Krish O'Mara Vignarajah

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Krish O'Mara Vignarajah
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CitizenshipUnited States of America
  • Molecular biology
  • Master’s degree in political science
Alma materYale University
OccupationMarshall Scholar
Spouse(s)Collin O'Mara

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah is a Marshall Scholar[1] and an immigration advocate currently serving as President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Service.[2] Previously, Vignarajah served as Policy Director to Former First Lady Michelle Obama.[3]


Vignarajah is a frequent voice on immigration policy and American politics; she has appeared on televised interviews with NBC News[4], CBS News [5], The Hill and CBC News to speak on issues such as the Trump administration family separation of migrant families, ICE enforcement policies, for-profit immigration detention centers, and the 2020 presidential election. She is regularly quoted in national media outlets such as The New York Times,[6][7][8] Washington Post,[9][10] Associated Press,[11][12] Vox,[13][14] and Yahoo News,[15][16][17] as well as regional outlets like The Texas Tribune,[18][19] The Baltimore Sun,[20][21][22] and The Miami Herald.[23][24]

During her tenure at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the refugee resettlement agency filed litigation against the Trump administration, challenging the legality of List of Executive Order 13888, which seeks to give state and local officials the authority to opt out of refugee resettlement in their jurisdictions.[25][26][27] In an interview with NPR, Vignarajah described the policy as "cruel and shortsighted," and noted that "refugees that have been waiting to be reunited with their families for years may be forced to settle hundreds of miles away."[28] Vignarajah also spoke out against the Executive Order in a Baltimore Sun OpEd entitled, "The courts should declare Trump's refugee order unconstitutional."[29] The lawsuit has thus far resulted in a preliminary injunction against the policy, barring its implementation temporarily,[30][31] -- in response, Vignarajah told NBC News, "this injunction provides critical relief. Those who have been waiting for years to reunite with their families and friends will no longer have to choose between their loved ones and the resettlement services that are so critical in their first months as new Americans."[32]

Prior to her role at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Vignarajah served as Policy Director to Former First Lady Michelle Obama, where she helped the administration launch its global women's empowerment initiative, called "Let Girls Learn."[33][34][35] After her public service, she launched her candidacy for the 2018 Maryland Gubernatorial Election, running as the only woman in the Democratic primary.[36] Vignarajah garnered local and national attention for her campaign ad, which featured her breastfeeding her infant daughter as she emphasizes the need for more mothers and women in state leadership.[37][38][39]

Selected Publications

Personal Life

She and her brother Thiru Vignarajah arrived in the United States as young children when their parents fled civil war in Sri Lanka. She went on to graduate from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology, a master’s degree in political science, and a law degree.[40][41] Vignarajah is married to Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. Their wedding was officiated by Senator Chris Coons of Delaware[42]. In June 2020, Vignarajah went public with her breast cancer diagnosis[43] -- in an interview with The Baltimore Sun, she said "“my hope is to do my part to lift some of the stigma and anxiety that sits around breast cancer.”[44]


  1. "Alumni - Marshall Scholarships". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  2. Chason, Rachel. "Krishanti Vignarajah, former gubernatorial candidate, to head Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  3. Wiggins, Ovetta (Aug 9, 2017). "Michelle Obama's former policy director enters race for Maryland governor". Washington Post.
  4. "What a New Report Reveals About Deliberate Family Separation at the U.S.-Mexico Border Under Trump". NBC. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  5. "The fight for asylum seekers in immigration reform". MSNBC. Nov 15, 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  6. Kanno-Youngs, Zolan (2020-04-23). "Executive Order Halting New Green Cards Includes Exceptions". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  7. Kanno-Youngs, Zolan (2020-01-31). "Trump Administration Adds Six Countries to Travel Ban". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  8. Kanno-Youngs, Zolan (2020-01-11). "Texas Governor Shuts State to Refugees, Using New Power Granted by Trump". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  9. Miroff, Nick. "Trump cuts refugee cap to lowest level ever, depicts them on campaign trail as a threat and burden". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  10. Sacchetti, Maria. "Trump officials unveil new U.S. citizenship test, as advocates worry it is too long, difficult and politicized". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  11. "New refugees struggle to find footing in US during pandemic". AP NEWS. 2020-05-13. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  12. "Judge halts Trump's order allowing states to block refugees". AP NEWS. 2020-01-15. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  13. Narea, Nicole (2020-09-11). "The Trump administration already made huge refugee cuts. It's making more". Vox. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  14. Narea, Nicole (2020-07-29). "The choice for immigrant families in detention: Separate or risk Covid-19". Vox. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  15. Bonilla, Laura. "Missing parents in focus as Trump, Biden spar over immigration". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  16. "'An insidious ploy': Trump admin's decision to cut census short could have dire consequences". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  17. Dickson, Caitlin. "As coronavirus crushes jobs, Trump will sign order banning some immigrants". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  18. Aguilar, Julián (2020-11-10). "Joe Biden can quickly reverse many of Donald Trump's immigration policies, experts say. Others will be more complicated". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  19. Aguilar, Julián (2020-10-01). "Trump administration to cut refugee admissions to record low". The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  20. Leonard, Ben (Oct 24, 2020). "By mail? In-person? Here's how seven prominent Marylanders chose to vote". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  21. Broadwater, Luke. "Krish Vignarajah named CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  22. Barker, Jeff (Jun 11, 2020). "Krish Vignarajah goes public about her breast cancer, hoping to ease 'stigma and anxiety' about the disease". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  23. Modan, Monique (Nov 23, 2020). "Biden names Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-American immigrant, to head Homeland Security". Miami Herald.
  24. Modan, Monique (Apr 1, 2020). "ICE: Detainees with chronic illnesses won't be released". Miami Herald.
  25. Hackman, Brent Kendall and Michelle (2020-01-08). "Federal Judge Questions Trump Order on Refugees". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  26. Sachetti, Maria (Jan 8, 2020). "North Dakota county accepted refugees, but the debate is far from over". Washington Post.
  27. "Judge weighs bid to stop Trump's refugee resettlement limit". AP NEWS. 2020-01-08. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  28. Rose, Joel (Nov 21, 2019). "Advocates Challenge Trump Administration Plan To Let States And Towns Block Refugees". NPR. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  29. Vignarajah, Krish O’Mara. "The courts should declare Trump's refugee order unconstitutional". Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  30. "Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trump's Refugee Order". NPR. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  31. Montoya-Galvez, Camilo (Jan 15, 2020). "Court blocks Trump's plan to let states, local governments reject refugees". CBS News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  32. Strickler, Laura (Jan 15, 2020). "Judge blocks Trump order allowing local governments to refuse refugees". NBC News. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  33. Cutter, Kimberly (2018-04-17). "Krishanti Vignarajah Wants to Be the First Female Governor of Maryland". Marie Claire. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  34. Mulvihill, Amy (2017-05-23). "Q&A with Krishanti Vignarajah". Baltimore Magazine. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  35. Kelly, Hillary. "This Obama White House Alum Wants to Be the First Female Governor of Maryland". Glamour. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  36. Hicks, Josh (Sep 19, 2017). "Krishanti Vignarajah launches campaign for Maryland governor". Washington Post.
  37. Cox, Erin. "Lone female candidate for Maryland governor breastfeeds her baby in online ad". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  38. "Only Woman in Maryland Governor Race Breastfeeds in Ad". NowThis News via Twitter. Mar 22, 2018.
  39. Kurtzleben, Danielle (Mar 23, 2018). "Female Candidates Breastfeed Children In Campaign Ads". NPR. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  40. Chason, Rachel. "Krishanti Vignarajah: Once Marylanders hear my story, they'll vote for me". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  41. Belli, Brita (2019-08-07). "Alumna fights for refugees and renews faith in the American dream". YaleNews. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  42. Price, Betsy. "He got down on one knee and proposed. So did she". The News Journal. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  43. "Former Gubernatorial Candidate Krish Vignarajah Battling Breast Cancer". WJZ-TV (CBS). 2020-06-02. Retrieved 2020-12-30.
  44. Barker, Jeff. "Krish Vignarajah goes public about her breast cancer, hoping to ease 'stigma and anxiety' about the disease". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2020-12-30.

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