Congressional District 7, US Representative — Pramila Jayapal

Pramila Jayapal (Courtesy Photo)

What are specific ways you have helped people of color and/or the immigrant community?

As a woman of color and an immigrant myself, I know firsthand the opportunities and struggles that face these communities. After 9/11, I founded OneAmerica, which is now the state’s largest immigrant advocacy organization, to carry out massive civic engagement campaigns and efforts to defend the civil rights of those most marginalized. We took on the Bush administration challenging the illegal deportation of Somali immigrants when few people would, led the largest voter registration drive of new Americans in state history, and helped write and pass the Washington State Dream Act.

In Congress, I continue to stand up to those who want to build a wall around our nation, and am determined to pass just and humane immigration policy. I was the first member of Congress to speak to incarcerated immigrant mothers separated from their children by Donald Trump and I spent the following weeks telling their stories and helping organize nationwide demonstrations. Specific legislation I support includes the Dignity in Detention Act, which I introduced to end the use of private facilities and repeal mandatory detention, while restoring due process, oversight, accountability, and transparency to the immigration detention system, as well as maintaining regulation that grants work authorization to H-4 visa holders, the spouses of workers in the U.S. via the H-1B visa program. I am a strong supporter of the Marijuana Justice Act, to legalize marijuana and invest in restorative justice, and I co-founded a climate justice task force to address the disproportionate impact of global warming on communities of color. Racial and immigrant justice is interwoven into all my work – these issues are not separate or in silos from economic, gender and LGBTQ justice.

What is the biggest legislative priority for communities of color and the immigrant community in the next few years? Do you think there are legislative concerns that are unique to these communities?

One of the biggest legislative priorities is to make democracy truly representative, by making the process of voting more accessible. Representation isn’t about identity politics, it’s about bringing different and authentic lived experiences to bear. To obtain a truly representative democracy, we must fully support broad voting rights such as automatic and same-day voter registration. We must also review our districts and prevent gerrymandering. Another top priority must be comprehensive and humane immigration reform.

What are specific ways that the office you seek would affect communities of color and the immigrant community, if you are elected?

We are at a turning point in American history with the upcoming midterm election, and so much is at stake. As a member of the House of Representatives, I am working to gain a majority of Democrats in the House for two reasons: One reason is to be a check and balance on the current Executive branch and GOP-led Senate, blocking any further legislation that damages communities of color and immigrant communities. The second reason goes beyond opposing – it’s about proposing. Being in the majority, we will have the opportunity to propose bold, progressive legislation that lifts up all communities – like Medicare for All and College for All – because we are all better off when we are all better off. I will continue to fight for housing affordability, public transit and healthcare for 7th District residents, who we have saved $1.5 million through constituent services. My casework team will continue to assist immigrants with the visas and other things they need to thrive, as well as veterans, seniors, students and others who have issues with federal agencies (see my 2018 casework report).