About the Chairman

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R, FL-18)

Since her election in 1989 to the United States Congress, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has proudly represented Florida’s 18th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Forced to flee with her family from the oppressive communist regime of Fidel Castro, she became the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban-American elected to Congress.

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen became Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in January 2011 after serving as the Committee’s Ranking Member from 2007 to 2010.  

Ros-Lehtinen believes that America’s role in the world should be one that isolates U.S. enemies while empowering and strengthening U.S. allies.  She is a strong supporter of Israel, and believes that the U.S.-Israel alliance is critical to the national security interests of both nations.  Ros-Lehtinen is also a leading proponent of holding to account those who support violent extremists, brutalize their own people, and time and time again rejected calls to behave as responsible nations.   A leader in efforts to prevent rogue regimes from obtaining nuclear weapons, Ros-Lehtinen has authored numerous bills which have been signed into law to impose sanctions against rogue states including Iran, Syria, and North Korea for their illegal weapons programs and gross human rights abuses.  In the 112th Congress, Ros-Lehtinen has authored several new pieces of legislation to tighten sanctions against Iran and Syria. 

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has been a tireless advocate for human rights across the globe, challenging tyranny and championing the rights of the oppressed. Her efforts have not focused on a particular region of the world, but on authoring and co-sponsoring legislation standing up to repression from Burma to China, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Belarus, North Korea, and beyond.

Ros-Lehtinen is also a leading voice on the need for UN reform, and has introduced legislation seeking to ensure the efficient use of U.S. contributions and encourage accountability at the UN.  She has been an outspoken critic of the UN Human Rights Council, a body whose members include human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia.  She has authored legislative initiatives to prevent U.S. funds from being used to support the Council.

Ros-Lehtinen has also served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade, and the Subcommittee on Africa, as well as Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. 

Prior to being elected to Congress, Ros-Lehtinen founded and served as the principal and teacher of a private bilingual elementary school in Hialeah, Florida.  She received a Bachelors of Arts in Education and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Florida International University, and earned a Doctorate of Higher Education from the University of Miami.  She was elected in 1982 to the Florida State House of Representatives, becoming the first Hispanic woman in that body.  In 1986, she was elected to the Florida State Senate.  While serving in the State Senate, she met and married fellow Florida legislator Dexter Lehtinen, who became the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.  She and Dexter are proud parents to 4 adult children, and grandparents to baby Morgan Elizabeth.