First elected in 2016 and twice re-elected with more votes than any lawmaker in the House, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is currently serving her third term as the U.S. Representative for Washington’s 7th District, which encompasses most of Seattle and its surrounding areas.
She is the proud Chair of the 96-member Congressional Progressive Caucus and also serves on the House Judiciary, Education & Labor, and Budget Committees. Additionally, she is honored to be on the Select Committee for Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, a member of the Immigration Task Force for the Congressional Asian Pacific Asian Caucus, and a Vice Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus where she is the co-chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force.
In Congress, Representative Jayapal has been a leader on a wide range of landmark progressive issues. She introduced the Medicare for All Act to guarantee health care as a human right, the Housing is a Human Right Act to invest billions into affordable housing, and the College for All Act to make public colleges and universities free for families making up to $125,000 while making community college and trade schools free for everyone. She also introduced the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act to ensure the ultra-rich finally pay their fair share, the Roadmap to Freedom Immigration Resolution to humanely reform America’s broken immigration system, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to stop the use of private, for-profit detention centers, the Access to Counsel Act, and the Ending Platform Monopolies Act to rein in Big Tech’s monopolistic practices while supporting small businesses, consumers, and workers.
Additionally, Congresswoman Jayapal has long been a champion for a $15 minimum wage, racial justice, the PRO Act to support workers’ rights, reproductive justice, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, and climate action so we finally transition to a 100% clean energy economy while prioritizing environmental justice and ensuring everyone has access to clean air, safe drinking water, and public lands.
Prior to becoming the first South Asian American woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, one of just two dozen naturalized citizens currently in Congress, and one of only 87 women of color to ever serve there, Congresswoman Jayapal spent decades working in global public health and development. She is an award-winning national advocate for women’s, immigrant, civil, and human rights and spent 12 years as the founder and Executive Director of OneAmerica, the largest immigration advocacy organization in Washington State. Prior to that leadership, she spent almost a decade working on global health and development for the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an international nonprofit organization.
Born in India, Representative Jayapal grew up in India, Indonesia, and Singapore before coming to the United States by herself at the age of 16. She attended college at Georgetown University and later received her MBA from Northwestern University before working in a number of industries in both the public and private sector. She is the author of two books, Pilgrimage to India: A Woman Revisits Her Homeland and Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics and Political Change.
She lives in West Seattle with her husband Steve Williamson, a long-time labor leader. She is also the proud mother of a transgender child named Janak and the step-mother to Michael.
FIGHTING FOR BETTER WAGES
Higher wages build strong communities and a stronger economy. That’s why Pramila played a lead a role in the coalition to pass paid sick and safe days in Seattle, and helped organize immigrants for raising the minimum wage. It’s also why the Seattle Mayor appointed her to the committee that developed the successful proposal for raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15. Then on her third day in the State Senate, Pramila introduced legislation to increase the state minimum wage to $12 across the state. In Congress, she is fighting to increase the federal minimum wage to ensure all working people earn the wages they deserve, and to ensure that there are no tip penalties that particularly hurt women and workers of color working in service industries.
PROTECTING AMERICAN JOBS
Washington has a long history with trade, and it’s critical to our economy, but corporate giveaways hidden into trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) do nothing to protect good paying jobs here are home. In Congress, Pramila is standing up to these backroom deals and make sure workers are helping negotiate fair trade deals that protect workers here and abroad - including pushing for a NAFTA renegotiation process that benefits workers. The question is not are we for or against trade. The question is how do we structure trade deals that are actually beneficial to workers here and around the world and beneficial to our environment? In our trade pacts, Pramila is pushing to support domestic contractors in government procurement, stronger labor and environmental standards, and eliminate dispute resolution provisions that favor corporations and allow them to run roughshod over environmental and safety regulations.
INVESTING IN THE ECONOMIC INFRASTRUCTURE OF AMERICA
For decades we’ve put off badly needed repairs to our nation’s infrastructure, resulting in crumbling bridges, overcrowded transit systems, and dangerously outdated electric grids, all while millions of skilled American workers remain unemployed. That’s why in Congress Pramila is supporting efforts to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, to put people back to work and make the long overdue improvements to our seaports, bridges, interstates, mass transit and energy platforms that serve as the backbone of our economy. In Washington’s 7th District, she is a pushing to fully fund repairs and improvements to the Ballard Locks - the most heavily-trafficked locks in the country - as well as robust funding to keep the construction of Sound Transit’s light rail extensions on schedule.
A HISTORY OF STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS
In response to the backlash against immigrant communities after 9/11, Pramila created OneAmerica (formerly called Hate Free Zone) to fight back against the civil liberties abuses of the Bush Administration against Arabs, Muslims and South Asians, and protecting thousands across the country from deportation and detention. As Executive Director for 11 years, she helped organize tens of thousands of diverse immigrants in the fight for immigration reform, including bringing a gender lens to immigration and working to keep families together. She also led efforts for immigrant integration in Washington state, registering 23,000 New Americans to vote, serving as Vice Chair of the Governor’s New Americans Policy Council, and helping to establish the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs in Seattle.
Under Pramila’s leadership, OneAmerica grew into the largest immigrant advocacy organization in the state, and played a key role in passing the 2014 DREAM Act, protecting drivers licenses for all residents regardless of citizenship, and passing a New Americans Executive Order that helped facilitate immigrant integration through citizenship, English Language learning and cross-cultural understanding.
ENACTING JUST AND HUMANE COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM
Our immigration policies should reflect our values of family, human dignity and work. In Congress, Pramila is working to pass just and humane immigration reform that provides legalization and a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, reunites families, protects immigrant workers on the job, and fully embraces the contributions that immigrants make to our society. She introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would phase out the use of for-profit immigrant prisons and drastically overhaul the nation’s immigrant incarceration system to eliminate human rights violations.
ENSURING AMERICA CONTINUES TO WELCOME REFUGEES
America has always been a country that has welcomed refugees from around the world who are escaping economic, political and social turmoil. Pramila believes this is a critically important role for America to play in a world of global migration where more than 1 billion people are on the move. In Congress, she is working to ensure we continue to accept refugees in numbers that reflect America’s global status in the world and history of compassion, and that we provide them with the support and services needed once here.
INVESTING IN EDUCATION
Pramila knows that early education provides a strong start that can have a long lasting and far reaching positive impact in the lives of our children and our community. She was named a Children’s Alliance Champion in the State Senate for her efforts to pass the Early Start Act that put an additional $158 million into early childhood education and she’ll continue to be a strong advocate for early childhood education in Congress.
SUPPORTING OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS
America’s public schools teachers have one of the greatest responsibilities in our nation. That’s why Pramila fights for increased teacher pay and benefits, so we can attract and retain the very best. And she’ll work to get rid of unnecessary testing that burden teachers so that they can get back to preparing our children with the skills they need to compete in the 21st-century economy.
FIGHTING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
In the State Senate Pramila served on the Equity and Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee, where she led critical conversations about equity in all education policies. She pushed for reforms that take into account the individual student rather than just aggregate data points. She also helped create a model policy for language translation and interpretation for Limited English Proficient parents and fought for additional support for teachers of bilingual and special needs kids.
Pramila understands the importance of higher education to our economy and believes all hardworking students deserve the opportunity to receive the education they need to succeed. In the State Senate, she introduced the Washington Promise program, which would provide two years of guaranteed tuition at community and technical colleges for all eligible Washington residents. She was also a key player in the passage of our state’s DREAM Act, working with allies across Washington to ensure children of immigrants have the opportunity to attend college.
ENDING COLLEGE DEBT
In Congress, Pramila is continuing to advocate for closing the higher education gap for low-income students and children of color. She believes that no student - regardless of background or income level, who is willing and able to go to college - should be denied because they can’t afford the cost. Pramila introduced the College for All Act in the House (Bernie Sanders introduced its counterpart in the Senate) to make public universities and colleges tuition free for 80 percent of all students, allow existing student borrowers to refinance and slash their interest rates in half, and make community college free for all.
A PROVEN RECORD OF FIGHTING FOR WOMEN AND FAMILIES
For the last twenty years, Pramila has been a leading advocate for women, including directing We Belong Together — a campaign to bring a gender lens to immigration reform policy that keeps families together and empowers women.
In Congress, she led the Washington Democratic delegation in supporting a $3 million grant to the Washington Attorney General to fund rape kit tests, victim-centered trainings, and new resources.
In the Washington Senate, Pramila introduced legislation to expand contraceptive options for women and led efforts to provide critical services to victims of domestic violence. She successfully passed legislation to increase the number of women in the state highway workforce, including securing $5.25 million to fund pre-apprenticeship programs to create economic opportunities specifically for women. In addition, she fought for paid family and sick leave, as well as an increase in the minimum wage — helping working mothers make ends meet.
PUTTING WOMEN IN CONTROL OF THEIR HEALTH CARE DECISIONS
Pramila is a staunch advocate for a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. She believes that with Planned Parenthood under attack, now more than ever we must fight for expanded access to women’s health care — including access to abortion care, and expanding preventive care such as mammograms and ovarian cancer screenings. In the State Senate, she helped ensure that women on Medicaid would have access to multiple forms of contraception, so that women could choose what made the most sense for their medical needs.
FIGHTING FOR ECONOMIC SECURITY
Pramila knows that pay equity doesn’t just help women, it creates economic fairness and security for the entire family. That’s why she fought to raise the minimum wage, advocated for paid sick and safe leave, and equal pay for equal work. And it’s why she is continuing to fight in Congress so that women not only receive equal pay for equal work, but equal opportunity for career advancements.
WORKING TO END TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
In the Senate, Pramila has been strong advocate for survivors of sexual assault — working to eliminate the statute of limitations on reporting sexual assault, improving testing and tracking of rape kits and expand services for survivors of sexual assault. In Congress, she is working to strengthen the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) so local law enforcement has the resources they need to keep women and their families safe.
WITH GUN RIGHTS COME GUN RESPONSIBILITIES
I believe in comprehensive and common sense gun reform that increases the threshold of responsibility that comes with owning a gun. This is why I co-introduced a bipartisan bill which would raise the minimum age requirement from 18 to 21 for gun buyers purchasing any firearm. Other solutions that would keep guns out of the wrong hands include requiring universal background checks for every purchase, an idea supported by over 80 percent of gun owners, closing gun sales loopholes, enacting protections that make sure those with severe mental illnesses do not have access to guns, and ensuring guns are locked and secure where children won’t access them.
BAN ASSAULT WEAPONS AND BUMP STOCKS
New technology has drastically evolved many products since the 2nd amendment was enacted in 1791. Yet, while we have updated our laws to protect us from faster cars, such as requiring airbags and seatbelts, Congress is severely neglecting its responsibility to protect men, women, and children from new gun technology. Enough is enough – it’s time to ban large capacity, semi-automatic assault weapons and bump stocks.
A PROVEN RECORD OF FIGHTING FOR VOTING RIGHTS
Pramila believes deeply in the power of individuals to create real change. A long- time activist, Pramila led one of the largest voter registration efforts in Washington State, helping more than 23,000 new Americans to register to vote and become active and engaged citizens.
As a State Senator, Pramila took her passion for voting rights further by writing and introducing SB 6379, legislation that would automatically register eligible voters — increasing voter rolls, reducing paperwork and streamlining the registration process. Pramila was also a key supporter of The Washington Voting Rights Act that empowers local municipalities to change their method of election to ensure all people have an equal opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice.
In Congress, Pramila is fighting to improve access to voter information to communities with limited English proficiency, including ballot information in plain language and providing more language options throughout the voting process — from registration forms, petitions and ballots. In addition, she is working to ensure the fundamental right to vote is protected for all citizens, including felons — helping reintegrate them into being a fully functional member of society.
STRENGTHENING AND MODERNIZING THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT
As a result of the 2013 Supreme Court decision, states that were once required to get federal approval before making changes to their voting practices or procedures are no longer subject to the same level of scrutiny. The predictable result has been a significant increase in voter disenfranchisement throughout the country.
Pramila has joined the bipartisan effort underway to modernize the Voting Rights Act and further strengthen it. She believes that we must ensure that any jurisdiction with a history of voter discrimination is closely monitored and any type of voting change that is likely to result in discrimination be subject to further scrutiny as well. In addition, she is working to ensure all citizens have full and equal access to the ballot.
A HISTORY OF STANDING UP FOR LGBTQ EQUALITY
As Executive Director of Hate Free Zone of Washington (now OneAmerica), Pramila led the organization to sign the amicus brief in the landmark marriage equality case Andersen v. King County. Pramila pushed for LGBTQ equality as a long-term organizing project, leading to One America joining the coordinating committee of the Washington United for Marriage campaign — turning out the vote for marriage equality across the state. She also brought together national LGBTQ and immigration rights groups to broaden the movement and have an even greater impact for change.
In Congress, she has championed efforts to fight against Donald Trump’s unconstitutional and discriminatory trans military ban. In the State Senate, Pramila fought back Republican efforts to repeal protections for transgender individuals to use restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. She also voted to protect LGBTQ youth, by prohibiting the practice of conversion therapy for minors.
FIGHTING FOR FULL LGBTQ RIGHTS
Despite recent victories, 31 states still lack clear non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. In Congress, Pramila is a member of the Congressional Equality Caucus and strongly supports the Equality Act and the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which establishes protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people in employment, housing, credit, education and adoption among others. In addition, she is fighting for fair and accepting schools for LGBTQ young people, to put an end to conversion therapy, and to provide needed funding for programs that assist homeless LGBTQ youth.
STANDING UP FOR VETERANS’ HEALTHCARE
Pramila is working to ensure veterans receive the quality care they deserve by holding the VA accountable while protecting it from shortsighted cuts and investing in proper care for our veterans, including expanding mental health services. Pramila’s team of caseworkers have returned about $350,000 to constituents and worked to resolve countless issues for veterans seeking help with federal agencies.
As a member of the Healthcare Committee in the State Senate, Pramila worked to ensure disabled veterans received the medical assistance they needed by helping make it easier to access supplemental benefits for disabled care.
HELPING VETERANS SUCCEED IN CIVILIAN LIFE
Taking care of the men and women who have risked their lives in order to protect our freedoms means so much more than ensuring their medical needs – it means helping them succeed when they get home by providing them with the education and jobs that will allow them to thrive in civilian life.
The New GI Bill has benefitted millions of veterans, but it’s also been abused by some institutions in the for-profit school sector, often leaving veterans in debt and with a subpar education. Pramila is working to crack down on abuse within the GI Bill program and close the loopholes that have allowed veterans to be taken advantage of. She supports efforts to expand veteran small businesses and improve job counseling and placement services so that veterans’ skills can be put to good use in the civilian workforce.
ENDING VETERANS HOMELESSNESS
It’s unacceptable that any veteran would face homelessness after making the sacrifices they have for our country. In Congress, Pramila is fighting to end veterans homelessness for good by making mental health and counseling services more accessible, streamlining the VA disability claim process for quicker service, and nationalizing the Housing First program that provides unconditional stable housing first and then addresses any underlying issues that may be contributing to the homelessness.
MAKING THE WEALTHY PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE INTO SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE
In yet just another example of the rich getting richer on the back of working Americans, currently someone making millions of dollars a year contributes the same amount of money to Social Security as someone making $118,500 a year. In Congress, Pramila is fighting to end this inequity by supporting legislation to lift the income cap on Social Security so that everyone pays the same percentage of their income into Social Security. In addition, Pramila believes that we need to invest where there is the greatest need and supports reducing benefits for high-income earners who have greater financial security and do not often rely on Social Security benefits in retirement.
INVESTING IN LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS
In Washington, nearly 20% of the people will be 65 or older by 2030 and by 2060, the population of people who are 85 or older will more than triple. That’s why in the State Senate, Pramila worked with her colleagues to fund a study to look at long-term care solutions for Washington’s growing senior population. She is continuing that work in Congress to ensure we are properly investing in the programs that will take care of America’s seniors for generations to come.
Pramila is working to reform the funding formula for Social Security benefits so that the annual cost of living adjustments are more reflective of senior spending patterns rather than simply inflation.
Trade and Global Affairs
FAIR TRADE TO PROTECT WORKERS, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND COMMUNITIES
We can no more stop trade than we can stop migration. The question isn’t whether we are for or against trade. It is, how do we create trade deals that are beneficial to our workers and our environment? How do we create fair trade that doesn’t exclusively prioritize the profit interests of large corporations above everything else?
Pramila comes to this issue through the lenses of international development and immigration, including her experiences traveling the world with the global health organization PATH and organizing broad progressive coalitions with OneAmerica. NAFTA exacerbated wealth inequality and undermined Mexico’s economy, driving migration northward. U.S. and Mexican workers lost out. We should fight for good globalization, including a transparent renegotiation of NAFTA, with seats at the table for all, that lifts up working families everywhere. Immigration and job creation are not at odds. Labor and the environment are not at odds. It’s not about whose jobs - it’s about more and better jobs.
NO TO ENDLESS WAR
Pramila is fighting to reassert Congress’ Constitutional authority to declare war. Pramila believes that Donald Trump cannot be trusted to responsibly wield nuclear weapons and that he must come to Congress to seek authorization for any nuclear first strike - she is a proud co-sponsor of the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2017 to codify this into law. In addition, she is co-sponsoring legislation to stop the destructive and unconstitutional war in Yemen by ending U.S. military participation in the conflict. And Pramila strongly believes that the 2001 Authorization for Military Force should be brought back to the floor for an up/down vote so that it is not used to wage endless war in the Middle East. Pramila has called for a complete audit of the Pentagon, the only federal agency that has not been regularly audited.