Pramila Jayapal Is Not Backing Down

Jul 16, 2019, 10:00 AM

This week on Next Left, the congressmember who knows a thing or two about shutting down racist policies.

When Women Disobey activists sat in at the Senate Hart Office Building in the summer of 2018, Pramila Japayal was asked to address the protest against the Trump administration's brutal approach to border and immigration issues. Instead of delivering her remarks and exiting, the Democratic congresswoman from Seattle said, "I decided that I, too, would sit down with them and submit to arrest." So Jayapal settled in. "We chanted and sang and talked about the need to reunite these families and to end the president's zero-tolerance policy," she recalled. Then she was taken into custody, along with more than 575 others. When the news broke, the congresswoman announced that she was "proud to have been arrested" for challenging "inhumane and cruel" policies.

No one in Seattle was surprised that Jayapal was willing not just to talk the talk but to walk the walk. She has for decades been one of the most outspoken and engaged advocates for women, people of color, and immigrants in Washington state and nationwide. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, she formed the organization Hate Free Zone to push back against the targeting of immigrants. The group sued the Bush administration to prevent the deportation of over 4,000 Somali immigrants. It launched education and voter registration campaigns and, eventually, under the name OneAmerica, was recognized as a model for the type of advocacy organization that was needed to take up the range of economic and social justice issues that needed to be a part of the broader struggle for immigrant rights.

Jayapal turned to electoral politics only recently, winning a seat in the Washington state Senate in 2014 and then winning an open US House seat in 2016. And she has maintained her ties to her own immigrant roots—as an Indian-born student who arrived in the United States on her own at age 16—and her activist organizing. She's already the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a chief sponsor of Medicare for All legislation. We talked about her work in Congress for this week's Next Left, but we focused much of our attention on the remarkable personal story that underpins Pramila Jayapal's congressional service.

Show notes
Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Call for an Impeachment Inquiry The Nation John Nichols
How Pramila Jayapal’s Inside-Outside Strategy Is Changing the Future of Progressive Politics The Nation Joan Walsh

Melanie Charles How Glad I Am