Immigration Activist Runs for Washington State Senate


By A Staff Reporter

Mar 24, 2014

Activist Pramila Jayapal, the founder of Hate Free Zone in Seattle, Wash., is running for the Washington State Senate.

United States

Attorney and immigrant rights activist Pramila Jayapal, the founder of Hate Free Zone, which organized after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to bring local Muslims and non-Muslims together in harmony, has announced her candidacy for the 37th District seat in the Washington state Senate, the Seattle Times reported.

The incumbent, Democrat Adam Kline, will vacate the post at the end of the year to spend more time with his family.

Jayapal, 48, is an outspoken advocate for the rights of immigrants and women and for social justice. It is her first try for public office.

“In my two decades of work for justice, I have seen the critical intersections between education, affordable housing, adequate family income, transportation, criminal justice and immigrant rights,” Jayapal told the Times.

“It would be an honor to have the opportunity to represent these very issues for this district that I love and have lived in for nearly two decades,” she said.

The 37th District stretches from Beacon Hill and south Seattle, where Jayapal lives, into Renton. It is one of the state’s most diverse districts, the Times said.

In 2008, Hate Free Zone changed its name to OneAmerica to remove confusion and reflect broader issues on immigration and social justice.

The Indian American activist stepped down as executive director of OneAmerica two years ago to focus more on national concerns and is currently a fellow at the University of Washington School of Law.

A former worker on Wall Street, Jayapal has received early endorsements from Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and former King County executive Ron Sims, the Seattle Times reported.

At OneAmerica, she led a successful effort to file a class action lawsuit against the federal government to prevent the deportation of 5,000 Somalis nationwide. Jayapal has also served on the executive committee of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and led a new voter drive in Washington that registered more than 23,000 new Americans to vote.

Born in India and raised in India, Indonesia and Singapore, she was recognized in May 2013 among 14 Asian American and Pacific Islanders as White House Champions of Change.

In conjunction with that event, she said in a statement, “I’m a proud immigrant from India. My parents used their last savings to send me here for college when I was 16 because they wanted me to have the best education possible.”

“Now, a mother myself, I know what an enormous sacrifice it was to send a child so far away, knowing they would probably never return back. Through my years of work with immigrants from all over the world, I’ve witnessed even greater sacrifices from so many who came to America seeking safety, stability and economic opportunity.”

“For the past 23 years, I’ve been inspired by countless people on the ground who demonstrated tremendous resilience and courage as they struggled to make ends meet. I began my social justice career in international public health, running a $6 million loan fund for critical health projects. I had the opportunity, too, to spend two years living in villages and small towns across India, understanding problems and solutions that came from the ground,” she said.

“I have a remarkable opportunity to work at the national level on the most important questions of our time: passing immigration reform, but also how to navigate our rapidly changing demographics with grace, and how to build an economy that works for everyone, including people of color, women and the most vulnerable,” the Indian American attorney said.

“I’ll continue to dedicate my life to reaching for our nation’s beautiful founding ideals: that America is born of hope, possibility and justice, where each one of us has the choice, the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute our full selves to this beautiful place we call home.”



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