White House Honoree Jayapal Fights for Asian American Immigrants (with video)

Pramila Jayapal at the White House

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Washington, DC – Pramila Jayapal, who was recently honored by the White House as a Champion of Change, felt “thrilled and honored and humbled” at the recognition of her work for equal rights and justice in immigrant communities.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Jayapal founded the nonprofit organization OneAmerica, now the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington State. In an interview, she told India America Today her decision was precipitated by “all the hate crime happening against South Asians, Arabs and Muslims.”

Her organization began defending people who were being detained and deported, and that very quickly transformed into working on immigrant reform for the whole country, she said. Calling it a “broken immigration system,” Jayapal said, “Our work is focused on trying to fix that, to advocate for federal policy that effects and changes immigration reform.”

Jayapal welcomed the immigration reform bill introduced by the Gang of 8 (a group of congressional leaders), saying, “I actually believe that it is the closest we have come in a very long time and it really needs Indian Americans and Asian Americans across the country to come out and support the bill.”

Agreeing that the bill is not ideal and that components of it need changes, Jayapal, however, highlighted its many positives aspects. “It does offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which is incredibly important. It does eliminates all of the backlogs for family members who have sponsored their family members to come to United States. It does eliminate those backlogs over the course of 10 years. It does provide for additional employment visas,” she listed.

She highlighted a significant provision in the bill which would, “allow the spouses who come with their partners or husbands to the United States to be able to work. That’s a very important thing as well.”

Jayapal told India America Today she was leading a national campaign to engage women on immigration reform, called ”We Belong Together,” and that “it really picks up what is important to women in immigration reforms.” The legislation “accurately reflects our priorities as women, Asia Pacific women, to make sure that we have a bill that really includes all of us,” she added.

Jayapal has worked to advance immigration reform in the state, as well as nationally, and has served in leadership roles for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and the Rights Working Group. She continues to advocate for immigration reform as the Co-Chair of the “We Belong Together: Women for Common-Sense Immigration Reform campaign.” Jayapal is currently the Distinguished Taconic Fellow at the Center for Community Change and a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Washington Law School.

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature groups of Americans – individuals, businesses and organizations – who are doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities.

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