After attending the College of Southern Nevada, Kihuen transferred to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and earned a BS degree in education in 2004. He began a political career a year later when he became a regional representative for U.S. Senator Harry Reid, whom Kihuen has praised as “my mentor and my friend who has been mentoring me since I was 18 years old.” Kihuen, a Democrat, subsequently served as a Nevada state assembly member from 2006-10, and as a Nevada state senator from 2010-16.
In June 2016, Kihuen was angered by a deadlocked (4-4) Supreme Court ruling on whether two of President Barack Obama’s immigration-related executive orders — DACA+ (an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) — could be legally implemented. Together, DACA+ and DAPA would give several million illegal aliens temporary protection from deportation. When the Court returned its indecisive vote, Kihuen portrayed it as “a direct attack” on immigrant families.
In 2016 Kihuen ran for Congress on a platform of “comprehensive immigration reform,” of which “a pathway to citizenship” for illegal aliens was a “non-negotiable element.” His congressional bid was endorsed by Council for a Livable World (CLW). That November, the voters of Nevada’s 4th Congressional District elected Kihuen to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he promptly became a member of both the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
After President Donald Trump issued a January 2017 executive order that called for withholding federal funds from sanctuary cities, Kihuen impugned the president for his “wrong-headed approach to a nuanced issue.” “Not all undocumented immigrants are ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’,” Kihuen added. “I was once undocumented — now, I’m a member of Congress.”
Kihuen is a strong supporter of the the DREAM Act, legislation that would legalize and eventually naturalize a large number of so-called “Dreamers” — i.e., illegal-alien teens and young adults who first came to the United States as minors. Asserting that he himself was “the first Dreamer in American history to be elected to this [congressional] body,” Kihuen in September 2017 urged his legislative colleagues to “put their political games aside” and pass the DREAM Act. That same month, he told broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien that he would be willing to vote in favor of funding the construction of President Trump’s proposed border wall, in exchange for a measure that would legalize the Dreamers.
When Trump in September 2017 announced his wish to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which had been put into effect by a 2012 executive action through which then-President Obama provided the Dreamers with temporary work authorization as well as protection from deportation — Kihuen stated that Trump’s proposal would “trample over our country’s values and in the process shatter the hopes and dreams of 800,000 of young people who have benefited from this program.” Charging that “this [Trump] administration has proven time and again their only goal is to foster anti-immigrant and divisive rhetoric,” the congressman added: “DREAMers are not criminals and they should not be targets for deportation. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and our immigrant communities make us a better country.”
In November 2017, Kihuen lent his name to a congressional letter imploring President Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, and then-acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke, to renew the Temporary Protected Status of refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador.
Characterizing himself as “a progressive champion” who delivers “progressive results” on behalf of his constituents, Kihuen is strongly in favor of: raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour; permitting the federal government to subsidize abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy; authorizing the government to enforce affirmative-action policies designed to compensate nonwhites and women for the effects of past and present discrimination; and treating health care as “a basic human right that must be protected” by the government.
Favoring laws that would ban the sale of so-called “assault weapons” and high-capacity ammunition magazines, Kihuen has described the National Rifle Association as a “profit-protecting, corporate machine” that “exist[s] only to protect the bottom line of gun companies.”
In December 2017, after accusations of sexual harassment had been brought against him by two former female staffers, Kihuen denied the charges but announced that he would not seek re-election the following year.
The House Ethics Committee formally sanctioned Kihuen November 2018, for having “made persistent and unwanted advances towards women.” According to an Ethics Committee report, “each of the complainant’s allegations were supported by documentary evidence and some of the alleged incidents were corroborated by third-party witnesses.”
In May 2018, Kihuen condemned President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal — a 2015 accord whereby the Obama administration (and the governments of five other nations) had agreed to allow the Islamist regime in Tehran to enrich uranium, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and be guaranteed of a near-zero breakout time to the construction of a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. By Kihuen’s telling, Trump’s move constituted a “big mistake” that was “not going to help in bringing peace to the area.”
For highlights of Kihuen’s voting record on an array of key issues, click here.
Further Reading: Biographical information at Votesmart.org and Kihuen.house.gov; “[Kihuen] Statement on SCOTUS Ruling on DAPA and DACA Expansion” (6-23-2016); “Issues” (RubenforCongress.com, 2016); “Ruben Kihuen” (OnTheIssues.org); “Dems: Wall Is ‘Opposite of What America Stands For’” (The Hill, 1-25-2017); “Dem Rep. Kihuen Says He Could Negotiate on Funding Border Wall” (WESH.com, 9-8-2017); “President Trump Once Again Tramples over Our Country’s Values” (9-5-2017); “Rep. Kihuen Won’t Run for Re-election Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations” (CNN, 12-16-2017).