Vignarajah is the first refugee and non-Lutheran to lead the organization, which works to create opportunities for refugees and immigrants, in its 80-year history.
“At a time when too many refugees and asylum-seekers are unsure whether they will be welcome in America, I am committed to ensuring that all immigrants seeking a better life in America are afforded the same opportunities as my families received to pursue their dreams,” Vignarajah said in a statement.
When she was 9-months-old, Vignarajah and her family escaped a civil war in Sri Lanka and built a life in Maryland. After becoming a lawyer, she rose to become the policy director to First Lady Michelle Obama. During last year’s crowded Democratic primary for governor, Vignarajah finished fourth, receiving nearly 50,000 votes.
“Krish is exactly the kind of once-in-a-generation leader LIRS needs right now,” LIRS Board chairman Bishop Michael Rinehart said in a statement. “In the wake of unprecedented challenges to U.S. refugee resettlement and immigration policy, the LIRS mission — to protect, embrace, and empower those we serve — is more crucial now than ever.”
In a statement, Sen. Ben Cardin called Vignarajah “the perfect person” to lead the organization.
“She will be a tireless champion for all who seek a better life,” Cardin said.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service was founded in 1939. It is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States, and only one of two agencies that helped reunite immigrant children separated from their parents after border crossings. The organization has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees build their lives in America.