Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was born in Havana, Cuba on July 15, 1952. Forced to flee Cuba at age 8, Ros-Lehtinen and her family settled in Miami, Florida and put down roots.
Ros-Lehtinen attended Southside Elementary School in Miami, in later years attending West Miami Junior High and Southwest High School. She went on to attain her Associate in Arts at then-Miami Dade Community College, a Bachelors in Arts and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Florida International University and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Miami. Combining her love for education with her entrepreneurial spirit, Ros-Lehtinen founded Eastern Academy, a private elementary school in Hialeah where she was the owner and operator.
After listening to the problems faced by many of her friends and neighbors, she decided to run for State House. After being elected in 1982 to the Florida House of Representatives, she was subsequently re-elected and in 1986 successfully ran for the Florida State Senate. While in the legislature, she met and married Dexter Lehtinen and has two daughters, Amanda Michelle and Patricia Marie and two stepchildren, Douglas and Katherine.
In the state legislature, Ros-Lehtinen authored the Florida PrePaid College Program, allowing parents to lock in college tuition at today’s rates so they are able to send their children to institutions of higher education. Over 850,000 people have been enrolled in this program since its inception.
In 1989, following the death of Claude Pepper, Ros-Lehtinen ran for and won the election to represent the 18th Congressional District. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen immediately set to work to improve the lives of her constituents and community.
In Congress, she has fought to keep oil drilling off the Florida coast, create and maintain a strong economy, and to fund South Florida’s needs.
To preserve the environment, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen co-sponsored the Coral Reef Preservation Act, co-founded the National Marine Sanctuary Caucus and has worked closely with local and state officials to combat beach erosion. Economic growth is a top priority for the Congresswoman and she has voted to increase the minimum wage, voted for important domestic Energy legislation, and co-sponsored the 401K Family Savings Act. Another top priority is funding South Florida’s needs, which is why Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has secured over $42 million to dredge the Miami River, millions for Port Security, $1.9 million for Wastewater in the Florida Keys and millions more for worthwhile community projects.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has both anticipated and responded to the needs of South Florida by voting for an Energy Bill that would increase mileage standards for cars to address the energy crisis, voting for legislation that would establish a National Catastrophe Fund and supporting housing legislation that would allow South Floridians to keep their homes in the current housing crisis.
Energy Independence is one of Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen’s top priorities, she voted for landmark domestic energy legislation, has consistently voted against drilling off the Florida coast and recently opposed international efforts to create an OPEC-like gas cartel which would constrain our supply of natural gas. To ensure South Floridians can keep their homes, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has voted for the FHA Housing Stabilization and Homeowner Retention Act, supported the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act, and secured more than $500,000 for the Miami Beach City Center Affordable Housing Project. As a long-time resident of South Florida the Congresswoman has fought to equip the community with the tools to be prepared for any natural disaster, which is why she co-sponsored the National Hurricane Research Initiative, voted for the Homeowner’s Defense Act and supported the Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act.
Ros-Lehtinen has earned national stature as the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee due to her work on behalf of human rights in Tibet, Cuba, Iran and during her recent visit to Darfur. In addition to her work on human rights, she is one of Congress’ leading supporters of the state of Israel, has worked to secure $20 million dollars to assist poverty-stricken Haiti, has been a leading voice in favor of the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, was instrumental in having House Republicans award the Congressional Medal of Honor to the Dalai Lama and has been an advocate for true democracy in Venezuela, Iran and other regimes around the world.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen was recently inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame for her outstanding work on behalf of her constituents and being the first Hispanic Woman elected to the Florida House of Representative, Florida Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives.