Indian Americans Make History with 5 Elected Officials in Washington, D.C.

Express News Global

Published: January 05, 2017

Swearing InWith the additions of Kamala Harris to the U.S. Senate and Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal to Congress, joining Rep. Ami Bera, a record-setting five Indian Americans now hold office in Washington, D.C.

The quintet of elected officials were sworn into their positions Jan. 3 in the nation’s capital.

The 115th Congress has four Indian American elected officials, which quadruples the community’s previously largest representation in the House.

Bera, D-Calif., representing the state’s 7th Congressional District, was part of the 113th and 114thCongress since being elected in 2012. The only other Indian Americans to hold a seat in Congress were Dalip Singh Saund and Bobby Jindal, who served in the House from 1957-to-1963 and 2005-to-2008, respectively.

“This milestone is not only a proud moment for Indian Americans, it’s a proud moment for all Americans,” said Bera, who co-chaired the caucus on India and Indian Americans in the 114th Congress. “As a nation of immigrants, the United States has greatly benefited from one generation after another of Indians and Indian Americans living here. I’m proud that Indian Americans now have the chance to contribute to our nation’s democratic fabric, and as someone who served for four years as the only Indian American in Congress, I’m honored to be joined by such qualified colleagues. With the door wide open, we hope to inspire the next generation to serve the country that we love.”

Bera is accompanied in the House by Khanna, D-Calif., representing the state’s 17th Congressional District; Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., who won convincingly in the state’s 8th Congressional District; and Jayapal, D-Wash., who has emerged as a prominent politician in the past several years representing the 7th Congressional District.

“It’s an extraordinary time to serve in Congress and I am proud to represent the only Asian American majority district in the continental United States,” said Khanna, who took over the seat from longtime incumbent Mike Honda. “As a son of immigrants and grandson to a freedom fighter during India’s independence movement, the protection of civil rights — no matter a person’s gender, race or sexual orientation — will always be side-by-side with my commitment of economic fairness for all.”

Added the entrepreneur Krishnamoorthi — president of Sivananthan Labs & Episolar Inc. — who cruised to victory in the November election, “I’m humbled and honored to join my friends in Congress in this historic moment. We know we stand on the shoulders of the Indian Americans who came before us. They established themselves in this country, gave back to their communities, and paved the way for us to follow.”

Krishnamoorthi, who takes over for Tammy Duckworth, who successfully ran for U.S. Senate in Illinois, served as a policy adviser to President Barack Obama in 1999 when the community organizer ran for Congress. The relationship continued as Obama ran for the U.S. Senate in 2002. He was endorsed by the president leading up to the election.

“The story of our community is unique but also similar to that of immigrants throughout American history. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make our contributions to that legacy, knowing others will follow.”

Jayapal, the former state senator in Washington who helped bump the minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour, was voted in as the first Indian American woman in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first person of color in the state’s Democratic delegation and the first woman to represent the seventh Congressional District.

“The contributions and struggles of the Indian American community are woven into our nation’s fabric. This is a watershed moment in our community’s history, representing all that is great about America,” Jayapal, who replaces the retired Jim McDermott, said. “As the first Indian American woman in the House of Representatives, I’m proud to serve with such capable colleagues, and I hope that our presence in Congress inspires the next generation of leaders.”

Harris, D-Calif., the former state attorney general, won the U.S. Senate election Nov. 8 in a landslide becoming the first Indian American U.S. senator.

The 52-year-old Indian American was joined by friends and family in the Capitol Building as she was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., looking on.

“I am humbled and honored to serve you and the people of California. Let’s get to work,” Harris tweeted following her swearing-in ceremony.

The new senator, one of seven new senators sworn in, replaces Barbara Boxer, who retired after 24 years in office.