New York, Feb 1 (IANS): Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal has been named Ranking Member of the US House Judiciary Committee's panel on Immigration, making her the first immigrant to serve in a leadership role for the subcommittee.
Jayapal, 57 -- who represents Washington's 7th Congressional District in US House of Representatives -- will succeed Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to serve on the Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement.
"As the first South Asian woman elected to the US House of Representatives and one of only two dozen naturalised citizens in Congress, I am honoured and humbled to serve as the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement," Jayapal said in a statement.
In the US, a ranking member is the most senior member of a congressional or state legislative committee from the minority party.
"I came to this country when I was 16, alone, and with nothing in my pockets. After 17 years on an alphabet soup of visas to become a US citizen, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to live the American Dream, a dream that is out of reach for too many immigrants today." Jayapal, a Democrat, said that in her new role she will focus on the country's broken immigration system around dignity, humanity, and justice.
Her appointment comes as the immigrant visa backlog in the US increased by nearly 9,000 in the month of January, according to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC).
The number of people scheduled for green card interviews increased by nearly 3,000 from December 2022 to January.
The NVC scheduled 36,167 interviews in January, compared to 33,406 in December.
The White House is looking into the recommendations to reduce the adjudication and processing of Green Card applications to just six months and remove all the backlogs by April 2023.
The fight to reform immigration laws has been a core tenet of Jayapal's work in Congress.
She has introduced multiple landmark bills and resolutions including her Roadmap to Freedom Resolution, Access to Counsel Act, Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, and Protection of Kids in Immigrant Detention Act, among others.
Before coming to Congress, Jayapal was a longtime organizer and activist for immigrants' rights.
Post 9/11 attacks, she started OneAmerica (formerly Hate Free Zone), the largest immigrant rights organisation in Washington State that successfully sued the Bush Administration to prevent the deportation of more than 4,000 Somalis.
She was the founding co-chair of the We Belong Together campaign to mobilize women in support of common-sense immigration reform to keep families together and empower women.
She was also arrested during a civil obedience demonstration protesting the Trump Administration's zero humanity family separation policy.
The Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement will be chaired by Rep Tom McClintock, and has jurisdiction over immigration law and policy, naturalization, border security, refugee admissions, non-border immigration enforcement, and other various issues.
It was previously known as the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.