Hector Oseguera, Overpeck Deck, Overpeck County Park, Teaneck, NJ. July 4, 2021. (Photo/Julian Leshay)
This article is part of ‘Leaders of Impact’ – a series brought to you by WeekenderNJ, a community project publication for the people, by the people. The series, which comprises essays and conversations over the course of this year, points to everyday individuals, community leaders and organizations, social justice and systemic racism activists –– who contribute to making our communities a better place to live.
This week I caught up with Hector Oseguera, a former congressional candidate, anti-money laundering analyst at UBS, director of outreach and engagement, at Force the Issue NJ, and a brand new husband.
While Oseguera did not claim victory against 14-year incumbent Albio Sires, he has proven himself to be the most effective challenger in the history of New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District.
In the midst of a ‘once in a hundred-year pandemic,’ Oseguera was able to excite and mobilize a campaign staff and volunteer base of over 100 people, gaining in person and online support, that could be seen, felt, and heard not only in Hudson County, but in other parts of New Jersey.
Although Oseguera remains influential in the political arena, he continues to be a regular neighbor, a friend, and a mentor to the younger generation who are fighting for positive change in Hudson County.
In this interview, Oseguera reflects on last year, what good trouble he’s been causing since he ran for public office, and what people may expect to see next from him.
Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself and background?
I’m a first-generation immigrant, born and raised in Hudson County to parents from Latin America. My mother came here from the Dominican Republic, and my father from Honduras. I went to public school and had a regular working-class upbringing. Eventually, I was lucky enough to be accepted into Boston University, where I studied Political Science, and then went to New England Law Boston for law school. Now I’m an anti-money laundering analyst at UBS in Weehawken. My free time is spent helping progressives fight the Hudson County machine.
Q. Where do you live now?
I currently live in Union City, where I’ve been for the past five years. Although the first time we moved here was when I was thirteen. Union City is one of the last bastions in Hudson County where a working class family can find affordable housing. Union City has been my spiritual home for so long that I recently decided to marry my girlfriend and settle here permanently.
Q. You were a candidate for Congress in 2020, running as a progressive in the N.J. 8th Congressional District – despite the most challenging circumstances of running for public office during a global pandemic, what positive lessons did you take from this experience?
The most positive lesson I learned is that people want change, and are open to new voices in our politics. There was already an appetite for change when I began my campaign, but the pandemic accelerated those sentiments. The enduring legacy of this campaign will be the democratization of candidates in a historically insular system.
Q. In September of last year, you joined the board of a non-profit organization called ‘Force the Issue NJ,’ as Director of Outreach and Engagement. Can you talk a little bit about your role?
After the campaign, I began looking for partners who wanted to stay involved long-term, and Force the Issue was certainly one of those partners. My role is to get people involved in the initiative at Force the Issue and expand our membership. Our work is to create digital tools to power progressive candidacies.
Q. How can someone get involved with ‘Force the Issue NJ’?
Q. I want to switch gears and talk about immigration – During an ICE contract protest in December, that took place outside the Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise’s home, you found yourself being arrested. With keeping in mind that there currently is a court case going on, what can you talk about that night and what followed?
I can tell you that peaceful protestors were arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights. What we’ve heard subsequently is testimony of the Sheriff's Department being used like a personal mafia to appease the County Executive. What occurred was an abuse of power and misappropriation of public resources at the whim of one person, and I’m glad that we’re having our day in court.
Q. For those New Jerseyans and other folks who are not familiar with the ICE contract in Hudson County, can you share more insight about this contract?
The County entered into these contracts to house ICE detainees in the County jail for a fee; and at one point generated millions in income, but have since become worth significantly less. These contracts are immoral and the associated revenue is blood money.
Q. What is the main challenge facing immigrants in Hudson County, and how do you plan to continue to address it?
Members of the immigrant community want the same thing as everyone else; safe neighborhoods, good schools, and good jobs. Those things aren’t controversial when other communities ask for them, but when those demands come from members of the immigrant community these things are seen as handouts. One of our greatest challenges is getting the public to see the needs of the immigrant community as equally valid.
Q. How can New Jerseyans and other folks join you in your fight to end the ICE contract in Hudson County?
The most I could ask for is a follow and a like on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where I document this journey into the dark and dirty world of anti-money laundering and political corruption in Hudson County.
Those interested in more direct action can join any (or all) of the progressive groups that are organizing for a better future, such as: the Hudson County Progressive Alliance, NJ-08 for Progress, Force the Issue NJ, Hudson and North NJ DSA, and the Progressive Democrats of Hudson County.
Q. Can you talk about where your passion for advocating for immigration comes from?
It ultimately comes from a desire to see all humans treated humanely. I certainly cannot ignore my own personal history as a first generation immigrant whose mother was born in the Dominican Republic, and whose father was born in Honduras; but I do think all people with a heart and a soul can understand why I fight for the immigrant community.
Perhaps I was too well propagandized as a child, but I was taught that the United States was the proverbial melting pot, a nation of immigrants, the country of Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus. I’ve simply fought to make that belief a reality.
Q. Do you plan to run for public office in the future?
One of the themes of the campaign is that politics isn’t something that only happens during election season, and if progressives are going to succeed in elections, there’s some community organizing we need to do in the interim.
I’m personally focused on setting up conditions for progressive victories, working with groups like the Hudson County Progressive Alliance, local DSA groups, and the Progressive Democrats, more than I’m looking to run myself.
If I ever seek elected office, it would have to make sense. The worst thing someone could do is galvanize a community without a plan to lead them. I would never run just to run. It would have to be something that the community wanted.
This article may continue to be updated.
For information about other ‘Leaders of Impact ,’ check out our lead article in WeekenderNJ from January 2021.
What did you like? What would you like for WNJ to cover? Do you have a story to share? You can read more about our submission guidance here.
Join the conversation by subscribing to WeekenderNJ today.