Get to Know Your Representative: Pramila Jayapal

The midterm elections this week resulted in a number of firsts and victories, with a historically diverse pool of candidates running for positions across the nation. Millions of Americans sat on the edge of their seats waiting to see the who would take control of the House and Senate, as it directly impacts the political landscape of the next two years and beyond. For Seattle's congressional district, although the incumbent, Pramila Jayapal, was practically running for reelection unopposed (her opponent was Craig Keller, a known white supremacist who basically only ran to stir the pot) she has already made history as the first Indian American woman in congress and with her fearless and compassionate approach to politics. 

This past summer, I had the pleasure of interning for Congresswoman Jayapal's reelection campaign, and I had the opportunity to witness the strong bond that she has with her constituents and the impact she has made, garnering her the nickname "the anti-Trump." Pramila is bold with following her progressive values, and her activist approach has not only made headlines but it has made policy change happen. 

Now that Pramila Jayapal is officially representing this district again for the next two years, here are some important facts to know about her and the feats that she has accomplished:

1. She immigrated to the U.S. by herself when she was only 16 to attend college, so she understands the immigrant experience first hand. This had a tremendous influence on her path to politics, as she wanted to see someone like herself, an immigrant woman of color, being represented.

2. She began her career as a social justice organizer. In the aftermath of 9/11, she founded a non-profit called Hate Free Zone (now OneAmerica) in response to the flood of discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians across the country. This organization has become one of the most impactful immigrant advocacy groups in the nation that fights for the civil liberties of immigrants and has helped 23,000 new citizens register to vote. 

3. She served on the Washington State Senate from 2015 to 2017, helping write and introduce legislation to change Seattle's minimum wage, provide contraception access for women on Medicaid, pass immigration reform creating pathway to citizenship for 12 million undocumented immigrants, provide free community college for all, and make rape-kits more accessible and the process more empowering for sexual assault survivors. She also helped pass the Early Start Act, which includes a number of policies and resources for early childhood education to provide children equitable access to childcare and education in Washington state. 

4. In January 2017, she became the first Indian American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. She has spoken out against Trump's travel ban and went to the SeaTac airport to rally alongside protesters in the wake of the decision. She has been fiercely outspoken about family separation and detainment at the border, and she gained access to a federal detention center to speak with detained women about their experiences and report back to the public. Her campaign also worked to promote the Washington ballot initiatives 1639 and 1634 to support stronger gun laws and monumental climate change reform. 

Congresswoman Jayapal's first term was full of action, organizing, and fighting for individuals, and she has begun her second term with just as much bravado. This week she marched with protesters rallying in response to President Trump's firing of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and hiring of Matthew Whitaker, who has been an open critic of the Russia investigation. Pramila spoke at the event about her support of the Mueller investigation and concerns about the investigation being stifled under Whitaker's lead. Whenever Seattleites are marching for democracy, Congresswoman Jayapal is always there marching among them. 

Although the current political climate has the news media and the world focused on negativity and division, it is important to recognize that there are still strong politicians out there like Congresswoman Jayapal who are determined to give a voice to marginalized and historically silenced people. It's crucial to recognize positive change and hope, even though it is not the predominant message being spread.