Newly sworn-in state representative Bounkeua wants to restore public confidence and ensure fair treatment
“It’s around, ‘How do you continue to build trust?’, ‘How do you help have these open and honest conversations?’,” Bounkeua explained. “I think it’s not about running away from what happened, but it’s really the recognition that it was a very unfortunate thing and is still under investigation, but we have to ask, “How can we move forward as a community to really get back to where? where can we trust the state government?”
During the pandemic, Bounkeua ran the Asian Family Center and publicly expressed concerns about Asian hate crimes in New Mexico. Concerns surrounding racism and the pressure for representation led Bounkeua to seek the seat.
“It’s time, right? Now is the time that all of New Mexico’s children can see themselves reflected in a governing body that makes laws for them and, hopefully, with them,” said Representative Bounkeua. “For me, again, it was something that I felt was right.”
Bounkeua, whose parents were from Laos, was born in District 19 and is now raising a family in the district as the mother of a two-year-old.
“They went to a refugee camp in Thailand, then they came to New Mexico,” Bounkeua recalls. “Due to a mistake in the paperwork they got stuck here and became undocumented in the process. So most of my childhood was spent in a mixed-status family home and we know some of the things that come with it, including just the inability to access different systems so that you can move around freely and just feel safe. “
Growing up, Representative Bounkeua’s parents worked several times to put food on the table and were constantly worried about what would happen next. However, Bounkeua found an appreciation for her upbringing, being surrounded by a loving family and great food and having English as a third language.
“I think it affected me a lot, seeing my parents go through this and the things that they just couldn’t go through and the struggles they had, but they continued to build and support the community and to defend the Asian community in their own way, “said Representative Bounkeua.” I think for me it was really powerful to see that, even if you don’t have the status of a citizen, you have the capacity to influence change in your community, which has been a great thing for me growing up. “