Washington, November 9 (NIA): Chennai-born Pramila Jayapal, 51, won the Congressional seat from Seattle in Washington State to enter the House of Representatives in the November 8 general elections to become the first Indian-American Tamil woman to accomplish this feat.
She has made a name for herself by upholding and campaigning for the rights of immigrants and relentlessly fighting for the goal of One America where every community will have a place of dignity.
Pramila left India at the age of five for Indonesia. From their she went to Singapore and eventually to the US. However, she said that her life transformed for the better, after she spent some time in India in 1995, a quarter of a century after she left it. Her book on this: “Pilgrimage to India: A Woman Revisits Her Homeland” was published in 2000.
Pramila is the third US Congress member to have had roots in Tamil Nadu, the others being Raja Krishnamoorthi and Kamala Harris. Born a Hindu, she was influenced by Christianity later.
Her campaign for State Senator was historic for the sheer scope of community outreach that engaged thousands of new voters and got hundreds of volunteers involved.
Pramila has spent the last twenty years working both internationally and domestically as a leading national advocate for women’s, immigrants’, civil, and human rights. She led one of the largest voter registration efforts in Washington State, helping over 23,000 new Americans to register to vote. In May 2013, Pramila was recognized as a White House Champion of Change.
In response to hate crimes and discrimination targeting the Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities following the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks, Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone, which later became OneAmerica and was dedicated to organizing and advocating for many diverse communities of color.
Under her leadership, OneAmerica grew from a one-person volunteer operation in 2001 to the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington State ten years later, advocating local, state, and federal policies that make for strong communities, including the Dream Act, and helping thousands of immigrants become active and engaged American citizens.
Pramila has helped lead the national fight for comprehensive immigration reform and due process, as co-director of We Belong Together – a campaign to mobilize women in support of common sense immigration policies that keep families together and empower women, serving as Vice Chair of the Rights Working Group national coalition, on the Executive Committee of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, and helping launch the National Partnership for New Americans, comprised of the country’s 37 largest regional immigrant rights organizations in 31 states.
In the state legislature, Pramila has been a champion for access to healthcare, and commonsense gun safety and civic engagement as well as for women, workers, students, communities of color, low-income communities, immigrants and refugees.
She has been sought out by local and national media as an expert on topics including economic justice and the minimum wage, community-police relations, as well as immigrant, civil, and human rights. She is often a guest on both NPR public affairs and conservative talk radio programs in Washington State.
Pramila lives in Seattle with her husband Steve Williamson, an Officer and Director of UFCW 21, and their dog Otis, while their son Janak visits home when he is on break from Wesleyan University. Pramila’s step-son, Michael, lives in Colorado.