On @CSPANwj, speaking as the first Indian-American woman in the House, a caller asked, "Is the Congresswoman herself a U.S. citizen?"— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) May 10, 2018
I am a proud immigrant and American citizen. And I am proud to fight as an elected official for Dreamers and comprehensive immigration reform. pic.twitter.com/QmzTYkLiD5
Now this is the epitome of class.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) appeared on C-SPAN last Thursday to chat about immigration and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. During her segment, a Republican from Nevada called into the show and questioned whether she is a U.S. citizen.
The congresswoman, who’s the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House of Representatives, tactfully responded.
“You have to be a U.S. citizen to be in Congress,” she said calmly. “I’m a proud U.S. citizen. I became a citizen in 2000. I’ve actually lived in this country since I was 16 years old.”
Jayapal, who was born in Chennai, India, has been in the U.S. since she attended college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She went on to get an MBA from Northwestern University. According to The Washington Post, her parents saved up money in order to send her to school.
In her response to the caller, Jayapal explained that she was on a student visa when she came to the U.S. She was on several different visas before obtaining her American citizenship.
Her 2016 election to Congress drew praise from many in the Asian-American and immigrant communities, who view her as a role model.
“I see young girls and women across the country, not only Indian but other immigrants as well, who see a different future for themselves because I’m there,” she told the Post. “It’s really very meaningful to me when people say, ‘It means so much to see you there because maybe I can run for Congress someday.’”
In her C-SPAN segment, Jayapal used her immigration story to pivot to the issue of immigration reform. She said she feels that there should be a solution in place not only for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program but also for U.S. immigration policies in general, citing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the family-based immigration system and the employment visa system as pieces that need to be reformed.
“Most of our immigration laws — and a lot of people watching this may not know this — have not been adjusted for decades,” she said.
Jayapal’s comments follow the Trump administration’s announcement this month that temporary protected status (TPS) would end for immigrants from Honduras, leaving in limbo 57,000 Hondurans who fled their country after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. If they don’t find legal status by 2020, these TPS recipients will have to leave the country. Not long after that announcement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared that the U.S. will prosecute people who tried to enter the country illegally, leading authorities to separate parents from their children.
The TPS for Nepal was also terminated this year, affecting about 9,000 Nepalis, whose country was devastated by an earthquake in 2015.