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Ileana Carmen Ros-Lehtinen Edit Profile


Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the most senior U.S. Representative from Florida, representing Florida's 27th congressional district. She served as Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2011–2013. In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American and Latina elected to Congress.


Ileana Ros Adato was born in Havana, Cuba, on July, 15, 1952, to Armanda Adato and Enrique Emilio Ros, respected members of the education establishment.


She attended primary school in Cuba. In 1959, during the initial wave of emigrants who fled Fidel Castro's regime, Ros' family sought refuge in Miami, Florida. In Miami, Ros completed primary and secondary school and entered Miami-Dade Community College, where she completed her associate's degree in arts in 1972. In 1975 she received her bachelor's degree in education, with a concentration in English and later completed a master's in education from Florida International University. After a short stint as a teacher at Miami Killian Senior High School, she was certified as an elementary-level teacher and taught in a few local schools until she decided to establish a private elementary school, Eastern Academy, where she was also a teacher and an administrator.


Her interest in politics began nine years after launching her school, when she volunteered to work on a friend's political campaign. In 1982, after a redistricting of the Miami area, Ros ran and was elected the first Latina to a newly created seat in the Florida House of Representatives. There she met and married another representative, Dexter Lehtinen. The mid-1980s was a time when Cubans in Florida increased in number and were becoming a significant political force, par-ticularly in south Florida. Four years later, she won a seat in the state senate, and became the first Latina to hold that political post. She is remembered for her focus on the welfare and interests of women, children, and education issues to which she is still committed. Two key pieces of legislation championed by Ros included the creation of a Victim's Bill of Rights rind the Florida Pre-Paid College Tuition Program, a financial assistance program for Florida higher education students.

In 1989, following the death of long-time Congressman Claude Pepper, Ros won a special congressional election, beating ten opponents to represent the Miami-Dade County District. The history-making election marked the first time a Latino woman had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Very early on, she became involved in committees that made her a leading figure in shaping foreign policy. She held membership in the Government Operations and Foreign Affairs Committee and more recently has sat on both the House International Relations Committee and on the Government and Oversight Committee. Her seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee led her to play key roles in supporting the passage of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996, better known as the Helms-Burton Act, tightening the 38-year-old embargo against Cuba. The act, which penalizes countries and companies doing business with Cuba with assets seized by Castro from Cuban-Americans, is seen as a step for the eventual ouster of Castro and democratization of the island. A tireless crusader of human rights, she chairs the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights.

More recently, Ros-Lehtinen, whose Florida District 18 is over 75 percent Hispanic (and mostly Cuban), found herself intensely involved in the 1999-2000 up-roar over Elián González and the ensuing debate over whether he should be given political asylum in the United States or be allowed to return to Cuba with his father. Ros-Lehtinen, whose district of Cuban-Americans overwhelmingly supported preventing immigration officials from sending him back home, found herself vilified on Cuban television and in the press. This touched a chord in Ros-Lehtinen, a steadfast anti-Castro Cuban national, for whom the struggle against Castro is personal as well as political. Pleased that she was able to provoke the Castro regime to the point where she was denounced in a headline "Loba feroz disfrazada de mujer" (The ferocious wolf disguised as a woman) she ordered a "ferocious wolf" vanity license plate: LOBA FRZ.


Unlike many of her Congressional colleagues, Ros-Lehtinen maintains her primary residence in Miami. She credits the active role both of her parents have taken in supporting her political career. Not only do they take care of her two daughters when she is in Washington, D.C., but they are integral to her political campaigns: her father as campaign manager, and her mother as the organizer for volunteers, mapping out the door to door election operations.

Her congressional aides speak very highly of the support and encouragement they receive from their boss: "She encourages us to get our degrees, and she even gives us flex-time to attend classes" (Stuart 2000). Ros-Lehtinen was named Youth Crime Watch of America's Elected Official of the Year 2000. Since 1994, she has run unopposed in her district's congressional elections. Considering her relatively short time in politics, Ros-Lehtinen wants to stay in Congress for as long as possible.


Member of Bi-lingual Private School Association.


Ros-Lehtinen has two children, Rodrigo, a transgender LGBT rights activist, and Patricia Marie. She is also step-mother to Katherine and Douglas Lehtinen.

Enrique Emilio Ros

Amanda (Adato) Ros

Dexter Lehtinen

Amanda Ros-Lehtinen

Patriciastepchildren: Douglas Ros-Lehtinen

Katherine Ros-Lehtinen