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Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal (/prəˈmɪlə ˈdʒaɪəpɑːl/; born September 21, 1965) is an American politician and activist who currently serves as the U.S. Representative from Washington's 7th congressional district, which includes most of Seattle as well as suburban areas of King County. As a member of the Democratic Party, she represented the 37th legislative district in the Washington State Senate from 2015 to 2017. She is the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives.[1] The district's first female member of Congress, she is also the first Asian-American to represent Washington in Congress.

Before entering electoral politics, Jayapal was a Seattle-based civil rights activist, serving until 2012 as the executive director of OneAmerica, a pro-immigrant advocacy group.[2] Jayapal founded the organization, originally called Hate Free Zone, following the 2001 September 11 attacks. The organization successfully sued the Bush Administration's Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country.

Described by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "a rising star in the Democratic caucus",[3] Jayapal currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus[4] and serves on both the Judiciary and Budget committees; Jayapal is the only member of Congress from Washington on the Judiciary Committee.[5]

Pramila Jayapal
Pramila Jayapal 115th Congress photo.jpg
Member of theU.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's7thdistrict
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Preceded byJim McDermott
Member of theWashington Senate
from the 37th district
In office
January 12, 2015 – December 12, 2016
Preceded byAdam Kline
Succeeded byRebecca Saldaña
Personal details
Born(1965-09-21)September 21, 1965
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Steve Williamson
EducationGeorgetown University (BA)
Northwestern University (MBA)
WebsiteHouse website [60]

Early life and education

Jayapal was born in Chennai, India, and was raised in Indonesia and Singapore.[6][7] She immigrated to the United States in 1982, at the age of 16, to attend college. She earned her bachelor's degree from Georgetown University, and an MBA from Northwestern University.[8]

Jayapal worked with PaineWebber as a financial analyst after graduating from Northwestern. In her time at PaineWebber, Jayapal developed a desire to apply her financial prowess to the good of society, and began spending time working on development projects from Chicago to Thailand. After this occupation, Jayapal briefly worked in sales and marketing with a medical company before ultimately moving into the public sector in 1991.[9]

Advocacy work

Jayapal founded Hate Free Zone after the 2001 September 11 attacks as an advocacy group for immigrant groups. Hate Free Zone registered new American citizens to vote and lobbied on immigration reform and related issues. They successfully sued the Bush Administration's Immigration and Naturalization Services to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somalis across the country.[10] The group changed its name to OneAmerica in 2008.[11][12] Jayapal stepped down from her leadership position in May 2012. In 2013 she was recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change."[13]

On June 29, 2018, Jayapal participated in Women Disobey and the sit-in at the Hart Senate Office Building to protest the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” approach to illegal immigration.[14] The protest resulted in the arrest of over 500 people, including Jayapal. She said she was "proud to have been arrested" for protesting the administration’s "inhumane and cruel" policy.[15]

Early political career

Jayapal served on the Mayoral Advisory Committee that negotiated Seattle's $15 minimum wage,[16] and co-chaired the Mayor's police chief search committee, which resulted in the unanimous selection of the city's first woman police chief.[17]

After State Senator Adam Kline announced his retirement in early 2014, Jayapal entered the race to succeed him. She was endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray[11] and won more than 51% of the vote in the August 5 primary, out of a field of six candidates.[18] She went on to defeat fellow Democrat Louis Watanabe in November 2014.[19]

In the Washington State Senate, Jayapal was the primary sponsor of SB 5863, which directs the Washington State Department of Transportation to administer a pre-apprenticeship program targeting women and people of color; the bill passed into law in July 2015.[20] She co-sponsored a bill to test and track thousands of police department rape kits.[21]

Jayapal endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in the 2016 Democratic primaries.[22]

U.S. House of Representatives


In January 2016, Jayapal declared her candidacy for Congress in Washington's 7th congressional district, after Congressman Jim McDermott announced his retirement.[23] In April, she received an endorsement from Bernie Sanders.[24] On August 2, 2016, Jayapal finished first in the top-two primary, alongside state representative Brady Walkinshaw, also a Democrat.[25] This was the first time in the state's history that a federal seat was contested by two Democrats.[26] In the final weeks of the race, Jayapal and her supporters contested claims from Walkinshaw that she had not advanced enough legislation.[27][28] Jayapal won the general election with 56 percent of the vote.[29]


Jayapal is a co-sponsor of legislation intended to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for most families and to significantly reduce student debt.[30] She and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) introduced the Trump Transparency Package, a series of bills aimed at promoting transparency and eliminating conflicts of interest in the Trump White House.[31] Jayapal and her fellow co-chairs of the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force also introduced a package of Environmental Justice bills to fight the impact of climate change on frontline communities.[32] Jayapal is a supporter of universal healthcare and co-sponsor of Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act.[33] On April 16, 2018, Jayapal joined Justice Democrats.[34]

During the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Jayapal met with constituents in her congressional district instead of attending the ceremony.[35] The Nation called her "a leader of the resistance," quoting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling Jayapal "a rising star in the Democratic caucus."[3] In September, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) apologized to Jayapal after calling her "young lady" in an exchange that went viral.[36] Jayapal has described facing sexism from colleagues in Congress.[37]

Jayapal voted against a House resolution condemning the U.N. Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.[38] In July 2019, Jayapal voted against H. Res. 246 - 116th Congress, a House resolution introduced by Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL) opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement targeting Israel. The resolution passed 398-17.[39]

On April 25, 2018, 57 members of the House of Representatives, including Jayapal,[40] released a condemnation of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine and Poland.[41] They criticized Poland’s new Holocaust law, which would criminalize accusing Poles of complicity in the Holocaust,[42] and Ukraine’s 2015 memory laws glorifying Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its pro-Nazi leaders, such as Roman Shukhevych.[40]

In April 2019, after the House passed the resolution withdrawing American support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Jayapal was one of nine lawmakers to sign a letter to President Trump requesting a meeting with him and urging him to sign "Senate Joint Resolution 7, which invokes the War Powers Act of 1973 to end unauthorized US military participation in the Saudi-led coalition's armed conflict against Yemen's Houthi forces, initiated in 2015 by the Obama administration." They asserted the "Saudi-led coalition's imposition of an air-land-and-sea blockade as part of its war against Yemen’s Houthis has continued to prevent the unimpeded distribution of these vital commodities, contributing to the suffering and death of vast numbers of civilians throughout the country" and that Trump's approval of the resolution through his signing would give a "powerful signal to the Saudi-led coalition to bring the four-year-old war to a close".[43]

In June 2019, Jayapal became the first South Asian American woman to preside over the House.[44]

Leadership posts

  • Senior Whip, Democratic Caucus of the United States House of Representatives

  • Vice Ranking Member, United States House Committee on the Budget

Co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus

  • Co-chair and co-founder, United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force

  • Chair, Immigration Task Force, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)

  • Co-chair, Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform

  • DNC Transition Team Member

Committee memberships

  • Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law

  • Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee on Workforce Protections

  • Committee on the Budget

Jayapal is also a member of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.[45]

Personal life

Jayapal became a U.S. citizen in 2000.[12] She is the author of Pilgrimage: One Woman's Return to a Changing India, published in March 2000.[46][47]

Jayapal lives in the West Seattle neighborhood of Seattle with her husband Steven R. Williamson.[48] Janak, Jayapal's child from a previous marriage, is gender non-binary.[49] In 2019 Jayapal for the first time publicly wrote that she had chosen to abort a pregnancy because the pregnancy would risk her and the potential child's health.[50]

Electoral history

Washington's 7th Congressional District nonpartisan blanket primary election, 2016
DemocraticPramila Jayapal82,75342.11
DemocraticBrady Walkinshaw41,77321.26
DemocraticJoe McDermott37,49519.08
RepublicanCraig Keller16,0588.17
RepublicanScott Sutherland9,0084.58
DemocraticArun Jhaveri3,3891.72
IndependentLeslie Regier2,5921.32
DemocraticDon Rivers2,3791.21
IndependentCarl Cooper1,0560.54
Total votes196,503100.00
Washington's 7th Congressional District election, 2016
DemocraticPramila Jayapal212,01055.98
DemocraticBrady Walkinshaw166,74444.02
Total votes378,754100.00
Democratic hold
Washington's 7th Congressional District nonpartisan blanket primary election, 2018
DemocraticPramila Jayapal**(incumbent)**189,17582.7
RepublicanCraig Keller39,65717.3
Total votes228,832100.0
Washington's 7th Congressional District election, 2018
DemocraticPramila Jayapal329,80083.6
RepublicanCraig Keller64,88116.4
Total votes394,681100.0
Democratic hold

See also

  • List of Asian Americans and Pacific Islands Americans in the United States Congress

  • Women in the United States House of Representatives


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Citation Linkweareoneamerica.org"Pramila Jayapal Leaving OneAmerica". OneAmerica. July 8, 2017. Archived from the original on July 8, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
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Citation Linkportal.issn.org"Pramila Jayapal Wants Democrats to Know That Resistance Is Not Enough". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved June 22, 2017.
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Citation Linkcpc-grijalva.house.gov"Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
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Citation Linkseattletimes.comTurnbull, Lornet (March 10, 2014). "Seattle activist Pramila Jayapal seeks state Senate seat". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
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Citation Linkseattletimes.comShephard, Aria (June 30, 2008). "Hate Free Zone gets new name, OneAmerica, With Justice for All". Seattle Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
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Citation Linkfortune.comReints, Renae (June 29, 2018). "Nearly 600 Arrested in Washington #WomenDisobey Protest". Fortune. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
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Citation Linkwww.nytimes.comNiraj, Chokshi (June 29, 2018). "Hundreds Arrested During Women's Immigration Protest in Washington". New York Times. Retrieved July 1, 2018. On Thursday afternoon, Ms. Jayapal said she was “proud to have been arrested” in protesting the administration’s “inhumane and cruel” policy.
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