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Pramila's Story

Pramila Jayapal is a Washington State Senator representing the 37th Legislative District in South Seattle and parts of Renton and Skyway.

Senator Jayapal is a leading national advocate for immigrant, civil, and human rights, having worked for more than a generation to improve the lives of immigrants, low-wage workers, communities of color, and women. She’s been a community leader with deep roots in South Seattle, living and working in the 37th Legislative District for almost twenty years.

She founded OneAmerica in the wake of September 11, 2001, to fight against the targeting of Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians, and to “bring together a broad-based coalition of organizations from different ethnic and religious communities, politicians, and government agencies.” (Color Lines, 12/01) She served as Executive Director for almost eleven years, during which OneAmerica “grew to become the leading voice in the state on immigration and an increasingly influential advocate in the ongoing battle for reform nationwide,” according to the Seattle Times

At OneAmerica, Pramila led the largest voter registration effort of new Americans in Washington State, registering a total of over 23,000 new Americans to vote and launching efforts to engage and educate them to exercise their vote. Pramila worked with the Center for Community Change on issues of race and economic opportunity, while also chairing We Belong Together, a national campaign to mobilize women in support of common-sense immigration reform. In 2013, Pramila was recognized as a White House Champion of Change, along with 14 other AAPI women across the country, for contributions to her community and country.

She has been deeply involved in local issues of police reform and economic justice issues, serving as a Co-Chair of the committee to select a new Seattle Police Chief and as part of the Mayor’s Committee on Income Inequality. In all of her work, she has represented progressive values while working hard to build coalitions and find common ground with likely and unlikely allies including business, labor unions, faith, government and law enforcement.

Pramila has also worked on social justice in the international arena, including for the Seattle-based international health organization, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH). She has business experience as well, having worked in the private sector, on Wall Street, and in the medical equipment industry before deciding to work in the nonprofit world.

Born in India, Pramila came to the U.S. for college by herself when she was 16 years old.  She earned an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and a BA from Georgetown University.  She is the author of a book, Pilgrimage: One Woman’s Return to a Changing India, and many articles in varied publications including The Nation, Politico, Reuters.com, The Seattle Times, and Crosscut. She loves traveling the world, exploring the pristine Northwest outdoors, and reading just about anything.

Pramila lives in Columbia City and loves spending time with her husband Steve, her son Janak, who is a Senior in the Seattle Public Schools, her stepson Chris, who lives in Colorado, and their adorable dog, Otis.  

Click here to read a note from Pramila.