Pramila Jayapal

Democratic U.S. Congresswoman from Seattle

As a newly elected congresswoman in 2016, Jayapal boycotted the inauguration of Pres. Donald Trump to host a roundtable for immigrants, refugees, and DACA recipients in her home district instead. In the last few years, she’s become a powerful figure on the House’s left wing, chairing the Congressional Progressive Caucus with progressive immigration policies as her top priority.

Born in Chennai, India, and raised in Singapore and Indonesia, Jayapal immigrated to America at the age of 16. After working as a non-profit executive, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks she founded Hate Free Zone (later renamed OneAmerica), a group that advocated on behalf of immigrant Muslims, Arab Americans, East Africans, and South Asians. While campaigning to be a state senator in 2014, Jayapal joined detainees at an immigration detention center in a hunger strike in protest of Obama’s deportation policies. In 2016, she became the first Indian-American woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Jaypal spent her first two terms working to protest and counteract President Trump’s immigration policies. Jayapal was among nearly 600 protestors arrested in 2018 during a sit-in at the Senate building protesting the Trump administration’s family separation policy. When Pres. Trump banned travel from predominantly Muslim countries in 2017, Jayapal crossed the tarmac at Sea-Tac to reach the airport’s CBP office and obtain a list of detainees set to be deported, stalling agents until a federal judge filed a temporary halt to deportations. She later sponsored the Access to Counsel Act, which would mandate that individuals detained at borders and ports of entry have access to legal counsel before they are deported.

As the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Jayapal has emerged as someone who’s willing to negotiate between establishment figures like former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and left-wing representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She also serves on the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and co-chairs the Women’s Working Group on Immigration.


Jayapal’S IDEAS

  • Border Security

    Jayapal supports addressing immigration reform rather than ramping up border security. “We don’t need to militarize the border,” she has said. “We don’t need to build expensive, wasteful walls. We need to address the underlying systemic issues that drive immigration and fix our own outdated immigration system.”

  • Border Wall

    Jayapal opposed President Trump’s efforts to build a wall along the southern border.

  • Detention

    Jayapal has called the U.S. immigration detention system “inhumane.” In 2018, she sponsored the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act, which would stop ICE from building or expanding detention centers. She also co-sponsored the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would end ICE’s contracts with private, for-profit detention facilities and promote alternatives to detention.

  • Immigration Courts

    Jayapal believes that immigration courts should be made independent of the executive branch. She has argued that universal access to counsel would promote efficiency and reduce the immigration court backlog.

  • Undocumented Population

    Jayapal supports Rep. Jesús Chuy García’s “New Way Forward” act, which would change unauthorized border crossings from a criminal to a civil infraction. Overstaying a visa is already a civil infraction. Jayapal also supports sanctuary city policies, a pathway to citizenship, and granting drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants.

  • ICE

    In 2018, Jayapal co-sponsored a bill to terminate ICE and transfer its functions to other agencies, arguing that the agency had become “out of control,” expensive, ineffective, and inhumane. But she ultimately voted against her own bill when the Congressional Hispanic Caucus came out against it.

  • DACA

    Jayapal is a vocal supporter of Dreamers. In 2017, she co-sponsored the BRIDGE Act, which would establish a three-year protected status for Dreamers.

  • Asylum

    Jayapal has criticized the detention of asylum seekers as “cruel and inhumane.”

  • Central American Policy

    Jayapal opposed the Trump administration's cuts to aid for countries in Central America, saying, “We must stop this crisis at its root.”

  • Visas

    Jayapal supports expanding visas in growing industries, like home care and nursing. She co-sponsored a bill to lift the cap on “U” visas for immigrant victims and witnesses of crime, arguing that doing so would increase the safety of communities by enabling immigrants to “feel safe coming forward to report a crime without fear of deportation.”

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